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National Grid and UB Engineering Invest in the Future of Science and Engineering

By Mary Cochrane

Release Date: June 9, 2009

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- National Grid is investing $250,000 in the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences to create and enhance programs that encourage Buffalo Public School students to pursue education and careers in science and engineering. The contribution was announced today in UB's Jacobs Executive Development Center in downtown Buffalo.

The contribution will augment existing programs, such as the award-winning BEAM (Buffalo-area Engineering Awareness for Minorities) program, and launch new initiatives that introduce young minds to careers in high-demand engineering fields, like biomedical engineering and green energy.

"National Grid's broad approach to community involvement focuses on three themes -- energy and the environment; education and skills; and community development. Our partnership with the University at Buffalo clearly addresses all three," said Steve Holliday, chief executive officer of National Grid. "This investment with UB reflects our shared commitment to increase diversity in the science and engineering workforce, provide education and career pathways for bright young students and encourage positive change as Western New York embraces new technologies in energy generation, delivery and efficiency."

The funds will be used to create a five-year program aimed at introducing Buffalo Public School students in grades 6-12 to careers in the biomedical and green energy industries. National Grid's investment will help support facilities, including those in UB's new $61 million high-tech engineering facility being built on the North (Amherst) Campus, and fund equipment and personnel associated with the delivery of two new programs. UB Engineering will work closely with the Buffalo Public Schools to create programs that blend well with existing school curriculums.

"Engaging UB more deeply in supporting our local public schools has been one of my biggest priorities since arriving in Buffalo," said UB President John B. Simpson. "Today's students must be prepared for the demands of the 21st century knowledge economy, like the one we are building here in Western New York. UB is uniquely qualified to prepare our students to thrive in this new economy.

"This investment from National Grid will allow us to expand programs that encourage our region's students to explore new ideas, push new boundaries and pursue careers in emerging fields like renewable energy and green technology, biomedical and environmental engineering, and sustainability," he added. "We thank National Grid for its vision, its commitment to the students of Western New York and its confidence in partnering with us on this exciting new endeavor."

The new partnership has two components. The first involves a consortium of students from UB Engineering's Student Excellence Program, the Buffalo Engineering Awareness for Minorities (BEAM) Office and the UB chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World. Students engaged in these activities will develop and deliver active learning projects to increase public school students' understanding of their impact on the world climate, and the advanced technologies needed to reduce impact and carbon footprints. The program will leverage National Grid's popular outreach energy and efficiency and climate change program and mascot, Floe (http://www.nationalgridfloe.com).

The second component is a biomedical industries program closely aligned with UB's new biomedical engineering program. The biomedical engineering program, one of fewer than 45 in the United States, will enroll 50 bachelor's, 30 master's and 20 doctoral students per year beginning in the fall of 2010. Within five years, the program is expected to grow to as many as 400 students. As a requirement for graduation, each student will complete a research and design project that incorporates an educational service component -- to build and deliver active learning projects to Buffalo Public School students.

The contribution directly supports UB 2020, the university's strategic plan for achieving academic excellence through focused research, growth and transformation of learning spaces and infrastructure on its three campuses. The plan has been labeled the region's "big idea" and has garnered support from local political, civic and business leaders.

"National Grid and the University at Buffalo have come together for an exciting and creative initiative that will open educational and professional career opportunities for Buffalo Public School students in cutting edge science and engineering disciplines," said Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown. "I think this is an extraordinary opportunity for our city's youth and I commend both National Grid and UB for making such a strong commitment to a program that will strengthen our children's educational experience."

National Grid's investment will advance several UB research strengths identified by the UB 2020 plan: civic engagement and public policy, information and computing technology, and integrated nanostructured systems. UB researchers working in these areas will focus on fundamental and applied technologies such as creation of devices that store energy produced by such alternative energy sources as solar and wind. They will collaborate with industry partners to create new biomedical devices or next-generation power grids.

"Western New York, and indeed the world, needs more engineers," said Harvey G. Stenger Jr., Ph.D., dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. "These new outreach programs, funded generously by National Grid, will allow us to reach girls and boys early in their academic careers, to pique their curiosities and spark their interests in pursuing careers and jobs in engineering.

"Our graduates directly impact the local and regional workforce and economy. When we increase the number of students interested in science and engineering, we increase the number of students who are academically prepared to pursue degrees at UB and eventually secure good jobs in these high-demand fields. And that benefits all of us."

National Grid is one of the university's most trusted advisors and generous supporters. The company is a member of the University Pillars, whose members have given charitable gifts in excess of $1 million. In 2005, UB honored National Grid with its "Vital Partner Award" in recognition of its longstanding support. UB and National Grid have collaborated extensively on joint research projects, student recruitment and continuing and distance education.

In addition to the new partnership, National Grid's investment will support the growth of BEAM, the cooperative educational enrichment program that prepares inner-city, minority, female and other underrepresented students for careers in science, engineering and technology through afterschool and summer programs. Last year, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded BEAM the 2008 Exemplary Public Interest Contribution (EPIC) Award for promoting equal employment opportunity.

Since its inception, BEAM has worked with more than 10,000 Western New York middle school and high school students who have been motivated to pursue science and engineering degrees. BEAM graduates include Western New York engineers and scientists at the top of their fields, employed in technical positions at corporations and government agencies that include Fisher-Price, General Mills, General Motors, the National Aeronautic and Space Administration and Northrup Grumman, among many others.

BEAM was founded in 1982 by a consortium that included UB Engineering, Linde-Union Carbide (now Praxair, Inc.), Omega Psi Phi fraternity and the Buffalo Public Schools. Funding is made possible through the generous support of companies, educational institutions, community organizations and individuals.

National Grid is an international energy delivery company. In the U.S., National Grid delivers electricity to approximately 3.3 million customers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island, and manages the electricity network on Long Island under an agreement with the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA). It is the largest distributor of natural gas in the northeastern U.S., serving approximately 3.4 million customers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island. National Grid also owns over 4,000 megawatts of contracted electricity generation that provides power to over one million LIPA customers.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.