Navy carrier showcases engineering, teamwork

wendiMay 18, 2014 -- Wendi Heinzelman, Dean of Graduate Studies for Arts, Sciences and Engineering, and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, recently spent 24 hours aboard a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. Here are the insights she shared with Hajim School graduates at the school's Diploma Ceremony today:

"We experienced an arrested landing on the ship, followed by 24 hours learning about everything that goes on on one of these massive aircraft carriers. We witnessed catapult launchings and arrested landings of several dozen fighter jets. We learned about the ordinance that can be carried by these planes and helicopters that fly from the ship. We experienced the  maintenance that goes into making these aircraft ready for flight and the systems operable, as well as the massive logistics needed to support the ship, which is essentially a massive floating city that supports over 5,000 people.

"We toured the ship from bow to stern, and from flight deck to lower levels. They showed us essentially everything that goes on in the ship.

"There are a few things that I took away from this trip that I want to share with you.

"First: The technology on board that ship was just incredible. From the optics of the laser-guided missiles, to the aircraft-to-ship communications systems, to the advance materials science involved in creating  the antiradar detection coatings of the planes, to the computer systems running every aspect of that ship, to the biomedical devices available in the ship's hospital: Every single discipline in engineering was represented aboard this ship.

"And while many of us will never have the opportunity to serve our country the way these sailors do every day,  we do all have the opportunity to use our skills in engineering and the training you have achieved to continue pushing the envelope of these technologies. The work we do in our research labs and our companies is directly responsible for the advanced technology that I witnessed on this ship. And each one of us can do our part to put our skills to good use to help advance the technological prowess of this great country.

Regular men and women doing extraordinary work

"Second: The people aboard the ship were just as incredible. They work tirelessly for 12-16 hours per day doing everything from flying the planes to cooking the meals for the people on board. These are  regular men and women doing extraordinary work in service for our country.

"For all of you who are graduates or in the audience as family and friends, who have in the past or will in the future serve our country through the armed forces, we offer our profoundest thanks to you.

"And the final thing that impressed was the sense of community aboard the ship. No doubt knowing you may one day lay down your life for the person next to you, and that they may do the same, provides a bond like no other.

"But there were other things I saw that led to this really strong sense of community on board the ship.

"Everyone on that ship had a clear, shared goal and purpose in what they were doing -- and they never lost sight of it.

"As you all become leaders in companies or research groups in coming years, this is an important lesson to learn, about the need to create a shared vision that drives others to excel at their work and instills in them a sense of pride in that work.

Use technology to enhance our lives, not be slave to it

"Additionally, there were no electronic distractions aboard the ship, which led to more interactions than we see nowadays. So as I witnessed on board the ship it is important to remember to use technology to enhance our lives and not be slaves to the technology we create.

"Finally sailors have a strong sense of tradition, learning from the past yet always keeping an eye to the future.

"Our motto at the University of Rochester is Meliora, which means "ever better." I clearly saw the sailors aim to achieve this.

"As you commence the next phase of your life, I encourage you to strive for meliora in everything you do, from your career to your personal life. Use your skills to better yourselves, to better your community and to better our society.

"You have the ability to do this, and it is an awesome responsibility. I hope you will embrace the challenges ahead.

"No one can know what is in store for you, what path your career or life will take from this point forward. But I do know that, like my catapult off the deck of the USS Carl Vinson last week, it will be a heck of a ride.

"So for all the faculty and staff of the Hajim School: Thank you for letting use work with you, teach you and grow with you. We hope you will always stay in touch with us and let us know about your future successes, as we are sure there will be many of these."