In his spring commencement address May 17 at Missouri University of Science
and Technology, Dr. William Wulf, former president of the National Academy of
Engineering, told almost 600 graduating seniors that they have a responsibility
to speak out on technical issues, perhaps even run for public office.
“Although the United States is the most technically sophisticated society
that has ever existed, and consequently a large fraction of our public policy
issues have a technical dimension, the vast majority of the U.S. population
doesn’t know enough science and engineering to meaningfully discuss those
policies,” Wulf said.
Wulf cited issues like the desirability of plug-in hybrid vehicles, climate
change, energy policy and the risks of nuclear power among issues faced by
public policy makers who need technical knowledge to fully understand them.
“The responsibility I want to raise your conscience about,” Wulf told the
graduates, “is to speak out on these issues, and possibly even to seek public
The AT&T Professor of Engineering and Applied Science at the University
of Virginia, Wulf served as president of the National Academy of Engineering
from 1996-2007. Along with the National Academy of Sciences, the NAE operates
under a congressional charter and presidential executive orders to provide
advice to the government on issues of science and engineering.
From 1988-1990, Wulf served as assistant director of the National Science
Foundation, where he headed the Directorate for Computer and Information
Science and Engineering (CISE). CISE was responsible for computer science and
engineering research as well as for operating the National Supercomputer
In addition to being a member of the National Academy of Engineering, Wulf
is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a foreign member of
the Engineering Academy of Japan, a foreign member of the Russian Academy of
Sciences and a foreign member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. He is also
a fellow of several professional societies and a member of many other
Wulf has published three books and has authored more than 100 papers and
technical reports. He holds two U.S. patents and has supervised more than 25
Ph.D. candidates in computer science.
Wulf earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics and a master’s degree
in electrical engineering at the University of Illinois. He completed his Ph.D.
at the University of Virginia.
Wulf spoke at two commencement ceremonies at Missouri S&T. In addition
to addressing bachelor’s degree candidates on Saturday morning, he spoke to a
group of graduate students receiving master’s and doctoral degrees Friday, May