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The Challenge
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Spring 2003
The Challenge
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The Center for Embedded Networked Sensing (CENS) is laying the groundwork to fulfill that potential. Based at UCLA, the center has received National Science Foundation funding of $40 million over 10 years, and also enjoys significant opportunities for leveraged funding. Under the leadership of Professor Deborah Estrin, a computer science faculty member at the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, CENS has assembled researchers from fields that include computer science, electrical engineering, environmental engineering, geophysics and education and information studies. Ultimately, the group expects to bring in other disciplines, ranging from medicine and architecture to the performing arts.

Estrin, who came to UCLA in 2000 after nearly 15 years on faculty at USC, says highly interdisciplinary collaborations are essential to CENS’ mission. “You can’t build these systems in a vacuum,” she says. “There has to be daily interaction among scientists and engineers in these diverse fields.”

Meaningful and sustainable interdisciplinary work is difficult without physical proximity, so the major administrative challenge for CENS is to obtain funding to develop a common workspace. It’s an expensive proposition at a time when public universities are strapped for cash. “We have to work much harder to stay connected to our alumni and donor community, particularly when it comes to space development and graduate-student fellowship funds,” Estrin says. “Private universities do a better job of that.”

Nonetheless, Estrin remains convinced that UCLA is the ideal place for her ambitious initiative. “Before I decided to come here, I wanted to be sure I would have authentic collaboration opportunities across the school and the campus,” she says. “I have found the quality of my colleagues throughout the sciences and engineering to be excellent. But even more unique is their availability not just to say, ‘Here’s what I need; come back when you have it,’ but to engage in something that’s truly collaborative.”

http://www.cens.ucla.edu

— Dan Gordon ’85

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