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STANFORD -- Professor Jim Adams, mechanical engineering and industrial engineering/engineering management, has been appointed senior associate dean for special projects in the School of Engineering.
Dean Jim Gibbons said that Adams will be responsible for encouraging and coordinating initiatives that would allow the school to “more actively adjust to the rapid changes now taking place in industry and in the engineering profession.”
Discussing his new position, which began in September, Adams said that recent radical changes in engineering stem from intense international competition, the end of the Cold War and the rapid development of engineering tools, such as the computer and associated software.
Industrial products, he said, are now developed by interdisciplinary, cross-functional teams of people representing several engineering fields such as mechanical, electrical and industrial engineering, and associated disciplines such as marketing and industrial design. These teams consider functions ranging from initial definition through manufacturing to service of the product. It is increasingly likely, he said, for processes to cross international boundaries and for products to be marketed internationally.
“Engineering schools typically are organized along disciplinary and functional lines and focused on individual accomplishment,” Adams said. “They are oriented more toward understanding phenomena and discovering new technology and less toward understanding and managing the engineering process, which is now a topic of great importance in industry.”
Gibbons said that although the pursuit of scholarship requires retention of a disciplinary focus, “disciplines are changing and our educational responsibilities require that we think deeply about the background that our students need in order to be the engineering leaders of the 21st century.”
He said that Adams “will be a focus for such thinking and for resulting action” at Stanford.
Within the school, Adams formerly served as associate dean for academic affairs; chair of the program in Values, Technology, Science and Society; director of the design division of Mechanical Engineering; and chair of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management. His university service includes a stint as chair of the faculty Advisory Board, and he has received both the Dinkelspiel Award for outstanding service to undergraduate education and the Lyman award for faculty volunteer service.
Adams earned his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering at CalTech in 1955. He studied art at UCLA, then came to Stanford, where he earned master's and doctoral degrees in 1959 and 1961. He was employed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory before returning to join the faculty in 1966.
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