Dr. Maldonado stands on a stage near a podium giving a presentation
(Steven Trinh/UC Davis)

University of California VP Launches Dean's Distinguished Speaker Series

The College of Engineering at the University of California, Davis, hosted Theresa Maldonado for the first Dean's Distinguished Speaker event of the academic year on Nov. 6. A trailblazer in the engineering field, Maldonado presented her speech, "Engineering Frameworks (and Mindsets) for Real Impact." 

Maldonado harnesses the "power of UC" for collective impact in research, research translation, innovation and policy as the vice president for Research and Innovation at the University of California Office of the President, or UCOP 

Prior to joining UCOP, she served as dean of engineering at The University of Texas at El Paso and worked for more than a decade at Texas A&M University. Maldonado has also held multiple roles at the National Science Foundation. 

A three-time graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology, Maldonado's research background is in nonlinear optical devices and materials, electromagnetics and optical fiber technologies. She was the first Mexican American and only the fourth female to earn a Ph.D. from the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech. 

During her talk, Maldonado highlighted efforts to bolster the innovation ecosystem throughout the University of California by strengthening collaborative relationships with the state. Several large-scale systemwide initiatives to address wildfire response, climate change and clean renewable energy have resulted. 

"Research informs emergency response," Maldonado said about the importance of engineering in identifying and implementing solutions. 

Maldonado noted the UC Davis-led and UC-sponsored Inclusive Innovation Equitable Entrepreneurship Initiative, or I²E², is leading the nation in collecting, analyzing and reporting data related to innovation and entrepreneurship. The initiative is closing "critical gaps in [the UC's] knowledge and developing evidence-based strategies to broaden participation in innovation and entrepreneurship in support of state and national needs," according to its website. 

The tension between basic research, applied research and practice within engineering was another focus of Maldonado's talk. She encouraged attendees to evaluate their mindset and leverage time-tested frameworks to ensure engineers can make the greatest impact. 

"The profession of engineering is a mindset," said Maldonado. "Engineering is a process, and it's a framework to make impact." 

The next installment of the Dean's Distinguished Speaker Series will feature Melanie Mitchell, a professor at the Sante Fe Institute whose research is related to artificial intelligence, cognitive science and complex systems, on March 7.  

Watch Maldonado's Full Lecture 

UC Davis College of Engineering Dean's Distinguished Speaker Theresa Maldonado presents "Engineering Frameworks (and Mindsets) for Real Impact," recorded LIVE and uploaded to YouTube in full. 

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