Chief of Naval Operations Takes Singular Tour of NYU-Poly Campus

Admiral Roughead and President Hultin look on as a student shows his work at an engineering and design lab.

On the warm, spring afternoon of April 8, NYU-Poly welcomed Admiral Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations and the highest-ranking officer in the Navy. It was the only visit he would pay to any school during his trip to New York. His visit highlighted the importance of technology to the Navy: "The Navy is known for having been on the forefront of many technological advances," said Roughead. "Technology is very much a part of who we are."

Guided by President Jerry Hultin, Admiral Roughead toured the campus and heard an overview of the Institute, including facts such as the percentage of female students (24), as well as program offerings. The Management of Technology department appeared to be of particular interest to the admiral, who asked about its activities.

At the historic Wunsch Building, undergraduate and graduate students introduced themselves to Admiral Roughead and the handful of Navy personnel who accompanied him. Attendees highlighted NYU-Poly’s global diversity, with Brooklyn, Orlando, Brazil, and Egypt among the students’ homes. A spectrum of majors distinguished participants, as well: construction management, mechanical engineering, computer engineering, and financial engineering.

President Hultin called attention to the rare opportunity presented by the admiral’s visit. “I spent five years in the U.S. Navy and never met an admiral. Now is your big chance,” he told students.

They asked the admiral how and when he decided to join the U.S. Navy and about its work environment. “I can’t think of another profession where you’re surrounded by so many young people,” Admiral Roughead said. Describing a ship as a “city at sea” with about 5,000 people on board and where the average age is 25 years old, he explained that the Navy is often the first to arrive at crises. He recalled his experience as part of the response team in Southeast Asia when the Indian Ocean tsunami struck in 2005. That “passion to serve,” as Admiral Roughead put it, is a trait the Navy seeks among candidates.

Academic excellence is also important, he said, with the STEM — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — fields especially important. “It’s where we have to go in the future” for highly educated officers that the Navy needs, he said.

NYU-Poly’s contribution to that future of high technology was outlined by faculty who recently worked with the Navy or who are researching topics with potential ties to its needs. Associate Professors Nikhil Gupta and Maurizio Porfiri, of the NYU-Poly Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, described research collaborations with the U.S. Navy, while Professor Nasir Memon, of the Department of Computer and Information Science, spoke of novel authentication techniques and their possible application for the Navy’s unmanned vehicles.

Provost Dianne Rekow introduced the admiral to the Institute’s Innovation Think Tank (ITT), an initiative that gathers selected academics from multiple disciplines for one semester to solve a given problem. Charles Camarda, who is an engineer on detail assignment from NASA to serve as engineer-in-residence at NYU-Poly, is this semester’s ITT leader.  Dr. Camarda’s description of the ITT’s work with NASA sparked an invitation from Admiral Roughead for all faculty to consider future collaborations with the U.S. Navy.