Nelson James

What does it mean to you to be an engineer?

Engineers must always be thinking of the implications of what they’re building; in the drive to solve one problem, you can inadvertently cause another.

How is your field being redefined for today and tomorrow’s needs? What contributions do you hope to make to this redefined landscape?

I took up Science and Technology Studies and will be staying on at Tandon to earn a master’s degree in Integrated Digital Media because the world needs people grounded in those topics. We love tech and creativity, and we can get engineers from all disciplines to imagine the end result of what they’re doing. Sometimes, that’s a big leap of imagination, because it’s easy to get so focused on fixing a narrow problem that you lose sight of the bigger picture.

In general, I think engineers are now getting increasingly in tune with that bigger picture.

How did NYU Tandon help you redefine yourself?

As a teenager I developed a core curriculum for introductory courses in video and television production and helped instructors implement technology-based initiatives, so I arrived at Tandon with an interest in educational technology. I’ve been able to hone that here and have been given a lot of opportunities to take on increased responsibility: for example, I worked with the GovLab to develop a free, online course on public problem-solving, and I manage instructional technology efforts for 50 NYU faculty members. Over the course of my time here so far, I’ve come to see the importance of engineering small, practical solutions when they apply: not everything has to be flashy.