A Moment with the Dean

January 12, 2015

Dean Debra Larson, Ph.D., P.E.

Dean Debra Larson, Ph.D., P.E.

Last November, Cal Poly Engineering lost one of its own: Mike Alsbury (B.S., Aerospace Engineering, 1998) died in the crash of Virgin Glactic’s SpaceShipTwo over the Mojave Desert. Another alumnus, Pete Siebold (B.S., Aerospace Engineering, 2001) was also seriously injured.

I consider these two courageous Scaled Composites test pilots heroes, who have regularly pushed the envelope of space and aviation technology in ways that will benefit future generations. Their bold vision and can-do spirit exemplifies the best of Cal Poly.

According to the Society of Flight Test Engineers, Alsbury logged more than 1,600 hours as a test pilot and test engineer. At Scaled Composites, he participated in the flight testing of nine different manned aircraft and co-piloted SpaceShipTwo when it broke the sound barrier during its first powered flight.

These are extraordinary feats, but I’m no less struck by the achievements of other alumni, who not only contribute true innovations and expand the boundaries of human knowledge and experience, but also run companies and resolve problems faced by industry and society.

When a Cal Poly Engineering alum makes the news, we list the stories and announcements on our Alumni in the News site. Perusing these posts gives you some idea of the engineering heroes in our ranks:

   * Kristen Maitland, a professor at Texas A&M, is developing optical instrumentation for improved detection and diagnosis of cancer and bacterial infection.


   * For the past 40 years, Indar Sethi has worked on all phases of satellite design, development, integration, testing, launch and in-orbit support activities, including numerous NASA scientific, deep space and other exploratory missions.


   * Timothy Weise is part of the flight team for NASA's Dawn mission that recently received the 2014 Trophy for Current Achievement from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. 


   * Recent grad Rory Aronson has received a $123,000 grant  to work on an open-source, scalable automated precision farming machine called FarmBot.


   * Jackie Yee an associate civil engineer in Dublin, Calif., led a major project to expand the recycled water system to retrofit potable water irrigation at parks and schools. 


   * Arvand Sabetian was named to Inc. 500's 30 Under 30 list, which highlights young entrepreneurs making a real difference in the world of business. Sabetian was recognized as the owner-operator of Arvixe, a web hosting company.


   * The National Academy of Engineering recognized Einar Larsen for the invention and application of flexible AC transmission systems devices leading to enhanced performance of the electric power grid.

These are just a few examples of College of Engineering alumni who are making a difference. In truth, we know there are thousands of others making a mark on engineering history — or quietly contributing their dedication and expertise to move industry, the economy and society forward.

We would love to know and share more about the noteworthy achievements of our alumni! Send us your story, or those of fellow alumni. I would be grateful to learn more about the Cal Poly engineering heroes among us.

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