House science committee chair addresses engineering jobs, education and Hubble


Science and engineering are under pressure from many areas, from offshore interests to Congressional budget cutters. In an expansive IEEE-USA TODAY'S ENGINEER interview in April, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), the House Science Committee chair, examines the ways those pressures affect education, offshoring and immigration, as well as rescuing the Hubble space telescope.

Boehlert has been a proponent of scientific and engineering programs since joining Congress in 1982, but he expressed many concerns over the state of engineering today. "We've got to produce more engineers, we've got to have a better educational system, we've got to solve the visa problem," he said.

Though engineers are hunting for jobs in some regions, the inability to get talent in some areas is a big concern in some parts of New York. "It bothers me that the American business community, in some of the engineering disciplines, can't accommodate its needs with a homegrown workforce," Boehlert told IEEE-USA TODAY'S ENGINEER. Though he's in favor of creating jobs for Americans, Boehlert feels that employers should have access to foreign workers who now find it difficult to get visas.

Another hot scientific topic in Washington is the Hubble telescope. "I want to extend the life of Hubble, but not at all costs," Boehlert said. Expenses seem too high for a Shuttle mission, around $2 billion, while a robotic rescue can't be done in a timely manner, putting a dark cloud over Hubble's future.

The nation's tight finances have also led to a reduction of government funding for R&D. While NASA is seeing an increase, other budgets are "inadequate" after recent cuts. According to the House Science Committee chair, "Our future is largely dependent on our response to the challenge to invest more in R&D on the part of the government."

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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