For more than a year there’s been a looming gap in the leadership structure of the region’s technology sector.
The departure of Matt Tirrell from UC Santa Barbara, after a decade of exemplary performance as dean at the UCSB College of Engineering, created a void that’s yet to be filled.
Tirrell’s term was extraordinary for its fundraising, faculty recruitment and legacy of interdepartmental cooperation. But he also was building on the legacies of his predecessors, including Venkatesh Narayanamurti, who departed UCSB for Harvard, and Robert Mehrabian, who has emerged as a top corporate leader as the CEO of Teledyne Technologies, based in Thousand Oaks. Tirrell has moved on to the faculty at UC Berkeley, where he chairs the department of bioengineering.
UCSB’s incredible run in engineering under that series of deans included spanking-new buildings for materials, nanotechnology and engineering science. The university’s centers for excellence were so well developed that a fairly quickly conceived proposal for a research effort in energy efficiency technology garnered a multi-year, multi million-dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, one of the largest of its kind anywhere in the academic world.
The point of this editorial is not to dwell on Tirrell’s legacy. The point is to urge the university and its search committee to recruit, find and hire a top-notch replacement for Tirrell who can put his or her own stamp on the College of Engineering and challenge its faculty to achieve new goals.
The demands for new technology to solve the problems of climate change, secure communications and energy efficiency are not going away. In fact, they are growing exponentially.
We’d also add a bit of advice borrowed from another UC campus and another department. That would be from UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, who encouraged his players to be quick, but not hasty.
UCSB’s College of Engineering deserves a world-class hire. But this search cannot take forever.