Students who come through the University of Florida’s Engineering Innovation Institute make headlines with successful startup companies, federally funded innovation fellowships, and recognition for the value of their entrepreneurial endeavors. Now, with the support of Distinguished Alumnus Michael Durham, the institute will expand its programs to reach all 10,000 students enrolled at the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering.
An environmental engineer with both master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Florida, Durham is a serial entrepreneur as well as a recognized leader in energy and environmental policy. He has been involved in the measurement and control of emissions from the coal-fired power industry for over 40 years. He currently invests his time and resources empowering the next generation of engineers to continue exploring innovative sustainable solutions.
“Innovation is critical to the future of our energy portfolio, and beyond,” said Durham. “The leaders of tomorrow will need analytical minds and creative ideas. That’s exactly what I see happening at the institute.”
The mission of the Engineering Innovation Institute is to foster a culture of innovation among faculty, students and staff of the college. It offers both classroom and experiential education opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as working professionals. Curriculum is designed to spark creativity and prepare students for successful pursuits in entrepreneurship or to be integral parts of an innovative workforce that develops new technologies and solutions.
The Durham gift will be used to support every student in the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering to have access to the institute’s curriculum, and will provide faculty with the resources necessary to do so. The directorship of the institute will be named in Durham’s honor.
“We’re incredibly grateful for this gift and for the impact it will have,” said Erik Sander, the Michael Durham Director of the Engineering Innovation Institute. “It’s hard to quantify the potential return on investment when you’re investing in students who will no doubt go on to invent life-changing technologies or help develop the next wave of energy solutions. I am certain that Dr. Durham’s gift to the college will have a profound and lasting impact on future generations.”
Sander was named the founding director of the institute in 2011. He has been instrumental in strengthening ties between the university, industry partners and the entrepreneurial community, and in providing students with an understanding of technology commercialization and the role they can play as New Engineers in a global innovation economy.
“The Engineering Innovation Institute prepares our students to help create solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges,” said Cammy Abernathy, dean of the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering. “It’s a vital part of our curriculum. I’m tremendously grateful to Michael Durham, and I truly believe his investment to expand the program to reach all of our students will help transform the future.”