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Pioneering Engineering Track of Study to Help Prevent Large-scale Disasters Like Gulf Oil Spill

Written by University of Alabama at Birmingham on 25 June 2010.

A newly created and first-of-its-kind graduate-level track of study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Engineering will educate engineers and safety, health and environmental professionals across industries in the best practices to prevent expansive disasters like the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and Upper Big Branch Mine explosion in West Virginia.

The UAB Master of Engineering degree track in Advanced Safety Engineering and Management (ASEM) will be offered totally online with a curriculum based in experiential learning and peer-to-peer interaction, says the program’s director, Martha Bidez, Ph.D., a professor at the School of Engineering. An undergraduate degree in engineering is not required for acceptance into the track.

Bidez says ASEM will help revolutionize safety practices across sectors with a curriculum focused on the No. 1 way to prevent serious workplace injury and disaster: prevention through design.

“We want the engineers who design systems and the safety specialists charged with protecting operations and personnel to share a common language so that system failures, human errors and other factors that can lead to large-scale disasters are minimized if not removed from the equation all together,” Bidez says.

School of Engineering Dean Linda Lucas, Ph.D., said the school is justifiably proud of its new offering.

“Embracing the entrepreneurial spirit of UAB, we have designed a track within an existing program that is not available anywhere else in the world and meets a crucial need,” Lucas said. “There is no industry that safety engineering and management does not impact.”

Bidez says the ASEM’s advisory board is a who’s- who of leaders in workplace safety, including John Howard, M.D., M.P.H., J.D., LL.M, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and Kimberly Scheibe Greene, the group president of strategy and external relations for the Tennessee Valley Authority who helped lead that company’s response to its widely publicized coal ash disaster in 2008.

“Our advisory board members are a unique group of practitioner-scholars who will share their wisdom learned from deep and sometimes crisis-driven industry experience with adult learners in the ASEM graduate program through online discussion forums,” Bidez says. “This offers our students unparalleled access to the most influential minds in engineering safety.”

Other advisory board members are Deborah Grubbe, P.E., CEng., owner and president of Operations and Safety Solutions, LLC, and previously vice president of safety-change management for British Petroleum; Lisa Capicik, regional safety director for Brasfield and Gorrie, LLC; Timothy Kennedy, global human resource director for Valmont-Newmark; Fred Manuele, P.E., C.S.P., president of Hazards Ltd.; Charles Shaw, P.E., corporate safety and health manager for Alabama Power Company.

“The UAB School of Engineering has strong industry partnerships, and we are bringing many of those to bear with this new ASEM track,” says Paul George, School of Engineering director of external relations. “We are very appreciative of our industry partners and their support for this new program and for all of our efforts in engineering at UAB.”

Bidez says the ASEM curriculum, inspired by the program’s industry partners, will offer world-class education in safety best practices on a worldwide and industry sectorwide basis. Course topics will include risk assessment, reduction and liability, ethical leadership, human performance and engineering design, as well as policy issues in prevention through design. The course of study can be completed in 18 months.

Enrollment opened June 19. Interested parties should visit the admissions page at the School of Engineering website and follow the link for Graduate Admission. Additional information is available by calling 205-934-6528. Space is limited.

About the UAB School of Engineering

The University of Alabama at Birmingham, an internationally renowned research university and academic medical center, is known for its innovative and interdisciplinary approach to education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Its School of Engineering offers students real-world experience while they train in one of its degree programs, which include the only undergraduate biomedical engineering program in Alabama. Students experience cutting-edge research opportunities, industry co-ops and unique internships generated by the school’s commitment to interdisciplinary learning.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is a separate, independent institution from the University of Alabama, which is located in Tuscaloosa. Please use University of Alabama at Birmingham on first reference and UAB on all consecutive references.

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