Lee Moradi is no stranger to dreaming big.
When he came to UAB in 1996, he came with an idea: to build an engineering organization that was among the best in the United States. In the past 22 years, that dream of Moradi’s came true with the creation and success of Engineering and Innovative Technology Development. EITD has become one of the nation’s leading developers in cold stowage hardware for use in microgravity and exploration, and its GLACIER refrigeration system, MERLIN thermal carrier and Polar minus-80 degrees Celsius freezer are used aboard the International Space Station.
Moradi, mechanical engineering professor and EITD director, said its success is due entirely to the employees and managers who are committed to the project. The UAB team “is the best I have seen in my 40-year career,” he said.
The EITD is just one big idea on campus that grew into reality, and now, UAB wants to give others the opportunity to realize their dreams.
Through UAB’s Grand Challenge initiative, any student, faculty or staff member university-wide can submit a proposal to fix a large, complex and multi-faceted issue — one that requires a combination of technologies, treatments, approaches and policies that a large institution such as UAB can provide to find a solution that will positively impact a large number of people.
Submit concept papers for the Grand Challenge by 5 p.m. May 1.
Changing the world
Moradi is the Grand Challenge project manager, meaning he will oversee the selection process and implementation of the idea selected as the Grand Challenge winner. A UAB graduate — he earned his doctorate in civil engineering in 2007 — Moradi says UAB is just the place to bring something large-scale like a Grand Challenge idea to life.
“Humanity faces many overwhelming challenges. Health disparities, global warming, lack of food and nutrition, crime, war and a host of other problems inflict countries and communities. The Grand Challenge provides the means for the best minds in research institutions and related companies to investigate and find solutions to these problems,” Moradi said. “UAB is one of the finest institutions in the nation. The Grand Challenge shows that UAB is poised to make a difference and that UAB takes its vision and mission very seriously. It shows that UAB cares.”
The Grand Challenge enables UAB to show the world all of which it is capable, and Moradi said it also will give campus units the chance to collaborate and provide opportunities to student researchers and others.
“A Grand Challenge has multidimensional benefits,” he said. “It creates convergence between schools within an institution, creates new multi-disciplinary research opportunities, involves students at all levels in research, increases publications and improves life for the local community, city, state, country and world.
“The Grand Challenge shows that UAB is poised to make a difference and that UAB takes its vision and mission very seriously. It shows that UAB cares.”
“The Grand Challenge will enable UAB to grow, and it will create an eco-system for spinoff companies, ultimately helping the economy. The project forges the future and significantly benefits humanity as a whole.”
The Grand Challenge will be selected in a multi-stage process, beginning with concept papers submitted by May 1. Ideas in the concept papers will be refined in a workshop in August. It is not mandatory to submit a concept paper to submit a planning grant proposal in fall 2018, but it is encouraged; full proposals will be due in January 2019. The final decision and announcement will be made in summer 2019.
“Dreams come true with hard work and perseverance,” Moradi said. “Submit your idea and build a great team to bring it to reality. Have no fear and concentrate on blazing your path toward fulfillment of your dream.”
Learn more about the Grand Challenge, including an overview presentation, at uab.edu/plan/grand-challenge.