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Our History

In 1974, a small, informal group of Carnegie Mellon faculty members - inspired by Herbert Simon’s The Sciences of the Artificial (MIT Press, 1969) - formed the Design Research Center (DRC). Members of DRC explored cross-disciplinary design research and education using computational techniques. DRC faculty received a three-year, external grant in 1980 that transformed the DRC from an informal group into an organization with a small staff. This provided the means to address certain industrial design problems. Work conducted in DRC seeded the idea and provided the structure for the successful National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Research Center (ERC) proposal to study engineering design methodologies and practices. This successful proposal effort created the Engineering Design Research Center (EDRC), which began operations on May 1, 1986.

The EDRC directors included Sarosh N. Talukdar in 1986 (now retired from Carnegie Mellon), Arthur W. Westerberg from 1986-1989 (now retired from Carnegie Mellon), Friedrich (Fritz) B. Prinz from 1989-1994 (now Chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department at Stanford University), and Daniel P. Siewiorek from 1994-1997 (now Director of the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon).

EDRC generated a long-term research and educational vision that matched Carnegie Mellon’s research strengths with fundamental technological advances necessary for improved economic competitiveness. Moreover, EDRC established a significant intellectual and physical infrastructure that greatly influenced the departments of chemical, civil and environmental, electrical and computer and mechanical engineering.

The accomplishments of EDRC were impressive. The center revolutionized the rapid use of information technology and networking between geographically distributed teams. This “ubiquitous networking” spawned electronic commerce environments where design, prototyping and manufacturing resources were remotely available. EDRC also revolutionized the use of computer models for rapid physical prototyping, progressing beyond mere geometric displays and visualization to increasingly realistic physical simulation. EDRC had a strong commitment to multidisciplinary education and created the engineering design minor. The center developed revolutionary design strategies and methodologies and extended these concepts to organizations and organizational behavior.

After 11 years of significant contributions, EDRC graduated from NSF funding. However, the need for an EDRC-like infrastructure to sustain interdisciplinary research efforts was recognized.

On February 1997, the Dean of the College of Engineering (at that time, John Anderson) announced the creation of ICES from the infrastructure of EDRC. The first ICES Director was Pradeep K. Khosla, who is the present Dean of the College of Engineering. ICES initially had three thrust areas: (1) Design and Manufacturing; (2) Embedded and Reliable Information Systems and (3) Tissue Engineering. Design and Manufacturing and Embedded and Reliable Information Systems thrusts were direct outgrowths of EDRC research.

The idea for the tissue engineering initiative originated in 1997 when faculty saw the potential for a multidisciplinary team to use computer aided design and layered manufacturing techniques for tissue engineering applications. This thrust leveraged expertise in Solid Freeform Fabrication and a growing interest within the College of Engineering in bioengineering. ICES complemented the required expertise by hiring a polymer chemist and a physiology researcher who then became research faculty.

In 1999, Cristina H. Amon became the second Director of ICES. During this time ICES reorganized its research structure into nine focus laboratories with the goals of: continuing the consolidation and steady growth of ICES; enabling the development of leadership depth, and providing ownership to the lab directors for their initiatives and accomplishment. The Wearable Computers Laboratory was combined with the Interaction Design Studio to form the Laboratory for Interactive Computing Systems (LINCS). The other eight focus laboratories included: the Advanced Infrastructure Systems laboratory (AIS); Computational Analysis of Social and Organizational Systems (CASOS) laboratory; Education laboratory; Engineering Design Research Center (ERDC); Embedded and Reliable Information Systems (ERIS) laboratory; Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) laboratory; Thermal Management and Electronics Packaging laboratory; and the Tissue Engineering and Artificial Organs laboratory.

The tissue engineering initiative continued to gather momentum and in 2000, the Bone Tissue Engineering Center (BTEC) was founded. BTEC has become an important element in the establishment of the Biomedical Engineering Department as well as an important regional asset in economic development initiatives such as the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse.

In 2001, ICES began a strategic planning process for self-assessment and to determine the future direction of research, education and the changing priorities of the College of Engineering and the university. The planning process identified the need to revisit the intellectual theme and the evolution of the laboratory structure. Of the nine laboratories, three mature areas were recast as core competencies. Researchers in core competency areas worked collaboratively between laboratories, thereby creating new ideas that could evolve into new research thrusts. These changes spurred new thinking in areas of education, nanotechnology, advanced sensing and fuel cell research. Two research centers were initiated during Professor Amon’s term. In 2005, the Center for NanoEnabled Device and Energy Technologies (CNXT) was formed to serve as the focal point of multidisciplinary nanotechnology research within the Engineering College and the Mellon College of Science. In 2006, the Center for Sensed Critical Infrastructure Research (CenSCIR) was created in a merger of the Advanced Infrastructure Systems Laboratory and a team of wireless sensor network researchers from ECE. After seven years of service as Director, Professor Amon left Carnegie Mellon in June 2006 to become Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering at the University of Toronto.

In July 2006, Gary K. Fedder (B.S., M.S., MIT; Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley) became the third ICES Director. He is the Howard M. Wilkoff Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and a Professor in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon. He is also the founder and co-director of the MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS) Laboratory at Carnegie Mellon.

Under his tenure, ICES was reorganized into Research Centers and Clusters to provide better flexibility in organizing multidisciplinary research themes. In 2008, two new centers, the Center for Multiscale Modeling of Engineered Materials (CM2EM) and the Center for Implantable Medical Microsystems (CIMM), joined CNXT and CenSCIR as ICES Research Centers. Active Research Clusters are presently established in Bioengineering Technologies, Interactive Real-Time Computing Systems, Microsystems, and Enterprise-Wide Optimization. Through this reorganization, ICES is playing a proactive role in bringing together groups of faculty to discuss multidisciplinary research opportunities and in helping write proposals for large center or project activities.

Of particular note, ICES has made several investments in seeding the CenSCIR center to foster its growth. An executive director, Matt Sanfilippo, was hired in the Sensor Andrew project, which will create a living laboratory on campus to study infrastructure applications of wireless sensor networks. This activity is one of the key resources for the CenSCIR center.

In 2007, the administrative personnel in ICES went through a period of reorganization to create specialization in the staff positions. ICES is now positioned to provide a high level of service to faculty who place research contracts through ICES. Three of the staff members won College of Engineering awards in 2008, reflecting the high quality and productivity of the administrative personnel.