Robert Langer

‘Edison of Medicine,’ Robert Langer, Kicks Off The Global School Virtual Event Series

 The way Provost Winston (“Wole”) Soboyejo sees it, there’s no more fitting person than Robert Langer, ScD, Department of Chemical Engineering, MIT, dubbed the "Edison of Medicine," to be the inaugural guest speaker as WPI kicks off The Global School Virtual Event Series, which will run across this academic year to acknowledge and celebrate the current and future impact of  The Global School at WPI.

The monthly event series, beginning Oct. 9, will feature experts on the most pressing global issues of our time—among them, sustainability, the environment, the future of work, and the impact these have on diverse regions of the world.

The Global School at WPI will be critical to continue work we already do exceedingly well as an institution: developing well-rounded STEM professionals and leaders who can co-create successful solutions to great problems and help improve the quality of life of people around the world,” says Soboyejo.

“I can think of no better exemplar to reinvigorate our passion for this ongoing journey,” he says describing Langer, who, having more than 1,400 issued and pending patents, has been called the most-quoted engineer in the world. His patents have been licensed or sublicensed to more than 400 pharmaceutical, chemical, biotechnology and medical device companies.

Approved by the faculty in May 2019 and announced publicly earlier this year, The Global School “will enhance WPI’s impact as a leader and innovator in addressing great problems. With a school, we have a stronger platform for realizing the university’s long-held vision of having reach and impact far beyond what has previously been possible,” Soboyejo says. The Virtual Event Series will focus on global challenges and the work the university is doing in collaboration with academic, corporate, government, and nonprofit partners around the world to address problems and deliver solutions with local impact.

Langer will share his journey to following his passion and making an impact on the world—what happens when an engineer goes into medical research and how an unwavering commitment to his purpose sustained him through many disappointments. He’ll discuss the value of interdisciplinary cooperation and the tenacity required to explore different paths to solutions. He’ll also talk about facing rejection, overcoming criticism, and stepping out of one’s comfort zone to do what’s important.

On a more personal note, Langer plans to share with the WPI audience the importance of adhering to one’s goals when forging ahead with challenging research and projects. “A lot of my ideas at the beginning, and even the career path I took, were unconventional and met with a lot of criticism,” he says. “Don’t give up easily.”

“Dr. Langer’s work in the area of global health has been done with world-class research and with world-class collaborators in ways that drive innovation and impact where most needed, Soboyejo says. “It is work that is both critical and complex. The simple truth is that the world needs more experts who can develop solutions that support community needs and aspirations for better, self-determined, and dignified lives. To this end, The Global School will include global partnerships with a focus on problem solving; world-class research that uses interdisciplinary approaches and area knowledge to develop socially conscious solutions to local/global problems; and integrated undergraduate and graduate programs in areas of technical leadership, international/global engineering leadership, development, and policy.” 


Langer will speak at 12:30 pm on Friday, October 9. The day will begin with opening remarks from President Leshin at 9 am and an overview of The Global School by Provost Soboyejo at 9:45. Details are available here; registration is required.