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Inventor Dean Kamen calls for scientists to step out of their labs

Dean Kamen, holder of more than 400 patents, including one for the Segway Human Transporter, and a recipient of the 2000 National Medal of Technology, has a beef with America’s engineers.

Addressing graduates at last month’s College of Engineering convocation, Kamen said that scientists and engineers need to step out of their labs and take on more leadership roles in the face of such challenges as climate change, infectious diseases, and terrorism.

“The rational voice of scientists and engineers needs to be way more a part of the public debate,” said Kamen (Hon.’06), who received an honorary doctorate of science from Boston University earlier that day at the main Commencement ceremony. Click here to see a short video excerpt of Kamen’s remarks and his dramatic exit.

Although Kamen is probably best known for the Segway, most of his career has been dedicated to inventing medical devices, including the first wearable infusion pump for diabetics, something he came up with while still an undergraduate at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. In 1982, Kamen founded Deka Research & Development Corporation. A few years later, he founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) to encourage the study of science among K-12 students. In March, FIRST held a robot basketball competition for high school students at BU’s Agganis Arena.
Recently, BU Today spoke with Kamen about the life of an inventor, the role of universities in research, and about “working on the big important problems,” as Kamen put it. “I’ve always had trouble getting up in the morning and imagining that I’m going to work really hard at building some bauble or some piece of consumer junk,” said Kamen, who was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame last year. “It ought to be something that matters if you’re going to be successful.”

To hear the interview, click here.