Chair’s Message, April 2020

The coronavirus pandemic is the greatest challenge we may be facing since WWII. Our response to it will reverberate for decades if not longer. After all, the last pandemic we faced was over a century ago, in 1918. What should we do when doing nothing is the best course of action? Nothing, of course. To explain, as engineers, our careers were to design solutions to problems that faced us or to create new technologies that reshaped the world. We relied on the stability of the laws of math and physics to do these things.

The current in a resistor is always determined by Ohm’s Law, so we made toasters. An accelerating charge always radiates, so we invented radio and television. Waveguides always have a cutoff frequency, so we developed microwave ovens. A B A+B and A+B A B are always true in binary logic, so we created the age of computers.

So why should we do nothing in the face of a pandemic? By doing nothing, I mean do nothing to allow this virus to transmit itself. The urge to create a mechanism, an engineered system, to beat back a spreading contagion, is strong among us. It leads to a storm of ideas about how to win this battle. I myself have been approached about the manufacturing of basically a DIY ventilator. Evolution has other ideas. It doesn’t play by static rules. It creates new rules to overcome the barriers it finds to the creation of succeeding generations. We are reactive in the face of evolution, and it is always a step ahead.

If we were epidemiologists, nurses, physicians and biologists, we would apply training and techniques to respond. As individuals, however, our best course of action is to cut off the pathway for viral transmission. Do not allow the coronavirus to leave you and do not allow it to get to you. One rule evolution does follow is that without reproduction, there is no future population.

So doing nothing means washing hands constantly and practicing social isolation. If your hands are not dry and split, wash them more often. For the IEEE and the Section, perhaps it is time to start thinking of the future and how we will ensure that new outbreaks are understood and mitigated in their infancy.

For the Section, all meetings, conferences and seminars are now obviously canceled or postponed. The Awards Banquet is postponed to Sept. 23. The MTT Symposium is also rescheduled for Sept. 17. LISAT 2020 is canceled. The NYIT Women in Engineering and Technology Day is postponed indefinitely. When more information is available, it will be posted on the WIET site:

The IEEE does make Cisco WebEx teleconferencing available. For those wishing to hold teleconferences or meetings, contact me and I will find out how to employ the IEEE Webex account. Several platforms now offer remote video/audio conferencing. At the risk of repeating what a lot of us already know, here are a few:
• Cisco WebEx • Ring Central • Zoom
• Skype • Microsoft Teams • Google Hangouts

Everyone please stay healthy and safe. We are all hopeful that this resolves by the mid-summer and that by this fall we will return to work as usual, if not work as redefined.

Arnold Stillman
2020 IEEE Long Island Section 2020 Chair