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Mankind’s ever-greater ability to harness the power of nature presents new ethical dilemmas for engineers and students of engineering, notes Michael Lestingi ’04 (Tallmadge, Ohio). And yet only half of engineering schools nationwide require ethics-related courses, he says.

A mechanical engineering major, Lestingi is surveying the nation’s engineering schools to determine how they teach ethics.

Working with Mary Roth, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, he is a participant in Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL Scholars program. In EXCEL, students assist faculty members with research while earning a stipend.

Lestingi proposed the project after taking the course Professionalism and Ethics, which he describes as “one of the main ways Lafayette engineering students are challenged to consider the ethical and professional decisions they will have to make in the future.”

“Amazingly, previous research has found that only half of all engineering schools require that all undergraduate engineers take an ethics-related course,” says the student. “Lafayette shows its dedication to its accreditation requirements and to education in the liberal arts tradition by having a course on the subject. Dr. Roth and I are trying to find ways to make that course even better.”

Lestingi says the idea of teaching ethics isn’t new, but the popularity of such courses has grown recently.

His project has three parts: a survey of the history of teaching ethics to engineers, sending out survey letters to engineering deans across the country to gain an understanding of how the subject is taught, and presenting their findings to Lafayette and other colleges. Some results have been received.

“I have enjoyed this project very much and look forward to developing it further with professor Roth,” says Lestingi, who calls Roth a role model inside and outside of the research setting. “She is approachable and caring, all the while being determined and focused.”

Likewise, Roth says Lestingi is “doing very well. He’s an excellent student and he’s making fine progress with the project.”

Lestingi comments that EXCEL gives students the opportunity “to focus on questions for more than a chapter in a textbook. This is an opportunity for me to find depth, all the while participating in the breadth of the Lafayette Experience.”

A graduate of Tallmadge (Ohio) High School, Lestingi is a member of the Forensics Society, president of the Lafayette Communications Union, and secretary of both the International Affairs Club and QuEST (Questioning Established Sexual Taboos). A McKelvy Scholar, he is a member of the Global Business Society, the Association for Lafayette Women, and the student chapter of the American Society for Mechanical Engineering as well as other groups.

Categorized in: Academic News