U.S. Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Grand Rapids) will deliver the second annual James R. Mellor Lecture today at 4 p.m. in the Chrysler Center’s Chesebrough Auditorium on North Campus to discuss the role of engineering in society and how it can benefit the public.

Ehlers’s speech, titled “Our Planet’s Overlooked Resource: Engineers,” will focus on how engineers and their work can solve problems in today’s society.

Kavan Chapman, Rep. Ehlers’s press secretary, said Ehlers “is going to be talking about what engineers do outside of normal workplace activities and basically saying that (the public) should be benefiting from them a lot more than we are.”

Ehlers has represented Michigan in the House of Representatives since 1993 and, before that, served as a state senator and president pro tempore in the Michigan Senate from 1985 to 1993.

He currently serves on four House committees: the Committee on House Administration, the Committee on Education and Labor, the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Committee on Science and Technology.

Chapman said Ehlers has been a “long time advocate of engineers and scientists in the U.S.”

Ehlers studied for three years at Calvin College in Grand Rapids and then transferred to the University of California at Berkeley, where he received an undergraduate degree in physics and a Ph.D in nuclear physics.

He spent six years researching and teaching at Berkeley before moving back to Grand Rapids in 1966. He taught physics at Calvin College for 16 years and served as chair of the Physics Department.

Ehlers hopes “to give an edge to the United States from foreign countries that are trying to surpass us in those fields,” Chapman said.

The James R. Mellor lecture, according to a University website, “showcases an individual whose leadership has contributed to the public good.” The series is funded by an endowment from Mellor, a University who was a former chairman and chief executive officer for General Dynamics Corporation.

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