A new kind of development professional: The development engineer

Sonia Travaglani and Emily Woods hold up two very different research studies on handwashing assignments outside the UC Berkeley course on Development Engineering.

Students gather in groups of three. At the back of the classroom, there are plastic bins with glue sticks, colored paper, and ribbons. The focus for class today is how we wash our hands. Believe it or not, this is not a kindergarten class. These students will use the arts and crafts materials for design thinking exercises to address some of the biggest challenges facing our planet. Welcome to development engineering, a course for Ph.D. students at the University of California, Berkeley.

At Berkeley, engineers and computer scientists are in the same rooms as economists and political scientists, working together to test, implement and scale technologies in a way that can reframe global development as we know it. As momentum grows behind development engineering as an interdisciplinary field in academia, Devex spoke with some of the students, faculty, and alumni who are shaping this story.

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About the author

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    Catherine Cheney

    Catherine Cheney is a Senior Reporter for Devex. She covers the West Coast of the U.S., focusing on the role of technology and innovation in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. And she frequently represents Devex as a speaker and moderator. Prior to joining Devex, Catherine earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Yale University, worked as a web producer for POLITICO and reporter for World Politics Review, and helped to launch NationSwell. Catherine has reported from all over the world, and freelanced for outlets including the Atlantic and the Washington Post. She is also the West Coast ambassador for the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit that trains and connects journalists to cover responses to problems.