If you’re interested in ethics and law as it relates to the world of engineering and cybersecurity, check out this interesting interview with UMBC’s Engineering graduate programs’ adjunct faculty member, Adam Lippe. He explained why an understanding of ethics and law is essential for a student’s success.

Mr. Lippe is a career prosecutor who serves as the Chief of the Economic Cyber Crimes Unit, as well as the Animal Abuse Unit for the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office (a jurisdiction of over 800,000 people).

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and readability.

What part of teaching do you enjoy most?

I enjoy sharing the knowledge that I’ve gained over the years. I love that I get to help students understand how laws are made, enacted, and applied. As a result, students walk away with a better understanding of how to analyze problems, frame them out, and then solve them in the best way possible. They’re learning from an experienced practitioner, somebody who focuses on solving problems across different disciplines every day. 

What is your goal for students?

My goal in the classroom is to bring a worldview of how law and ethics will be applied and used in the scope of potential liabilities.

As a lawyer, I am trained to look at all sides of an issue. So in class, we talk about these different sides from the perspective of stakeholders who have an interest in the outcome of any problem or solution. These stakeholders, when we’re talking about the field of engineering, are not just the engineers. They could be the designers, middle man, or the end-user of a product. They could be the company shareholders. So, there are many people involved and that creates a need to ensure all possibilities are evaluated.

Why is the study of law important to engineers?

Engineers typically understand math and science very well. That’s great. They need to. But they also need to realize that things go wrong, and when they do, they need to know how to handle that. Unfortunately, things do go wrong, mistakes are made, and accidents do happen. When things aren’t considered in the planning and design phases, problems arise.

In the classes I teach, I always discuss the Challenger disaster. That was obviously a failure of engineering. The Space Shuttle blew up. But it was also a failure of communication. People knew that a problem existed and didn’t speak up. Why didn’t they speak up? What were the ethical and moral implications of not speaking up and not identifying an issue? We discuss these elements in class. We talk about how when you’re an engineer, you may eventually be a manager. As a manager, your team will rely on you for more than just your technical prowess. You have to be alert to potential liabilities that may occur from mistakes. You need to know how to relate to other people so you can lead a team with confidence. 

Assessing what these issues might be beforehand will help you to make better-informed decisions. This goes not only for engineering but for cybercrime and cybersecurity. You’ll need to know what your obligations are as an employee and engineer to safeguard intellectual property. It’s imperative to consider obligations as a technical student, to think about the bigger issues, and how they affect stakeholders.

What’s one thing you want students to walk away with?

When it comes to learning, students are in a continual state of progression. It’s a privilege for me to help them navigate this journey and help them advance. It’s thrilling when I hear a student say they love learning and will continue to be a lifelong learner. After all, learning doesn’t stop upon graduation.

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