Engineering research, the exploration of new tools and technologies for manipulating and observing our world, has long been vital to humanity. The invention of the blue LED...is just one recent example—one that, along with many others such as the light bulb, the steam engine, and solar photovoltaics, is transforming humanity's relationship with energy. Perhaps most importantly, engineering research does not follow from (and the blue LED even contradicted!) the scientific understanding of the time. Engineering research has a way of surprising us, most notably when it provides new windows into nature.