Jim Caruthers was born in Kansas City, MO and graduated from Grandview Senior High School. Jim then left the Midwest to attend MIT in Boston, MA where he completed his SB in Chemistry in 1975. During his junior year at MIT he started a research project on the viscoelastic properties of elastomers with Prof. Bob Cohen who had just arrived at MIT in the Chemical Engineering Department. That undergraduate project eventually turned in Jim’s PhD thesis research, where he completed a PhD in Chemical Engineering in 1977. After completing his PhD Jim joined Purdue’s School of Chemical Engineering in August 1977 as an Assistant Professor, where he has progressed through the ranks to his current position as the Gerald and Sarah Skidmore Professor of Chemical Engineering.
Jim’s research interests have focused on polymer science and engineering, with a focus on describing the (i) mechanical properties of glassy polymer, (ii) quantitative kinetic models of single site olefin polymerization and (iii) the mechanical behavior of filled elastomers. Discovering fundamental aspects of polymers has remained the intellectual passion for the past 45 years.
More recently a second major activity has emerged. In serendipitous series of events, Jim was asked to lead a large proposal at Purdue to develop a series of collegiate courses that would support various aspects of the emerging electric vehicle technology – a proposal that announced by President Obama as part of the 2009 recovery act funding. As a very small part of that proposal, Jim proposed using the go-kart track at Purdue to allow collegiate teams to design, build and race electric go-karts as a hands-on compliment to their more traditional course work. From that small, unplanned, inauspicious beginning, a significant STEM activity emerged that now engages both collegiate and high school teams from across Indiana, the USA and Europe, where student teams gather each May for the evGrandPrix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as part of the Indy500 activities. It is a joy to work with a team of dedicated individuals to bring off the evGrandPrix and then watch the enthusiasm of hundreds of young people as they engage science and technology. Recently the team has expanded its activities to develop hands-on science projects for the traditional classroom, where the science is motivated by the electric go-kart technology.
Jim is married to Becky who is a research nurse that has managed a number of large medical research studies. Becky has recently retired in order to be able to travel more easily (especially since we have just become empty nesters). Our oldest daughter Grace recently graduated from Purdue with a degree in Speech Pathology and will soon begin an MS program in that field. Our youngest daughter Katie is currently a freshman at Purdue studying to become a Registered Dietician. Becky, Grace and Katie provide an important balance to Jim’s professional pursuits at Purdue – they all think engineering is boring. Jim, Becky and their family are followers of Jesus, which we believe provide clear answers to some of the big questions: What is the purpose of life? What is the best way to spend our time on earth? And what lies beyond?