Arvind Varma

R. Games Slayter Distinguished Professor
Head, School of Chemical Engineering

March 2012


2011 was a special year for Purdue Chemical Engineering: on June 14, 2011, the School of Chemical Engineering marked 100 years since the Board of Trustees approved the School's founding. Multiple events and activities took place throughout the year and you can read more about them at We enjoyed having so many of our School’s alumni return to celebrate with us for the main event on October 7-8, 2011! The theme of the Centennial was “A Century of People and Progress.” As you will read the following lines, this has never been truer, it is our people who drive our progress.

The 2011-12 academic year was auspicious for our faculty, alumni, and students. On October 21, 2011, I accompanied Professor Rakesh Agrawal to the White House to receive the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Obama. It was among my high notes as School Head to witness a faculty member of our School accept the highest honor an engineer can receive in the United States. We are immensely proud of Dr. Agrawal’s accomplishments and greatly appreciate the tremendous effort he puts into all his activities in our School: research, teaching and service.

In January 2012, David Pershing (BS 1970) was appointed president of the University of Utah. He becomes the third alumnus of our School to hold such a position, after Clifford Furnas (BS 1922), who was president of the State University of New York at Buffalo 1962-66 and Brage Golding (BS 1941, PhD 1948) who served as president of three universities: Wright State University 1966-72, San Diego State University 1972-77 and Kent State University 1977-82.

In February 2012, the National Academy of Engineering announced that two of our alumni were elected to join this elite organization: Dr. Richard W. Korsmeyer (MS 1980, PhD 1983) is currently Global Head of Licensing, Worldwide Pharmaceutical Sciences and Senior Research Fellow with Pfizer. Dr. Antonios G. Mikos (MS 1985, PhD 1988) is the Louis Calder Professor of Bioengineering and Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Rice University and, in addition, he is Director of the Center for Excellence in Tissue Engineering at Rice University.

As of March 2012, Jay (BSChE '74) and Cynthia Ihlenfeld will contribute $1.5 million over a three-year period towards the establishment of an endowment  to name the Chemical Engineering Headship, while the College of Engineering will provide $500,000 in matching funds.  When matured, the total $2 million gift will provide approximately $100,000 annually “to be used for the benefit of the School of Chemical Engineering, as determined by the Head of the School with the approval of the Dean of the College of Engineering.” From now on, the Chemical Engineering Head will carry the title “Jay and Cynthia Ihlenfeld Head of Chemical Engineering.”

With such great alumni and faculty, it is no wonder that our students are also blazing their own trails in Purdue history and beyond. Miranda McCormack, ChE junior, was appointed by the Indiana Governor as the student representative on the Purdue Board of Trustees for the 2011-2013 term – she is one of total 10 Trustees and the only student member. This is an outstanding accomplishment for Miranda but, considering that the previous student trustee was current ChE senior Tyler Teykl, it is a reflection of the extraordinary quality of our students and the effectiveness of the educational programs our School offers.

There are 490 undergraduate students and 124 graduate students enrolled for classes during the Spring 2012 semester. As we are wrapping up the renovation of five research laboratories in the original CMET building, we are preparing for a much needed overhaul of the Unit Operations Laboratory so that our students can be educated using equipment and facilities relevant to today’s industrial reality. We want the ChE infrastructure to fully support our mission to “provide students with a rigorous and relevant education.”

We invite you to visit our School, meet our people, and witness our unprecedented progress!

Arvind Varma

R. Games Slayter Distinguished Professor
Jay and Cynthia Ihlenfeld Head of Chemical Engineering