February 2004 Newsletter

In this issue:


We’re at the start of a new year, and I’d like to share with you—as I have with our faculty and staff—the strategic goals that Purdue Engineering will be focusing on in 2004.

As you know, President Jischke has determined to take Purdue to the next level: preeminence. Engineering shares that goal. To help us achieve it, we’ve been working with a consulting firm, Lipman-Hearne, to assess where we currently stand. They completed interviews with more than 5,440 alumni, students, faculty and others and presented findings that reaffirm what we in Engineering have identified in our strategic plan as our four most critical areas of focus.

First, we must maintain the quality of the undergraduate education offered in the Schools of Engineering. We’re developing innovative academic programs to continue to meet our students’ needs. One such program—called SURF, for “Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships”—provides research experiences to seniors. Another program—called EPICS, for Engineering Projects in Community Service—originated in the Schools of Engineering and is becoming a university-wide program. It’s also expanded to universities around the country. In addition, we’re aggressively working at increasing the diversity of our student body.

Our second area of focus is to improve the quality of the faculty and graduate student cohort. On the faculty side, we’re adding 75 new faculty positions over the next five years in Engineering. These new positions enable us to aggressively pursue our diversity goals. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the nation’s top engineering programs also have the most diverse faculties and student bodies. It’s really a quality issue. Our new faculty positions are also improving the student-faculty ratio and allowing us to hire new, top-caliber faculty with special expertise in emerging areas of research. At Purdue, we’ve identified eight of these emerging areas—such as nanotechnology and tissue engineering—in which we intend to assume leadership.

On the graduate education side, we’re working hard to improve the quality and quantity of our domestic students and to improve our programs. We’re reorganizing our Department of Continuing Engineering Education to include new professional programs, such as programs that combine engineering and management coursework.

Our third area of focus is to improve our research visibility. We’ve got a growing number of research activities, including a number of new national research centers. Discovery Park, Purdue’s new research complex, will contain the Birck Nanotechnology Center. I’m also pleased to note our High-Mach Propulsion Center, our Center for Cooling Technologies Research, and our Center for Wireless Systems and Applications, among others. All these centers are conducting important research, and we’re working hard to make sure that our colleagues and the nation’s funding agencies are aware of it.

Our fourth and final area of focus is infrastructure. Our facilities are a determining factor in whether we achieve our other goals. We’re following a comprehensive, 10-year master facilities plan that calls for the renovation of every square inch of our facilities within the Schools of Engineering—and the expansion of our usable space by 60 percent. Our capital campaign, of course, will make that master facilities plan a reality, and it will make the rest of our strategic plan come to fruition.

Our faculty, staff, and students are truly excited about the changes taking place at Purdue, and we deeply appreciate the commitment and involvement of alumni like you. Together, we will achieve our vision of preeminence for Purdue and for Purdue Engineering.

Linda P.B. Katehi


Learn about the exploration of Mars or the state of international trade. Check out the design problem posed by the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest—and the variety of solutions students contrive. See the outstanding accomplishments of Purdue Engineering faculty and alumni receive well-deserved recognition.

All that—and more—will happen on campus during National Engineers Week (February 22-28), when Purdue Engineering presents a mix of seminars, lectures, and activities for students, faculty, engineering societies, alumni, and corporations. A complete listing of events is available at http://engineering.purdue.edu/national_eweek.

Tissue and Cellular Engineering

Alaina Pizzo
Tissue Mechanics: Alaina Pizzo, a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering, studies the mechanical properties of tissues.

Several factors have converged to push tissue and cellular engineering (TCE) into its signature area position at Purdue and push Purdue into a potential leadership position nationally and internationally:

  • The potential to help large numbers of people
  • Growing interest among faculty members and students
  • Opportunities for sponsored funding from federal agencies
  • Clearly defined needs of industrial partners
  • The geographic location of several partners in Indiana, which makes for a natural relationship
  • The reputation of Purdue engineering and its recent success in biomedical research and development
  • The potential to increase the diversity of students and faculty in engineering

Purdue will focus on research and development in various subareas: real-time sensing and imaging of the structure, function, and dynamic characteristics of biological systems; probing and sensing the functions of and interactions between tissues, cells, and molecules; and engineering replacement tissue scaffolds with unique mechanical properties based on molecular design.

According to TCE co-chair George Wodicka, head of biomedical engineering, the history of the field illustrates the necessity of combining expertise from both engineering and science.

“In order to develop replacement tissues, the mechanical properties of those tissues are vitally important—how the properties change when the device is being constructed or once it has been implanted,“ he explains. “These issues are critical in terms of functionality of a device itself, so mechanical engineering principles have been key to this field from the beginning.”

On the other hand, replacement tissues for nerves raise a different set of concerns. “In addition to the mechanical components,” Wodicka says, “the electrical properties of the replacement tissues need to be fully understood. That brings in the whole realm of electrical engineering.”

The science factor in the equation bears on issues such as tissue function, cellular interactions, and subcellular phenomena that affect how replacement tissues are recognized by the body and how cells react to them.

“At the molecular and cellular level we need tremendous engineering, yet the engineers also must understand the biological aspects of their work—especially about how the cells and tissues of the body react to the presence of an engineered tissue,” says Klod Kokini, a professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering.

According to Kokini, tissue and cellular engineering has emerged as a distinct field in the context of treating and curing bodily damage and injuries. “Many of the key challenges are related to soft tissues, ligaments, skin, et cetera,” Kokini says. “Tissue engineering looks to allow repair of these structures. The concept at this time is to develop materials by understanding the environment they are in, the relationship between these materials with cells and tissues in the body itself, and to engineer devices and systems that can be used as replacements for tissues. We also look at the relationship between the materials and the cells, which is the critical part of making tissues.”

However, re-growing damaged knee cartilage for injured athletes or implanting retinal tissue for patients with macular degeneration may be just the tip of the iceberg of possibility. “Ultimately the hope is to actually grow organs or allow the body to grow organs,” Kokini says, although he concedes that such applications are years away.

The bottom line is that tissue and cellular engineering may benefit not only patients with previously incurable diseases or untreatable conditions, but also the businesses and industries trying to help them.


February 19, 2004

Civil Engineering Alumni Achievement Awards
6 p.m., North Ballroom, Purdue Memorial Union.
All CE alumni and friends are invited to attend. Reservations required. Please call (765) 496-2992.

February 20, 2004

Outstanding Industrial Engineering Alumni Award Dinner
6 p.m., North Ballroom, Purdue Memorial Union.
RSVP to (765) 494-5405.

February 23, 2004

New Faces of Engineering Lecture
“How to Get Your Engineering Career Started Our Right…and My Experiences on the Joint Strike Fighter”
10:30 a.m. South Ballroom, Purdue Memorial Union
Featuring Erin McGinnis (BSIE ’02), Industrial Engineer, JSSF Advance Fabrication Support, Northrop Grumman.

February 24, 2004

Purdue Schools of Engineering Lecture Series
“The Mars Exploration Program”
9 a.m., Fowler Hall, Stewart Center
Featuring David Spencer (BSAAE ’89, MSAAE ’91), Deputy Manager Flight Systems, Mission Manager, Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

February 25, 2004

National Engineers Week Party
10 a.m. to 2 p.m., MSEE Atrium
Come by and celebrate Engineers Week with us! Have a piece of cake and a nice hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate.

February 26, 2004

Engineering Gift Announcements
10:30 a.m., Room 118, Purdue Memorial Union

February 27, 2004

The Outlook for International Trade: The Future of Jobs, Technology and Economic Growth – Brian Lamb, moderator
9:30-11:30 a.m., Fowler Hall, Stewart Center

February 28, 2004

Faculty Recognition Reception and Banquet – North Ballroom, PMU
Reception 6 p.m., banquet 7 p.m., North Ballroom, Purdue Memorial Union.
RSVPs required.

February 28, 2004

Rube Goldberg Machine Contest (Local)
Doors open at 10:30 a.m., competition at 11 a.m., Lambert Fieldhouse

Contact Us

Send your alumni news and thoughts on what you’d like to see in this e-newsletter to the Engineering Alumni Association at EAA@ecn.purdue.edu.