Unique vision + exceptional people = extraordinary impact

As 2023 comes to a close, let us reflect on the insightful vision and exceptional community that built EEE, fuels growth and accomplishments, and has and will continue to produce extraordinary impacts.

Professor John W. Sutherland, Fehsenfeld Family Head of Environmental and Ecological Engineering. 

EEE was established in response to the prescient vision of Purdue faculty, advisors, and leaders who recognized, in the early 2000s, that environmental engineering could transform to meet global sustainability challenges. This unique approach has powered amazing growth. In just over 10 years, EEE has become one of the largest environmental engineering programs in the nation. Since 2013, we have awarded 411 BS, 115 MS, and 24 PhD degrees. These graduates have gone on to environmental positions in the petrochemical, automotive, aerospace, construction, electronic/semiconductor, power, food, software, retail, and paper industries, in addition to engineering consulting firms, government, and academia. Student enrollment in the BSEEE degree program has increased by a factor of 6 since our program’s founding. To meet this burgeoning demand, our EEE faculty has grown to 21 faculty members jointly appointed across 7 academic units to facilitate multidisciplinary research and education. In fall 2023, we welcomed Heather Liddell as an assistant professor of environmental and ecological engineering and mechanical engineering.

EEE has substantially benefited from exceptional faculty. In the last 2 years alone, EEE faculty have been recognized with major awards, fellowships, and memberships by prestigious professional organizations including AAAS, AAEES, AEESP, AIChE, ASA, ASCE, ASME, INAE, NAE, and SME. Professor Andrew Whelton and his EEE team, including Professor Caitlin Proctor and Professor Amisha Shah, undertook ground-breaking research and worked closely with the public to put their findings into practice, helping communities to restore safe drinking water after devastating wildfires in California, Colorado, and Hawaii. Our faculty are not only brilliant researchers, scholars, and leaders, but also inspirational student mentors and innovative teachers in the classroom. These dedicated instructors are training a new generation of engineers to apply a holistic perspective that considers the economic, environmental, and social aspects of any solution. A recent acknowledgment of EEE faculty teaching excellence was the induction of Chip Blatchley and Inez Hua into Purdue’s Book of Great Teachers, a momentous career honor recognizing only the University’s finest educators.

EEE students are the embodiment of passion and exceptionalism. They consistently stand out from their peers in terms of recognition and impact. In 2023, EEE senior Griffin Laihinen received both a national Udall Scholarship and a $20,000 Purdue Engineering Fellowship. EEE PhD candidate Kendrick Hardaway was awarded a 2023 – 2024 Fulbright Scholarship in New Zealand. At the 2023 International Society for Industrial Ecology (ISIE) Conference, held in Leiden, Netherlands, Professor Hua Cai and five EEE graduate students showcased their research to promote international collaboration, presenting on bioenergy footprinting, resource recovery from end-of-life (EoL) electric vehicles, life-cycle assessment case studies, and the environmental impacts of autonomous vehicles.

Our program began with the establishment of a farsighted vision that broadened the traditional definition of environmental engineering. When we add to this vision exceptional people—EEE faculty, students, and staff—extraordinary impacts have resulted. We have protected public health and safety, reduced environmental impact and improved economic performance of companies, educated industrial practitioners on how to develop more sustainable products/processes, trained over 550 graduates to be effective environmental stewards, and helped to shape national standards for circularity and disaster-response—just to name a few examples.

As the contents of this newsletter reflect, EEE’s outstanding community is dedicated to ensuring a future of high-impact solutions with positive environmental outcomes. We are proud of the tremendous progress EEE has made in a very short time. We look forward to expanding EEE’s impact for decades to come!

Hail Purdue!

Professor John W. Sutherland
Fehsenfeld Family Head of Environmental and Ecological Engineering