First Lillian Gilbreth Postdoctoral Fellows Honored

Five of the world’s most promising young engineering scholars have been honored by Purdue Engineering as inaugural recipients of the prestigious Lillian Gilbreth Postdoctoral Fellowship in recognition of their outstanding scholarly achievements and proposed innovative interdisciplinary research and its potential for broad impact on industry and society.

More than 100 applicants with recently awarded PhDs from top institutions around the world were considered for these awards.

Dr. Arvind Raman, Keynote Speaker Dr. Rikky Muller, Chinmay C. Khandekar, Caitlin R. Proctor, Jeffrey S. Lowe, Kimberley A. Stevens, Hai-Tian Zhang, the Leah H. Jamieson Director of the Women in Engineering Program and Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Education Beth Holloway, and Dean Mung Chiang.
Lillian Gilbreth Investiture Medal

The men and women come from the mechanical; chemical; environmental and ecological; materials; electrical; and biomedical engineering disciplines and were installed as Lillian Gilbreth Postdoctoral Fellows at an event celebrating Dr. Gilbreth’s distinguished career on November 9, 2018. Rikky Muller, assistant professor at the University of California at Berkeley and 2017 National Academy of Engineering Gilbreth Lecturer, was the keynote speaker.

The goal of the Lillian Gilbreth Postdoctoral Fellowship Program at Purdue Engineering is to attract and prepare outstanding individuals with recently awarded PhDs for careers in engineering academia through interdisciplinary research, training and professional development. The fellowships are unique in that they have few requirements and are instead designed to nurture intellectual flexibility. The Gilbreth Postdoctoral Fellows will team with researchers from at least two different Engineering schools on projects with broad-reaching global impact. The prestigious fellowships are named for Lillian Moller Gilbreth, a Purdue professor and the School of Engineering’s first female professor (1935-48), who is a world-renowned pioneer in the application of psychology to industrial engineering and interdisciplinary research.

“As the first female faculty member at Purdue Engineering and the first female member of the National Academy of Engineering, Lillian Gilbreth leaves a tremendous legacy here and across the country. We are excited to celebrate this legacy through the establishment of the Lillian Gilbreth Fellowship, and to provide the intellectual freedom for these bright young minds to carry out top-caliber research across the boundaries of disciplines, in the spirit of Lillian Gilbreth’s own work,” says Mung Chiang, the John A. Edwardson Dean of the College of Engineering.

Ceremony program, medal, and College of Engineering data card.

Gilbreth focused her organizational psychology background on the human side of workplace management and connected seemingly unrelated disciplines. She designed consumer appliances, hospital, office and athletic equipment to make work and life easier, and was a consultant to many major corporations. Two of her better-known inventions are the shelves inside refrigerator doors and the foot-pedal trashcan. As the mother of 12 children, Gilbreth also applied her professional knowledge to maximizing efficiency in home management. The story of the Gilbreth family is told in the book and movie Cheaper by the Dozen.

Gilbreth was the first woman elected to the National Academy of Engineering (1965), the first member of the Society of Women Engineers, and the second woman to join the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Until 2005, she was the only woman awarded the prestigious Hoover Award (1966), jointly bestowed by five leading engineering organizations recognizing "great, unselfish, non-technical services by engineers to humanity."

Beginning in 1930, by serving on President Hoover’s Emergency Committee on Employment, Gilbreth was an advisor to five U.S. presidents on committees dealing with civil defense, war production and rehabilitation of the handicapped. She received more than 20 honorary doctorates from prestigious institutions. Purdue University’s e-archives and special collections feature many historical materials on Gilbreth’s life and career.

Gilbreth Fellows are appointed for a two-year term, and receive an annual stipend of $60,000 and benefits. A $5,000 grant is also provided for professional development such as attending conferences or workshops and are mentored for their future academic careers through a variety of programs.

Senior Associate Dean of the Faculty Arvind Raman congratulates Chinmay C. Khandekar.

Purdue’s 2018-19 Lillian Gilbreth Postdoctoral Fellows are:

  • Chinmay C. Khandekar, who conducts interdisciplinary work at nanoscale with Zubin Jacob, associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Adrian Buganza Tepole, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering, in the areas of nonlinear thermal radiation, nanoscale heat transport and quantum nanophotonics. Khandekar received his PhD in Electrical Engineering from Princeton University.
  • Jeffrey S. Lowe, who works with Jeff Greeley, associate professor of Chemical Engineering, and Christina Li, assistant professor of Chemistry, on research to develop a combined computational/experimental approach to develop structure-property relationships for electrocatalysts. Lowe is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan, graduating in December 2018.
  • Caitlin R. Proctor, who joins a drinking water and materials research project with John Howarter, associate professor of Materials Engineering and Environmental and Ecological Engineering; Paul Robinson, the SVM Professor of Cytomics and professor of Biomedical Engineering; and Andrew Whelton, associate professor of Civil Engineering and Environmental and Ecological Engineering. Proctor completed her PhD in Life Sciences at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology at Eidgenossische Technische (ETH), Zurich, Switzerland.
  • Kimberley A. Stevens, who teams with Ivan Christov, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Vitaliy Rayz, assistant professor of Biomedical Engineering, researching fluid-structure interactions for modeling blood vessels and biomedical devices. Stevens received her PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Brigham Young University.
  • Hai-Tian Zhang, who works with Shriram Ramanathan, professor of Materials Engineering, and Kaushik Roy, the Edward G. Tiedemann Jr. Distinguished Professor Electrical and Computer Engineering, to bridge the frontiers of quantum materials and brain-inspired computing and machine intelligence. Zhang received his PhD in Materials Science and Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University.
Keynote Speaker and 2017 National Academy of Engineering Gilbreth Lecturer Dr. Rikky Muller.