5 Scholars Receive Lillian Gilbreth Postdoctoral Fellowships

On Sept. 27, 2019, Purdue Engineering launched five of the world’s most promising young engineering scholars on paths toward becoming pioneers in the spirit of the legendary Dr. Lillian Moller Gilbreth.

The honorees received Lillian Gilbreth Postdoctoral Fellowships, in memory of the first female Purdue Engineering faculty member and globally-renowned engineering trailblazer.

The Gilbreth Fellowships, first awarded in 2018, recognize outstanding scholarly achievements and help recipients pursue innovative, interdisciplinary research with potential for broad impact on industry and society. Unique aspects include few requirements and an intention of nurturing intellectual flexibility.

The new fellows were selected from some 100 applicants with recently awarded PhDs from top institutions around the world. Members of the new class hold doctorates in various engineering disciplines or, in one case, applied physics. Each assigned two co-advisers, they will be mentored by Purdue professors in fields ranging from biomedical engineering to chemical engineering to industrial engineering to mechanical engineering, to biological science, to chemistry, to statistics.

The fellows’ research interests include brain-machine interfaces, smartphone-based disease diagnosis, next-generation optoelectronics, statistical learning, and grid-scale energy conversion and storage.

“We honor Lillian Gilbreth's inspiration through this unique, interdisciplinary postdoctoral fellowship, and we are delighted that Professor Andrea Goldsmith is here to share her pioneering paths with this year's LGPF recipients,” Mung Chiang, the John A. Edwardson Dean of the College of Engineering, said at the investiture ceremony.

Joining Chiang for the event were Dana Weinstein, associate dean for1 graduate education, and Beth Holloway, assistant dean of diversity and engagement, both of the College of Engineering. Goldsmith, the keynote speaker and 2002 National Academy of Engineering Gilbreth Lecturer, is the Stephen Harris Professor in the School of Engineering and Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University.

Gilbreth’s Innovations

Gilbreth, a professor in Purdue’s School of Engineering from 1935-1948, is widely recognized for her groundbreaking work in applying psychology to industrial engineering and interdisciplinary research. Among her inventions are shelves inside refrigerator doors and the foot-pedal trashcan. She was an adviser to five U.S. presidents on committees dealing with civil defense, war production, and rehabilitation of people with disabilities.

In addition, as a mother of 12 children, Gilbreth used her professional savvy to maximize efficiency in home management. Her family’s story is told in the book and movie Cheaper by the Dozen.

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

The 2019 Inductees

  • Daniel L. Gonzales, who will work with Krishna Jayant, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, and Scott Pluta, assistant professor of biological sciences, to develop a flexible nanoelectrode net to investigate sub-cellular integration at the cortical surface.
  • Melinda A. Lake, who will work with co-advisers Jacqueline Linnes, Marta E. Gross Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and Dr. Steven Wereley, professor of mechanical engineering, and collaborator Tamara Kinzer-Ursem, Marta E. Gross Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, to design a smartphone-based disease diagnostic platform to assist in the eradication of malaria.
  • Ke Ma, who will work with Letian Dou, assistant professor of chemical engineering, and Jianguo Mei, assistant professor of chemistry, to use polyelectrolytes to guide perovskite growth and improve their electronic properties for next-generation optoelectronics.
  • Marie Maros, who will work with Gesualdo Scutari, the Thomas and Jane Schmidt Rising Star Associate Professor of Industrial Engineering, and Guang Cheng, professor of statistics, to develop a theory of the fundamental tradeoffs that govern statistical learning in a large-scale nonconvex networked setting.
  • Hamid R. Seyf, who will work with Vilas Pol, associate professor of chemical engineering, and Partha Mukherjee, associate professor of mechanical engineering, to suppress lithium dendrites in Li-S batteries.

Visit Fellowship Awardees 2019 for more information on the newly named fellows.

2018 Fellows Praise Program

The new fellows have much to which to look forward, based on comments from their 2018 predecessors, who cite benefits of crossing disciplines, being mentored, and gaining real-world experience.

“The Lillian Gilbreth Postdoctoral Fellowship has allowed me to expand my expertise in more ways than I imagined,” said Caitlin R. Proctor, whose work spans biomedical, civil, environmental and ecological, and materials engineering. “Not only have I been able to work across disciplines to shape my own research program, but I also have had the opportunity to teach, write grants, and advise many students. In addition, I got heavily involved in Purdue’s real-time Camp Fire drinking-water contamination response, where I learned about ethics, public relations, and advising government agencies.”

Also appreciating the opportunity to blend disciplines is Jeffrey S. Lowe, whose PhD is in chemical engineering. “Working across the interdisciplinary fields of chemistry and chemical engineering, I have been able to go outside of my comfort zone by learning to perform experiments in the lab,” he said. “My background is in computational science, so this fellowship has enabled me to explore research projects with both greater flexibility and impact.”

Kimberly A. Stevens, a mechanical engineering PhD recipient who has branched into biomedical engineering, said: “The fellowship has enabled me the flexibility to enter a new field and develop skills that will be extremely beneficial as I build my own research program. I also gained invaluable grant-writing experience. Having two postdoctoral mentors has enabled me to benefit from the knowledge, experience, and networking connections of two people in different fields and with different backgrounds.”

Similarly, Hai-Tian Zhang, whose PhD is in materials science and engineering, said: “The fellowship gives me a precious opportunity, not seen anywhere else, to get involved and interact with researchers in a multidisciplinary environment. I’m currently working on a project that bridges multiple fields in brain-machine interfaces, healthcare and quantum materials. Recently, we reported a new class of bio-sensors based on quantum materials that could be used to detect early-stage diseases and ‘read’ signals from the human brain in the future.”

Chinmay C. Khandekar thanked the College of Engineering, faculty, staff and other fellows for contributing to his fellowship experience. “The funding for interdisciplinary work and separate funds for travel have been crucial for research and outreach,” said Khandekar, whose PhD is in electrical engineering and whose research field is nanoscale technology. “The research environment at Purdue is excellent, and the fellowship has been a great opportunity for professional growth.”