Neil Armstrong Distinguished Visiting Fellows

A College of Engineering alumnus famous for his “one small step” will be honored through a new program intended to bolster Purdue University’s impactful engineering research, engagement and education.

The Neil Armstrong Distinguished Visiting Fellows program begins in March, bringing highly accomplished and recognized scholars and practitioners to collaborate on work with engineering faculty and students. These professionals visit for several weeks a year over the course of three years.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Armstrong becoming the first man to walk on the moon as commander of Apollo 11. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Purdue in aeronautical engineering in 1955 and was awarded an honorary doctorate in engineering from Purdue in 1970.

Arvind Raman, senior associate dean of the faculty, said the inaugural cohort of visiting fellows is highly recognized and represents expertise in diverse areas ranging from heterogeneous catalysis, jet fighter design, remote sensing, construction and hydrology.

“Purdue Engineering is proud to launch this program to bring highly accomplished and recognized scholars and practitioners to Purdue Engineering to catalyze collaborations that can lead to increased impact and visibility for our visitors and their faculty hosts, schools/divisions, and college,” said Raman, the Robert V. Adams Professor in Mechanical Engineering.

The visitors in the first cohort are all National Academy of Engineering members and include:

  • Enrique Iglesia, of the University of California, Berkeley, researches catalysts — compounds that speed up or facilitate specific chemical reactions. His work involves synthesizing inorganic solids that are useful as catalysts for transforming molecules into chemicals and fuels.
  • Dara Entekhabi, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is an expert in hydrological remote sensing and serves as science team leader for the NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite mission.
  • Paul Bevilaqua, formerly at Lockheed Martin, is renowned for inventing the vertical lift concept in the F-35 Joint-Strike Fighter during his time there.
  • Randall Poston, of Pivot Engineers consulting firm in Austin, Texas, has championed the repair of existing structures for upward of 30 years and is one of the preeminent structural consultants in the U.S.
  • Andrea Rinaldo, of Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, is renowned as co-founder of the field of Ecohydrology (interactions between water and ecosystems) and for his theory of self-organized fractal river networks and efficient transport networks.

Suresh Rao, the Lee A. Rieth Distinguished Professor in Environmental and Ecological Engineering, said collaborations with Rinaldo will entail areas related to sustainability of natural resources, and influences of socio-economic systems on eco-hydrological processes.

“As an alum of Purdue Civil Engineering, we are excited to have Dr. Rinaldo return and re-engage with faculty and students in the College of Engineering and across the campus,” said Rao, who is hosting Rinaldo. “The range of his intellectual contributions to general theories of scaling and networks in natural systems would be of interest to a broad spectrum of Purdue colleagues.”

Julio Ramirez, the Karl H. Kettlehut Professor of Civil Engineering, said he looks forward to hosting Poston and the benefits he will bring to the Lyles School of Civil Engineering.

“Dr. Poston’s visit will energize and challenge our students, while simultaneously serve as a catalyst for innovation with our faculty and professional staff,” he said.

James Garrison, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Purdue, said he will host Entekhabi with the intent on researching new satellite mission concepts for globally mapping sub-surface soil moisture and snow. Entekhabi also will be involved with a two-part course for undergraduate and graduate students in fall 2019 and spring 2020, Earth Observation Mission Design – the definition of a venture class NASA Earth science mission.

Tom Shih, the J. William Uhrig and Anastasia Vournas Head of the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, plans to collaborate with Bevilaqua on aerodynamics, aeroacoustics and new concepts in aircraft design. Bevilaqua also will review undergraduate design projects and participate as a panel member on ethics for undergraduate students.

Iglesia will work with faculty and students involved with the Center for Innovative and Strategic Transformation of Alkane Resources (CISTAR). He will be hosted by Fabio Ribeiro, the Norris and Eleanor Shreve Professor of Chemical Engineering and director of CISTAR.

“Professor Iglesia’s unerring ability to reduce complex problems to their most fundamental aspects, use quantitative relations between those underlying features to solve the problem at hand, and then to generalize the solution to provide predictive design principles has provided an unprecedented breadth of field-defining concepts in heterogeneous catalysis and practical solutions to grand challenge problems related to energy and the environment,” Ribeiro said.

Participants were nominated from College of Engineering faculty as well as endorsements by Engineering school heads and Mung Chiang, the John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering. They were selected, in part, based on the likelihood of impact of the nominee’s visit on research and education at Purdue.

Program coordinators anticipate as many as three new visiting fellows to be announced each year.

During their visits, the scholars will collaborate with Purdue Engineering faculty on research projects, and/or on broader school or college priorities including new research directions, industry engagement, on-campus and online educational efforts, increasing diversity and inclusion, as well as entrepreneurship.

The visits are expected to begin in March with Rinaldo.

The visiting scholars will stay a total of up to three months through 2021. The time can be taken in multiple visits.

The host is expected to organize events such as workshops during the visit.