One Year, One Gift, Big Impact
History in the making isn't always obvious. But on a cold day in February this year, Lilly Endowment Inc. unveiled a grant of $40 million - the largest cash gift in Purdue University's history - to support transformational projects in the College of Engineering, the Purdue Polytechnic Institute and Purdue Libraries.
Lilly Endowment: Education Advocates
Lilly Endowment Inc. has long been a supporter of Purdue's engineering research and technology efforts. The grant announced in February 2015 also supports advancements in two other areas at Purdue.
The Lilly Endowment grant provides $5 million for the Wilmeth Active Learning Center at Purdue Libraries, a first-of-its-kind, 97,000-squarefoot facility that fuses classrooms, libraries, and study-and-collaboration areas into one adaptable space.
And for the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, the grant provides $3.5 million for the development of a new Technology Academic Program, a fundamental component of the Purdue Moves agenda.
At the announcement, Sara B. Cobb, vice president for education for Lilly Endowment, summed up the intent and aspirations of the gift: "These projects hold great promise to be real game-changers."
"With its considerable strengths in engineering and technology, Purdue is poised for significant impact in research, education and economic development," Cobb said.
Since that historic moment last winter, activity has been heating up to fulfill Lilly's investment and advance Purdue's priorities to empower groundbreaking research; expand high-tech job growth throughout Indiana, the nation and the world; and enhance the learning experience for Purdue students.
For the College of Engineering, the Lilly Endowment grant has accelerated three projects central to its ambitious Strategic Growth Initiative: expanding Zucrow Laboratory facilities, investing in a new Flex Lab research facility, and creating the Bechtel Innovation Design Center. This student-inspired center will be a new building with collaborative design-and-build space for Engineering and Purdue Polytechnic students.
All three projects help fulfill expansion goals set forth in the Strategic Growth Initiative and in Purdue Moves, a complementary, University-wide agenda introduced in 2013 that focuses on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) leadership, world-changing research, transformative education, and affordability and accessibility.
A Boost for Zucrow Labs
The Lilly Endowment grant is already making huge impact in the expansion of Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories - the nation's largest university propulsion facility.
Founded in 1946 and operated by the schools of Mechanical Engineering and Aeronautics and Astronautics, Zucrow is internationally known for its groundbreaking research in fuel-efficient and low-emissions jet engines.
With $5 million from the Lilly Endowment grant, funding is finalized for a new $8.2 million, 9,600-squarefoot facility. Located adjacent to the current high-pressure lab, the new facility will provide five much-needed test cells. For the study of combustion in jet engines, the facility will have a 2,000-square-foot laser diagnostic lab. The gift also allows for modernization of the existing facility, including additional office space for new faculty and students. The new building will be completed in 2017.
For Stephen D. Heister, Zucrow director and the Raisbeck Engineering Distinguished Professor for Engineering and Technology Integration, the expansion has been five years in the making.
"Even before construction is complete, we see evidence that the new facility is attracting worldclass faculty," Heister says.
Carson Slabaugh, assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics, who completed his doctoral thesis at Zucrow, exemplifies the caliber of talent drawn to the lab's internationally unique research infrastructure. Slabaugh's expertise in laser-based measurement techniques is in high demand. But Slabaugh says that the additional space made possible by the Lilly Endowment grant was a major factor in his decision to stay on faculty at Purdue.
Strategically, the lab expansion promises to increase collaborations with the world's top gas turbine firms. The five new test cells will allow corporate and government partners to have their own space to conduct proprietary research, a key feature for attracting funding.
Flexible, Start-up Focused Research Space
A $13.5 million portion of the Lilly Endowment grant enables completion of the Flex Lab, a $54 million, 60,000-square-foot interdisciplinary research facility, south of the Birck Nanotechnology Center in Discovery Park. The thematic, adaptable space will support 45 faculty in a range of disciplines.
One prospective Flex Lab occupant is the Advanced Lyophilization Technology Consortium for Manufacturing of Food, Pharmaceuticals and Biotech Products. The team is advancing the expensive and time-consuming process of freeze-drying foods and drugs, research that would benefit from co-locating faculty from the industrial pharmacy and engineering disciplines. Research in laser-based manufacturing processes also would benefit from consolidating resources and faculty.
Loring "Larry" Nies, professor of civil engineering and environmental and ecological engineering, notes that students, too, will benefit from a holistic view of engineering as they participate in collaborative research teams. "It improves education, it improves research and it improves our opportunities for collaborating with industry," says Nies. The facility is a linchpin for Purdue Engineering expansion: The Flex Lab is projected to help boost Purdue's industry- and government-funded research collaborations and intellectual property development by 30 percent.
Bechtel Innovation Design Center: By Students, for Students
The Lilly Endowment grant also earmarks $13 million toward finalizing the Bechtel Innovation Design Center (BIDC), a facility envisioned by Purdue students that will furnish Engineering and Purdue Polytechnic students space for designing, building, and testing course-based and extracurricular projects.
"When the Purdue Engineering Student Council donated $250,000 to this building, we wanted a facility available for students 24/7," says PESC President Tyler Berry, a senior in mechanical engineering. "This building is all about students designing and creating. You can be inspired here."
And with inspiration comes innovation. In one communal space, students will find the resources and tools for design and creation and the spaces to share ideas from team to team.
Featuring design and prototyping studios, open workspaces, labs, and "magnet spaces" that draw students together, the center will support projects such as solar and electric vehicle design, bridges and energy-efficient home prototypes, robots, accessible playgrounds, and Rube Goldberg contest entries.
The BIDC, scheduled to open in 2017, will be located at Third and Russell streets in Purdue's student success corridor, and yes, be open for students 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
History in the Making
Purdue President Mitch Daniels calls the Lilly Endowment grant "an important moment in Purdue history." The gift, he says, confers an obligation. "It's now our duty to turn it into a significant event in Indiana history by delivering even more world-class engineers, technologists and leaders of all kinds, along with the discoveries, innovations and new jobs that great research produces."
Purdue Engineering is answering the call of duty as it expands the College in conjunction with the national imperative to graduate 10,000 more engineers per year, while also addressing state, national and global challenges. Lilly Endowment Inc.'s vision and generosity provides a catalyst for transformative change that is already underway.
"This support from the Lilly Endowment accelerates Engineering's expansion in ways that will make a real difference for students and drive innovations that will have impact in our state and the world," says Leah H. Jamieson, The John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering and Ransburg Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
To lend your support to Purdue Engineering capital projects, contact Alyssa Wilcox, associate vice president for advancement, at 765-494-0519 or AMWilcox@prf.org.