Purdue's chapter of ASHRAE might just save the world through air-conditioning

The next time you adjust the thermostat in your home, car, office, or refrigerator, thank an air-conditioning engineer! This field is vital for the future of energy, sustainability, and human comfort. Purdue has graduated so many of these engineers through the decades, that they have their own student organization on campus: American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).


“We work on thermal systems of all kinds,” said Andreas Hoess, a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering and leader of the Purdue chapter of ASHRAE. “Our research improves the systems for your home’s heating and cooling, or your refrigerator, or a supermarket’s freezer section, all the way up to cooling a nuclear reactor.”

Purdue University is an acknowledged leader in HVAC+R (heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and refrigeration), hosting the largest academic HVAC+R lab in the world, Herrick Labs. “I came here from Germany because I knew that Purdue has one of the largest student bodies, largest numbers of faculty, and most impressive facilities for research in this field,” said Hoess.

These heating and cooling technologies are more advanced than you might think. For example, one recent project built an upside-down fridge for NASA to test whether traditional refrigeration compressors can work on long-duration spaceflights. They even tested it on a zero-gravity parabolic flight.

So why join a student group like ASHRAE? “Students need to get out and meet people that are actually in the industry, and ASHRAE helps you do that,” said Hoess. “I’ve learned so much from the speakers that come to share their knowledge with us, and the field trips we’ve gone on. We’ve visited the Purdue nuclear reactor, and the research and development facilities at Trane Technologies.”

In addition, ASHRAE itself hosts regular conferences where students can discuss their research with their 57,000 members worldwide. They also have the opportunity to contribute to technical committees, where the standards and practices of the air-conditioning and refrigeration industries are formed.

ASHRAE has been informing this field since the 19th century. In fact, the longest serving ASHRAE member in history, Eric Schwenker, joined the organization during his senior year at Purdue in 1947!

Purdue's chapter visited the ASHRAE Winter Conference in Atlanta in February 2023.

Apply what you learn

For Songhao Wu, refrigeration and air-conditioning wasn’t even on his radar as an undergrad. “My first co-op was in a manufacturing facility,” said Wu. “I didn’t really like the manufacturing part, but I did love working with the facilities people to fix the equipment out on their rooftop. That’s how I came to know about HVAC, and I’ve gotten more involved from that point on.”

ASHRAE awarded Wu a scholarship to conduct undergraduate research, helping him to finish his degree. Now he’s a master’s student at Purdue, working with David Warsinger on membrane-based dehumidification to help improve the energy efficiency of large HVAC systems.

“It’s one thing to learn about thermodynamics in a classroom,” said Wu, “but it’s even better to hear from industry professionals how they apply it in real life. I’ve gone to ASHRAE conferences in Tampa and Atlanta to meet a lot of these people, and also present my own research. Every time I go there, I learn something new.”

Wu encourages students from any background to consider learning about HVAC. “This is a hugely growing field,” he said. “I came into it with zero knowledge, and now they’re helping me with my master’s degree. You can always come to ASHRAE and talk to people like me, and we can help you network and accomplish your own goals.”

Hoess sees a bigger picture for the HVAC field. “Heating and cooling is one of the biggest energy consumers in the nation,” he said. “Our research is helping to contribute to the de-carbonization of these industries. So if you join ASHRAE, not only will you find help networking for your career, but you’ll also be having impact on a better future for the world.”

Instagram: ashrae_purdue
LinkedIn: Purdue ASHRAE Student Branch
Facebook: Purdue ASHRAE Student Branch
Boilerlink: Purdue ASHRAE

Faculty advisors: Eckhard Groll, Bill Hutzel, Nusrat Jung, Haotian Liu, Davide Ziviani

Andreas Hoess, Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering, says that participating in a professional society like ASHRAE has multiple benefits that help you in the classroom, in the lab, and in your career.

Writer: Jared Pike, jaredpike@purdue.edu, 765-496-0374

Source: Andreas Hoess, ahoess@purdue.edu