by William Schmitt
“Sounds Like the Future!,” a podcast series presented by Purdue’s College of Engineering, launches this month with an episode interviewing Dean Mung Chiang, Ph.D., and Acting Dean Mark Lundstrom, Ph.D. They provide a valuable and vibrantly personal overview combining historical awareness and visionary motivation for the College’s extended community—faculty students, alumni, and partners across the campus and around the world.
The podcast is timely because of an important intersection between the past and the future, as these distinguished guests point out. The College is celebrating a 120th anniversary, and it has entered its first year of the Purdue Engineering Initiatives. These PEIs are described as pioneering endeavors to explore “how academia can invent new ways to launch new initiatives” that will keep the College at the forefront of the most exciting developments in engineering around the world.
The five PEIs are “virtual structures” for cultivating interdisciplinary ventures that entail research, learning, and engagement. They are chaired by faculty members and scheduled to span three to six years. These are the five areas of emphasis:
Lundstrom will lead the College’s pursuit of these initiatives in 2020 while Chiang is on a one-year leave of absence serving the U.S. Department of State as a special adviser on science and technology in international affairs and global security. Lundstrom also served as a co-chair for Purdue University’s recent activities marking its own 150th anniversary.
The College of Engineering has played a dynamic role in that history. As mentioned in this podcast, the College now has more than 100,000 living alumni whose service as problem-solvers in diverse fields has made countless contributions to the well-being of humanity.
Those contributions will continue and evolve through innovations for which the PEIs will serve as incubators. Contributions also continue to flow directly from the current projects and specialized expertise of College of Engineering professors. The PEIs will develop student and faculty leadership through the virtues not only of nimble incubation, but also “incisiveness” and inter-functional thinking. As the podcast guests point out, the initiatives will probe broadly in sectors of remarkable technological growth while focusing on where Purdue’s unique strengths can be at the forefront of progress.
Lundstrom’s own experience offers one example of how research, learning and engagement have come together through purposeful incubation on various fronts. He was the founding director of the Network for Computational Nanotechnology. That springboard for a vast range of progress in engineering at the nano scale is approaching its 20th year of pledged support from the National Science Foundation. The website Nanohub.org is one portal into the cooperation and imagination driving advancements in this field.
That virtual expanse of resources can hold lessons for the future of the Purdue Engineering Initiatives, the strategic structures Lundstrom and fellow faculty member Kathleen Howell helped to formulate during two years of College-wide collaboration.
Chiang, who has headed the College as Dean since 2017, will return to the Purdue campus after his leave of absence, having brought his passion for research, learning, and engagement to international public policy. In academic administration, his commitment to students and faculty alike couples a nimble mindset with rigorous devotion to the “Pinnacle of Excellence at Scale.” During this podcast episode, he set the standard for “Sounds Like the Future!” as a series where distinct voices will update the College community about responsibilities of service to a fast-changing world.
The host-director for this podcast is Bill Schmitt, M.P.A., a multimedia journalist and content creator in science, public affairs, and education. The audio producer is Paul Giesting, Ph.D., whose scientific career spans research, technology, and consulting.