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A Message from the President - April 2011

Purdue's campus is beginning to take on those trademark signs of spring: buds on the trees and students in shorts and flip-flops. This time of year always brings me a sense of renewal and revitalization, although our students would probably say this time of year is just a busy one with classes, papers and exams to complete.

DC Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry Blossom Festival

During a recent trip to Washington, D.C., to visit alumni, I enjoyed the city’s spring beauty and look forward to our beautiful campus coming alive with redbuds, dogwoods and spring flowers.

The annual Cherry Blossom Festival is a tribute to an enduring friendship with Japan, which donated the trees that surround the Tidal Basin. In the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, this year’s observance of a spring tradition, which takes place through April 10, will be especially meaningful.

Help Japan poster

Help Japan poster

Many members of the Purdue community have family, colleagues and friends in Japan. I am proud of the students -- including members of the Asian American Association and the Filipino Association -- who have shown their sensitivity to this loss by pitching in with fundraising events. Purdue senior Zac Neulieb, a graphic design major in the College of Liberal Arts, created a "Help Japan" poster to boost Red Cross relief donations. The poster was available for purchase online, with all proceeds benefitting the American Red Cross. Thankfully, those Purdue students who were on exchange in Japan were unharmed and have returned home safely.

I am also pleased that our faculty have been able to contribute their research expertise in a variety of ways that will help citizens around the world understand the breadth of the tragedy, as well as Japan itself cope with the devastation.

Among those featured by national media are researcher Andy Freed, associate professor of earth and atmospheric sciences, who has visited the Sendai region where the quake occurred and collaborates with Japanese scientists on earthquake studies. Daniel Aldrich, assistant professor of political science, has been a visiting scholar at the University of Tokyo’s Law Faculty in Japan and is versed in the region’s economy and the aftereffects of natural disasters like a tsunami. Jere Jenkins, director of Radiation Laboratories at Purdue, was interviewed for a story about limiting the exposure to workers at the nuclear plant in Japan. And Judith Myers-Walls, professor emeritus in human development and family studies, has been consulted on how to explain natural disasters to children.

Purdue Day at the Statehouse

Tony Coiro, a junior physics student, with the president at Purdue Day at the Statehouse.

In addition to contributions on a global level, the wealth of talent at Purdue was also recently on display close to home during Purdue Day at the Statehouse. In a celebration of our renewed research in energy, more than two dozen projects, many of which relate to alternative energy, were spotlighted March 22 in exhibits and informative posters in the Statehouse Rotunda. Several prominent faculty in this area, including veteran biofuels researcher Nancy Ho, are featured in the most recent addition to the Difference Makers website.

Alternative energy will take to the campus racetrack on April 30 with the running of the second annual Electric Vehicle Grand Prix; followed on May 7 by an intercollegiate version of the race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Other research strengths -- from entomology to horticulture -- will be highlighted during Purdue’s annual Spring Fest on April 9 and 10.

Monica Harvey

Monica Harvey

You can meet some of our promising innovators of the future in this month’s "5 Students Who ..." web feature, which focuses on student pioneers such as Monica Alice Harvey, an economics major who hopes someday to start a micro-loan company to help women create businesses in developing nations.

It could be that some day one of these innovating Purdue students will find the key to forecasting and minimizing damage from natural disasters. Another may learn how to extend the blooming cycle of the beautiful cherry blossom trees. The possibilities are limitless.

Happy Spring!


France A. Córdova