Global Policy Research Institute kicks off with Grand Challenge conference

March 29, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Sustainability, natural disasters and security issues are some of the topics that Purdue University's new Global Policy Research Institute is focusing on during its first Grand Challenge conference.

"These three topics were selected because Purdue is home to thought leaders and scholars whose research informs policymakers regularly," said Arden Bement, director of the institute. "For example, professor Steve Wereley's knowledge about fluid dynamics was of great value to government and industry leaders during last year's oil spill in the Gulf, and professor Gebisa Ejeta continues to consult on food security issues around the world. This conference highlights some of Purdue's best who are out there making a difference and encourages others engaging in research to understand how their discoveries inform policy."

Policy Research for a Changing World is 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on April 6 in the Burton Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship, Room 121. The event is free and open to the public and registration is requested in advance at

A live webcast will be available at mms://

The panels and presenters for the conference are:

* 9:15 a.m. "Sustainability" will be moderated by John Bickham, director of the Center for the Environment. The panelists are: Gebisa Ejeta, 2009 World Food Prize winner and Distinguished Professor of Agronomy; Maureen McCann, professor of biological sciences and director of the Energy Center; and Wally Tyner, James and Lois Ackerman Professor of Agricultural Economics.

* 10:45 a.m. "Disruptive Events" will be moderated by Kathy Banks, Bowen Engineering Head and Jack and Kay Hockema Professor of Civil Engineering. The panelists are: Steven Wereley, professor of mechanical engineering; Julio Ramirez, professor of civil engineering and director of the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation; and Jennifer Haase, assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences.

* 1:30 p.m. "Security" will be moderated by Byron Pipes, John Leighton Bray Distinguished Professor of Engineering. The panelists are Gene Spafford, computer science professor and executive director of the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security; David Ebert, Silicon Valley Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director for the center for Visual Analytics, Command and Control and Interoperability Environments; and Doug Adams, Kenninger Professor of Renewable Energy and Power Systems.

"This Grand Challenge conference builds on the institute's mission of supporting and encouraging interdisciplinary teams to focus on today's greatest problems in society," said Angela Phillips Diaz, the institute's managing director. "In addition to this conference, the institute has awarded more than $300,000 to support research teams in their early process of developing submissions for major funding agencies and foundations. This is critical to ensuring that proposals can move forward to receive greater support. These projects are focusing on a variety of topics including food security, cultural aspects in medical policy, women's rights and management of chronic diseases in developing countries."

The institute, which is located at 1341 Northwestern Ave. in West Lafayette, was a gift from alumni R. Thomas and Anne Schowe, who reside in Santa Barbara, Calif. R. Thomas earned his bachelor's degree in industrial education in 1971, and Anne earned her bachelor's degree in computer science in 1972.

The newly formed institute also is developing a master's certificate in public policy, participation in an interdisciplinary internship program in public policy, and a master's degree program in public policy and public administration.

Writer:  Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723,

Sources:   Arden Bement, 765-496-6713,

                   Angela Phillips Diaz, 765-496-6765,