Head of engineering education to be named for Kamyar Haghighi

March 8, 2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The position of head of Purdue University's School of Engineering Education will be named for the program's founder, Kamyar Haghighi.

Kamyar Haghighi

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The naming is made possible by a $2 million gift from the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation.

Haghighi created the world's first Department (now School) of Engineering Education at Purdue in 2004. The school includes a graduate program; two undergraduate programs, first-year engineering and multidisciplinary engineering; and the Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning, a first in combining research on childhood engineering learning with outreach to pre-K-12 educators. The first-year engineering program brings 1,700 students through the School of Engineering Education each year.

Haghighi, who is battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), stepped down as head of the school in July. A national search for the first Kamyar Haghighi Head of Engineering Education is under way.

"Through pioneering research and educational initiatives, Dr. Haghighi transformed engineering education, not only at Purdue but around the world," Purdue President France A. Córdova said. "It is wonderful to have his name permanently linked to the school that he founded and that bears the imprint of his passion for the discipline."

Leah Jamieson, the John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering, said: "Dr. Haghighi forever changed the face of Purdue engineering. His vision will prepare our students for the sweeping and complex demands of the world of tomorrow and will ensure that scholarship in engineering education becomes an integral part of our culture."

Financial support to create an endowment for the head of engineering education will position Purdue to find a national leader who can enhance existing programs, develop innovative new initiatives, and recruit the best students, faculty and staff, Jamieson said.

"This will contribute to the continued success of the Engineering Education mission," she said.

Haghighi came to Purdue in 1986 as an assistant professor of agricultural engineering. He became an associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering in 1991 and a full professor in 1995, a position he continues to hold.

He was named head of what was then the Department of Freshman Engineering in 2003, before establishing the Department of Engineering Education the next year.

He earned his master's degree and doctorate from Michigan State University. His bachelor's degree is from Pahlavi University in Shiraz, Iran.

Last year, Haghighi received both the Chester F. Carlson Award from the American Society of Engineering Education and the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Distinguished Service Award. Among other honors, he was given his department's Outstanding Undergraduate Teacher Award in 1992, 1998 and 2002.

During his career, he has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in machine design and finite element analysis. He has secured more than $13 million in research funding as principal or co-principal investigator. Haghighi has published more than 200 technical papers and has won four national outstanding paper awards. He also has developed 10 major software packages.

He is a member of the technical program/advisory committees for several national and international conferences, served on the ASEE Journal of Engineering Education advisory board, and is a fellow of the Engineering Society for Advancing Mobility.

The S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation was started by Stephen Bechtel, who earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Purdue in 1946 and an honorary doctorate in engineering in 1972. He serves as chairman, retired of Bechtel Group Inc. in San Francisco, one of the nation's largest engineering and construction companies. He was named president of the company in 1960 and became chairman in 1973.

"I am honored and humbled to be recognized in such a wonderful and lasting way by the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation and its distinguished leader, Stephen Bechtel," Haghighi said. "It is extremely generous of them to create this endowment. The belief and trust that they have bestowed upon us through their support of our various projects have been instrumental in our success."

A reception honoring Haghighi and celebrating the gift will be at 2:30 p.m. Thursday (March 11) in the Armstrong Hall of Engineering Kurz Atrium.

Writer: Judith Barra Austin, 765-494-2432, jbaustin@purdue.edu  

Sources:   Leah Jamieson, 765-494-5346, lhj@purdue.edu  

                    Kamyar Haghighi, haghighi@purdue.edu

Note to Journalists: Journalists who would like to interview Kamyar Haghighi are asked to contact Judith Austin of the Purdue News Service at 765-494-2432.