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October 15, 2012

Purdue to increase engineering faculty by a third

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University is embarking on a program to increase its College of Engineering faculty by 30 percent over the next five years.

The additional faculty will allow the college to grow enrollment and expand the breadth and depth of its research efforts.

"This move will provide an economic benefit to the country as we educate more engineers with the Purdue credentials that are highly valued by industry, government and academia," said acting President Timothy Sands.

"The U.S. Council on Jobs and Competitiveness has called for an additional 10,000 engineers a year. We're stepping up to this challenge. We want to add to our pool of highly qualified students, especially Hoosiers, at a time when the nation is demanding more engineers," said Sands, an engineer himself, who contributed to the development of LED lighting.

Leah Jamieson

Leah Jamieson
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Leah Jamieson, the John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering, said faculty growth hasn't kept up with other growth in the college.

"From fall 2006 to fall 2011, our undergraduate enrollment grew by 17 percent; our graduate enrollment by 28 percent; and our research enterprise, as measured by annual research expenditures, by 79 percent. During that same time, faculty growth was 6 percent," she said. "As a result, we have developed a five-year plan for strategic growth that will add up to 107 faculty members."

That will grow the faculty from the current 358 to 465, a 30 percent increase.

With the additional faculty, undergraduate enrollment will grow by almost 10 percent to more than 7,750 and graduate enrollment will grow by 750 to 3,500.

"We will help meet the need for more engineers while giving students the education they need to succeed in well-paying and challenging jobs," Jamieson said.

Jeff Immelt, chairman and CEO of GE, said there is a need for more engineers.

"A critical sustainable competitive advantage for a company or a country is its technology base, and I applaud Purdue University and its leadership's commitment to educating more world-class engineers," he said.

The National Science Foundation says that jobs in engineering and science pay more, even when compared to jobs requiring similar amounts of education and experience. NSF said that half of workers in engineering and science jobs earned at least $73,290 in 2010, more than double the $33,840 median income of the total U.S. workforce.

And those engineers coming out of Purdue will have a world-class education, Jamieson said.

"Faculty growth of this magnitude has the potential to shape how we educate our students, particularly in developing hands-on, team-oriented classes," she said. "We know from our graduates and from our industry partners that in the real world, engineers work in teams. With a team-based classroom approach  - which a lower faculty-to-student ratio will allow - our graduates are better prepared to make the transition from school to career."

The growth also has potential to shape how the college connects with the world through research, engagement, economic development, K-12 outreach, entrepreneurship, partnerships and global activities, Jamieson said.

"With more research and outreach, Purdue will be able to continue the valuable work it does in addressing the enormous global challenges we face, from cures for diseases to alternative fuels to safer buildings," she said.

Jamieson said details on disciplines and areas that would see an increase in the number of faculty are still to be worked out, but two areas seem logical for additions:

* Next May, the college will award its first bachelor's degrees in environmental and ecological engineering. EEE is a division within the College of Engineering, which means it draws faculty from throughout the college.

"This is a perfect example of how we are merging traditional disciplines with newer ones that tackle modern challenges head on," Jamieson said.

She also noted that growth in jobs in environmental and ecological engineering is second only to biomedical engineering.

* The university already is in the process of hiring in the area of integrated imaging, which combines sensor science, information processing and computer systems. The imaging is used in medical diagnosis, remote sensing and nanotechnology, among others. Disciplines involved are electrical and computer engineering, biomedical engineering, biological sciences and chemistry.

"Hiring a cluster of faculty from the different colleges and schools will pull it all together for advances that can't be done in a single discipline alone," Jamieson said.

She said funding for the additional faculty will come from the university provost's office, revenue from a fee that engineering students pay, redirecting funds within the college, and from fund-raising among alumni and friends of the college.

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

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

Note to Journalists: Broadcast reporters interested in a video clip of Dean Leah Jamieson can contact Judith Austin, Purdue News Service, at jbaustin@purdue.edu.