Purdue selects national laboratory and industry veteran as next Discovery Park chief scientist, executive director

August 3, 2015  

Tomás Díaz de la Rubia

Tomás Díaz de la Rubia
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Tomás Díaz de la Rubia, an energy and resources industry executive at Deloitte Consulting LLP who also spent a decade as a top scientist and administrator at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has been selected as chief scientist and executive director of Discovery Park, Purdue University's complex for major interdisciplinary research activities.

Díaz de la Rubia will assume his duties at Discovery Park on Aug. 17.

"Tomás has a proven record in both conducting and leading research initiatives to tackle the complex challenges of our world - the very characteristics that will help Purdue raise the national and international visibility of Discovery Park as a hub for world-changing research, transformative education and commercialization," said President Mitch Daniels.

A broad-based search committee, led by Distinguished Agricultural and Biological Engineering Professor Michael Ladisch, represented colleges and academic programs from all across Purdue, said Suresh Garimella, executive vice president for research and partnerships at Purdue and the Goodson Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

The search process engaged Daniels, Provost Deba Dutta, deans, faculty members and others who are "energized about Díaz de la Rubia's selection to lead Discovery Park to the next chapter of its successes," Garimella said.

"Tomás is a seasoned science and technology leader with extensive experience in both the public and private sectors," Garimella said. "His national and international stature, capabilities in networking with government agencies and industry, and proven record of providing this type of leadership will benefit Discovery Park, which has seen its operations reach the $1.15 billion mark this year, as well as Purdue's overall research and engagement efforts."

Díaz de la Rubia succeeds Alan Rebar, who is leaving Purdue after four decades as a professor, dean and executive director of Discovery Park to become vice chancellor for research, innovation and economic development at North Carolina State University.

"Many of society's 21st century grand challenges are complex and can best be tackled through interdisciplinary-driven enterprises like Discovery Park," Díaz de la Rubia said. "What a tremendous opportunity to take the lead of this team-based research complex at Purdue, where we can build on Discovery Park's successes of the past decade and achieve what we believe to be the true potential of Discovery Park in tackling issues ranging from energy and climate to human health, food and water."

Since 2013, Díaz de la Rubia has served as innovation leader and a director in Deloitte's energy and resources industry practice in Washington, D.C., working with Fortune 500 energy and manufacturing companies to identify and capitalize on business opportunities arising from potentially disruptive, innovative new technologies.

Before that, he was chief research officer and deputy director for science and technology at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California, where he was responsible for the long-term health of the science and technology foundations of the laboratory’s $1.6 billion research program. From 2002-2009, he was an associate director at LLNL, leading its chemistry, materials science, life sciences, and energy and environmental sciences organizations, as well as its $60 million basic materials science, chemistry and biology programs with the Department of Energy's Office of Science.

As a scientist and researcher, Díaz de la Rubia led LLNL's Computational Materials Science Group, investigating fundamental and applied materials science problems with an emphasis on multiscale phenomena and varying applications from radiation damage to semiconductor materials to materials in extreme environments. For his research, he partnered with the Department of Energy, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and other federal agencies as well as industry leaders Bell Labs, Intel, Applied Materials and others.

Díaz de la Rubia has published more than 150 peer-reviewed articles and has co-edited several books and conference proceedings. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and served as an elected member of the board of directors of the Materials Research Society, and vice-chair of the division of computational physics of the American Physical Society. He holds a bachelor's degree (summa cum laude) and a doctorate in physics from The State University of New York, Albany.

Discovery Park, launched by Purdue in 2001, surpassed the $1 billion milestone in 2015 for the amount of generated sponsored research, private gifts and endowments. Researchers are tackling challenges in areas ranging from energy, cancer treatment, nanotechnology, drug discovery and the environment to health care, life sciences, and innovative learning in the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics

More than 1,000 faculty members, working with 300 graduate students, are engaged in Discovery Park, helping generate nearly 25 percent of Purdue's entire annual research portfolio. More than 5,000 students have participated in entrepreneurial activities since the park's inception, including 1,300 students who have received the Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. 

Writer: Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133, 765-427-3009 (cell), pfiorini@purdue.edu 

Sources: Mitch Daniels, president@purdue.edu

Suresh Garimella, 765 494-6209, sureshg@purdue.edu 

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