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October 3, 2003

Purdue takes lead in testing designs, materials for bridges, buildings

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University is already earning dividends on the new Robert L. and Terry L. Bowen Laboratory for Large-Scale Civil Engineering Research, a high-tech facility that was dedicated today (Friday, 10/3).

Robert and Terry Bowen
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Even though the $11 million lab is brand new, word of the facility has circulated within the academic community. Purdue has been using it to attract top engineers – including the lab's new director – who specialize in research to make structures safer and more earthquake-resistant and to increase the durability of construction materials.

"Engineers will tell you that it's often critical to test large structures because analyzing small-scale models doesn't always yield precise information about how the full-size versions will perform in the real world," said Purdue President Martin C. Jischke. "Now we have the world's most modern, well-equipped lab for large-scale testing."

The dedication was followed by tours of the lab, located south of campus.

Dedication ceremony
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Purdue alumnus Robert Bowen and his wife, Terry, provided a $3.25 million gift to the Purdue Research Foundation toward the new lab, which was built with private funding from about 50 donors. The building and the property on which the facility is located are owned by the Purdue Research Foundation. Robert Bowen earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering at Purdue in 1962 and later founded Bowen Engineering Corp. The company, located in Fishers, Ind., focuses on municipal, utility, industrial and environmental construction. The Bowens live in Indianapolis.

"You spend a lifetime building a corporation, an organization, and work hard to make it a success," Bowen said. "When all is said and done, you consider it a privilege to give something back to the place where you gained the training and education that made it all possible."

The new lab was a major factor in attracting its new director, Michael E. Kreger, a professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Texas, Austin, said Linda P.B. Katehi, the John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering at Purdue.

"The Bowen Lab is a tremendous research tool and an educational gem," Katehi said. "It will attract top researchers, the brightest students, as well as public and private funding."

Kreger in August finished a three-year stint as director of UT's large-scale testing lab, the Ferguson Structural Engineering Laboratory, and has been at the university for two decades.

He will join Purdue in January as a professor of civil engineering and director of the Bowen Lab.

Fred Mannering, head of the School of Civil Engineering, said news is spreading all over academia that Purdue is opening the new structural facility.

"There are some incredible people applying for open faculty positions," Mannering said. "It's an opportunity of a lifetime to work in a brand new lab of this scale with all the latest equipment.

"I think it's safe to say it will be the world's premier structural and materials testing lab."

Bowen Lab
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About five other universities in the United States, including UT, have facilities that could be considered comparable to the Bowen Lab, but are not as modern as the Purdue facility.

"The sky's the limit in this new building," Kreger said. "It creates tremendous opportunities for conducting groundbreaking research projects incorporating large-scale structural components that more accurately represent actual structural behavior."

Kreger specializes in research to improve the durability and strength of structural concrete, primarily for bridges, and to make structures more earthquake-resistant. The 46-year-old native of Dixon, Ill., holds bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in civil engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

He studied there under the supervision of Mete Sozen, an internationally respected structural engineer who was then a professor at Illinois and is now the Kettelhut Distinguished Professor of Structural Engineering at Purdue.

Bowen Lab
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The new lab will contain powerful hydraulic presses, cranes and other equipment to test parts and materials for buildings, bridges and other structures. With more than 50,000 square feet, it provides up to six times more space than is currently available at Purdue for large-scale testing.

The lab will attract research dollars from private, federal and state sources, generating an additional revenue stream to support the facility, Mannering said.

The building's Goldberg Commons, an area providing Internet access and a place for researchers and students to congregate, is named in memory of John E. Goldberg, a professor of civil engineering and an internationally known expert in structural engineering. He worked at Purdue from 1950 to 1975 and passed away in 1995. His wife, Dorothy Goldberg, and daughter, Jane Goldberg, provided funds for the Bowen Lab and have funded a civil engineering fellowship and a lecture series.

Although the lab is part of the School of Civil Engineering, it is an interdisciplinary facility that will attract researchers from across the Schools of Engineering and Purdue. Research conducted in the lab will include:

• The design and analysis of earthquake-resistant structures – this includes material and how structures respond to seismic events;

• Design of secure structures and civil infrastructure, such as bridges, highways and other structures;

• Analysis of the fire- and blast-resistance of structures and materials;

• Structural-health monitoring – the ability to detect damage and deterioration to schedule maintenance and eliminate catastrophic failures;

• Multiple applications of new sensor and nanotechnologies – to provide "intelligent structural systems" that improve the safety and durability of our nation's infrastructure.

Writer: Emil Venere, (765) 494-4709, venere@purdue.edu

Sources: Martin C. Jischke, (765) 494-9708

Linda P.B. Katehi, (765) 494-5346, katehi@purdue.edu

Fred Mannering, (765) 494-2159, flm@ecn.purdue.edu

Michael E. Kreger, (512) 232-3594, kreger@uts.cc.utexas.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

 

PHOTO CAPTIONS:
Robert and Terry Bowen listen as Purdue University President Martin C. Jischke speaks to about 400 people attending today's (Friday, 10/3) dedication of the Robert L. and Terry L. Bowen Laboratory for Large-Scale Civil Engineering Research. The Bowens provided a $3.25 million gift toward the $11 million lab. (Purdue News Service photo/Dave Umberger)

A publication-quality photo is available at http://news.uns.purdue.edu/images/bowen.lab.jpeg.

Those attending today's (Friday, 10/3) dedication of the Robert L. and Terry L. Bowen Laboratory for Large-Scale Civil Engineering Research had plenty of room to enjoy the event. The facility, with more than 50,000 square feet, includes a laboratory large enough for researchers to build and test a four-story building. Hydraulic presses, cranes and other equipment will make it possible to analyze parts and materials for buildings, bridges and other structures. (Purdue News Service photo/Dave Umberger)

A publication-quality photo is available at http://news.uns.purdue.edu/images/bowen.overall.jpeg.

Casting forms are removed from two four-foot thick, 40-foot-tall and 60-foot-long walls to be used for large-scale testing at the Robert L and Terry L. Bowen Laboratory for Large-Scale Civil Engineering Research, which has recently been completed near the Purdue University campus. The lab is one of the nine new buildings planned for the Schools of Engineering. It will be among the best facilities in the world for research to make structures safer and more earthquake-resistant and to increase the durability of construction materials. Other projects call for major additions and renovations to at least 10 other facilities that, in total, will increase the space for the schools by more than 325,000 square feet, an almost 60 percent increase. Also part of the major expansion of Purdue's Schools of Engineering are plans to increase the number of faculty members by 70, or more than 25 percent, over the next five years. (Purdue News Service photo/David Umberger)

A publication-quality photo is available at http://news.uns.purdue.edu/images/bowenlab.constr.jpeg.

The Robert L. and Terry L. Bowen Laboratory for Large-Scale Civil Engineering Research, which has recently been completed near the Purdue University campus, is one of the nine new buildings planned for the Schools of Engineering. . It will be among the best facilities in the world for research to make structures safer and more earthquake-resistant and to increase the durability of construction materials. Other projects call for major additions and renovations to at least 10 facilities that, in total, will increase the space for the schools by more than 325,000 square feet, an almost 60 percent increase. The exterior view shows the final stages of construction of the laboratory. Also part of the major expansion of Purdue's Schools of Engineering are plans to increase the number of faculty members by 70, or more than 25 percent, over the next five years. (Purdue News Service photo/David Umberger)

A publication-quality photo is available at http://news.uns.purdue.edu/images/bowenlab.ext.jpeg.