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Jessica Eisma photo

PhD student Jessica Eisma impacts African dams

PhD student Jessica Eisma has completed a one-year project studying sand dams in Tanzania.

In 2016, Eisma was awarded a pair of prestigious research grants — totaling more than $45,000 — from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program and the U.S. Borlaug Fellows in Global Food Security Program to study the ecological impact of sand dams in Tanzania. She flew to Africa in August 2016 to begin her study, which is the basis for her doctoral thesis.

Eisma, whose focus is in hydrology, investigated the ecological impacts of three sand dams in collaboration with researchers from the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology.

In semi-arid regions of the world, sand dams are useful for capturing and storing rainwater into the dry season. The water is used for domestic or agricultural purposes, saving women and children up to three hours each day normally spent collecting the family’s water.

Her research aims to develop an understanding of how sand dams influence both the physical and biological changes that occur after a sand dam is constructed. Preliminary results indicate that a typical sand dam actually has a much smaller impact on groundwater levels than previously believed. Studies thus far have largely been performed on the “ideal” sand dam, when in reality up to 60% of sand dams are silted and therefore non-functioning. Furthermore, Eisma has found little to no trace of macroinvertebrate life in sand dams, hinting that sand dams do not create a suitable habitat.

This research is particularly important, because NGOs across sub-Saharan Africa are increasingly building sand dams, yet few field studies have been conducted to understand the greater impacts of these structures. Eisma says, “As civil engineers, we are constantly addressing the consequences of decisions made when certain concepts were still largely misunderstood. In a similar vein, I hope my research helps illuminate both the positives and negatives of sand dams before over-development occurs.”

Eisma also worked closely with local community water groups to achieve her research objectives. Volunteers from the community were trained by Eisma to take daily measurements of climate data and water table depth as well as bi-weekly erosion measurements. The volunteers will continue collecting data until Eisma returns to Tanzania in December 2017 for a two week data validation trip.

About her year in Tanzania, Eisma says, “The challenges were definitely greater and different from what I was expecting, but I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and conduct research in Tanzania. This experience has been irreplaceable in terms of developing cross-cultural competence and refining my scientific communication skills.”

Eisma plans to pursue a professorship at a research university after completing her PhD at Purdue.

Purdue design facility creates ‘magnet space’

$18.5 million Purdue design facility creates ‘magnet space’ for collaborative creativity, prototyping

The new Bechtel Innovation Design Center is aimed to become a “magnet” where Purdue University students, staff and faculty can move their ideas and innovations to real-world products and impact.

Innovators will be able to use the facility to advance conceptual designs, execute capstone projects, build prototypes and conduct product testing as well as further develop softer business and life skills such as team building across multiple disciplines and acquire leadership acumen.  

“Purdue is already recognized for its strong pipeline of innovation, and we all recognize the importance of an innovator or startup founder demonstrating a hands-on product in order to make a connection to investors and customers,” said Dan Hasler, chief entrepreneurial officer for the Purdue Research Foundation. “Creating such a prototype or product can be expensive and time-consuming endeavor. The Bechtel design center is a game-changer in filling this critical need at Purdue.”

The 31,000-square-foot, $18.5 million building will be available 24/7 for Purdue innovators. The center is located at 1090 Third St. and opened Sept. 23. Some of the assets available in the center include CNC tools, waterjet cutter, laser cutter, laser engraver, 3D plastic printing, paint and surface finishing, welding, wood working tools and electronics assembly.

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“Designing and creating a prototype for a device is one of the most challenging aspects for an innovator, and I spent quite a bit of time finding the right place to further develop a medical syringe that I had patented and am commercializing,” said Kyle Hultgren, founder of Image Medical Device life sciences startup and director of the Purdue University Center of Medication Safety Advancement. “The Bechtel center will provide me and other innovators with a tremendous asset to advance our technologies.”

Providing a hands-on environment in design and development fills an important need for students, staff and faculty.

“We have witnessed a tremendous increase in student engagement in design and creation of products and in startup creation over the past three years,” said Gary Bertoline, dean of the Purdue Polytechnic Institute. “The Bechtel design center provides them with a place to explore new ideas and put those ideas into action.”  

About 50 percent of the 100 Purdue startups based on patented intellectual property and the more than 60 startups based on know-how over the past five years have at least one Purdue undergraduate or graduate student in a leadership role with the company.

“The opportunity for Purdue engineering students to learn and create in BIDC will greatly enhance their overall educational experience ,” said Mung Chiang, John A. Edwardson Dean of the College of Engineering. “The College of Engineering is proud to collaborate with the Purdue Polytechnic Institute to launch this remarkable makerspace. The talent and programs in this space will further enrich the vibrant ecosystem for entrepreneurs at Purdue: turning our education and research into positive impact on people’s lives.”

Kyle Hultgren, founder of Image Medical Device and cirector of the Purdue University Center of Medication Safety Advancement, plans to take advantage of the new design center.

“Designing and creating a prototype for a device is one of the most challenging aspects for an innovator, and I spent quite a bit of time finding the right place to further develop a medical syringe that I had patented and am commercializing,” Hultgren said. “While the partnerships that I ended up making are invaluable, the Bechtel center will enhance these partnerships and provide me and other innovators with a tremendous asset to test our ideas and advance our technologies”

The facility is the latest of improvements to the Purdue innovation ecosystem. Other programs developed to help innovators move new technologies to the public include the:

* Purdue Foundry, a startup accelerator hub based in Discovery Park’s Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship.

* FireStarter program to guide entrepreneurs through the “ideation” and startup development process.

* Express License, an expedient method for innovators to license an innovation.

* Student-owned technologies, a policy change that allows Purdue students to own their innovations developed as part of their university coursework.

* Funding resources, a number of funding opportunities for Purdue-affiliated startups.

* Innovation and entrepreneurship landing page to drive interested innovators to the right entrepreneurial resources online.

The Bechtel Innovation Design Center is dedicated in honor of Stephen D. Bechtel Jr., chairman emeritus of Bechtel Group Inc., who earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Purdue in 1946 and received an honorary doctorate in 1972.

More information on the design center can be found here.

Adesina Lecture Series

World Food Prize laureate to speak at Presidential Lecture Series

The most recent World Food Prize laureate will join Purdue President Mitch Daniels on Oct. 23 as part of the fall 2017 Presidential Lecture Series.

Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina
Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina

Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina, a Purdue alumnus and president of the African Development Bank Group, will speak with Daniels at 6:30 p.m. in Stewart Center’s Loeb Playhouse. The event will be during the same week Adesina is presented as the 2017 World Food Prize. The World Food Prize, often referred to as the Nobel Prize for food and agriculture, is the highest international honor recognizing the achievements of those who have advanced human development by improving quality, quantity and availability of food in the world.

Adesina was honored as this year’s recipient in recognition of his work with the Rockefeller Foundation, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and as minister of agriculture for Nigeria. For the past 20 years, he has dedicated his career to improving the agricultural sector in Africa, having led initiatives to expand agricultural production, end corruption in the Nigerian fertilizer industry, and increase the availability of credit for smallholder farmers across the African continent.

“Purdue’s researchers and alumni have helped feed the planet by making significant contributions in science-based agriculture and food science, and there is no calling that is both more noble and necessary,” Daniels said. “Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina continues that tradition, and we are thrilled that he will join us to discuss his extraordinary work.”

As a Purdue graduate, earning his master’s (1985) and doctoral (1988) degrees in agricultural economics as well as receiving an honorary doctorate from Purdue (2015), Adesina joins Purdue faculty members Gebisa Ejeta (2009) and Philip Nelson (2007) as World Food Prize laureates. For more information, visit https://www.purdue.edu/pls/.