Trustees approve appointments, academic change and honor Nobel recipient

December 18, 2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The Purdue University Board of Trustees on Saturday (Dec. 18) ratified the appointments of five named and distinguished professors and approved a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering at Purdue University North Central.

The board also passed a resolution honoring Purdue's Nobel laureate Ei-ichi Negishi.

Trustees approved the appointments of Timothy N. Cason as Distinguished Professor of Economics, Laura P. Sands as the Katherine Birck Professor of Nursing, John W. Sutherland as the newly established Fehsenfeld Family Head of Environmental and Ecological Engineering, Xianfan Xu as the James J. and Carol L. Shuttleworth Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Jian-Kang Zhu as Distinguished Professor of Plant Biology.

Timothy Cason

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Cason is professor and Robert and Susan Gadomski Chair in Economics in the Krannert School of Management. He also is founding director of the Vernon Smith Experimental Economics Laboratory, named for the Nobel Prize-winning economist who pioneered the methodology while teaching at Purdue.

He is president of the Economic Science Association, an international society of experimental economists. His current research is in industrial organization, environmental economics and behavioral game theory. His primary research methodology employs experimental economics.

Before joining Krannert in 1998, Cason was an associate and assistant professor at the University of Southern California. He has delivered more than 200 lectures and presentations at universities around the world. He received his bachelor's degree from Indiana University and his doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley.

Laura Sands

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Sands, who came to Purdue in 2002, is professor and director of research in the School of Nursing. Her current research focuses on evaluating the health consequences and costs of older adults living with insufficient long-term care. She is a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America.

Before coming to Purdue, Sands was a research professor in the Division of Geriatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. She received her bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from the University of California, Berkeley.

John Sutherland

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Sutherland, professor and head of the division of environmental and ecological engineering, came to Purdue in 2009 from Michigan Technological University, where he was a professor of mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics and also director of the Sustainable Futures Institute.

He has mentored nearly 80 graduate students, including 20 Ph.D. students, to the completion of their degrees and has published approximately 250 papers in journals and conference proceedings.

Sutherland earned bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Xianfan Xu

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Xu is a professor of mechanical engineering and also a professor of electrical and computer engineering (by courtesy). His research interests include heat transfer, ultrafast laser materials processing and diagnostics, and nano-optics and laser-based nano-lithography.

Research being led by Xu includes creating a system that takes heat from an engine's exhaust to generate electricity, reducing a car's fuel consumption.

He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Science and Technology of China and both his master's and doctoral degrees from the University of California, Berkeley.

Jian-Kang Zhu

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Zhu joined the College of Agriculture this fall, and his research focuses on genetic and epigenetic mechanisms of plant responses to adverse environments such as salinity, drought and low temperature. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, his work has led to the identification of genes for modifying the responses of crops to environmental stresses. Thomson Reuters reported in 2008 that he was the most cited plant scientist in the United States from 1997-2007.

He will lead a joint research program with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, where he is director of the Plant Stress Genomics Research Center.

Zhu earned his bachelor's degree from Beijing Agricultural University, his master's degree from the University of California, Riverside, and his doctorate from Purdue.

The trustees also approved a bachelor of science in electrical engineering program at Purdue North Central. The degree will meet the needs of local students and the work force requirements of northern Indiana, said Timothy D. Sands, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost.

''The demand for electrical engineers in northern Indiana is good and continues to grow as new opportunities arise and senior electrical engineers retire,'' said Sands, who also is Purdue's Basil S. Turner Professor of Engineering. ''Graduates would be valuable for companies in steel manufacturing, power and control systems.''

Enrollment is projected to grow from 25 students in the first year to 60 in the program's fifth year. No new state funding will be requested for the program, which will be paid for through internal realignment. The program will require approval from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

In other business, trustees passed a resolution congratulating and thanking Negishi, who on Dec. 10 received the Nobel Prize in chemistry, along with co-laureates Akira Suzuki and Richard Heck, in Stockholm, Sweden. 

Writer:  Greg McClure, 765-497-9711,

Sources:   Timothy Sands, 765-494-9709,

                    Timothy Cason, 765-494-1737,  

                    Laura Sands, 765-494-4037,  

                    John Sutherland, 765-496-9697,  

                    Xianfan Xu, 765-494-5639,