May 10, 2023

‘Cutting-edge approach’ to excellence propels College of Engineering Graduate Program once again to nation’s No. 4 ranking

About this series: This story is part of an ongoing Purdue Today series highlighting programs ranked in the Top 10 or Top 10th percentile among our peers nationally, demonstrating the university’s persistent pursuit of excellence, innovation and transformative learning.

Cameron Villarreal, a second-year Purdue University biomedical engineering graduate student, watched in awe as he scanned a mouse femur using micro-CT imaging. “We’re doing cutting-edge science,” he says. “That’s crazy I get to do that.”

Villarreal’s collaborative work examines the effects of aging and gut-microbiome manipulation on joint health. “It’s an out-there concept, but when you dive into it, you realize this could help a lot of people,” he says.

Villarreal and graduate lab-mates have presented other collaborative work on novel imaging techniques at conferences in Dallas and London. “We have this broader impact where we’re talking internationally about our science,” he says.

The critical role that Villarreal — and all graduate students — play across the university and globally is profoundly recognizable.

For the third consecutive year, Purdue Engineering’s graduate program has been ranked No. 4 among the nation’s 220 Best Graduate Schools in U.S. News & World Report’s 2023-24 survey. Villarreal isn’t surprised by the rankings, released April 25, saying, “The work we’re doing is on the cutting edge of everything."

“These rankings reflect the success of our collective research enterprise across Purdue – from record research expenditures, graduate student selectivity and numbers, along with investments in major centers,” said Arvind Raman, the John A. Edwardson Dean of the College of Engineering.

More than 1,500 graduate research assistants drive the engineering research enterprise, running experiments, conducting field research and writing journal articles and grants in partnership with approximately 500 faculty members. 

The College of Engineering’s talented graduate students enable faculty to scale their expertise across all aspects of teaching, research and innovation. They have helped found national research centers at Purdue, including 15 that are federally funded at $10 million-plus.

Over 600 graduate students are teaching assistants, assisting with lectures, leading lab sections and guiding undergraduate students along their journeys.

“The College of Engineering wouldn’t be one of the premier colleges in the country without our graduate students,” says Dana Weinstein, associate dean for graduate education. 

Adds Mark Lundstrom, former interim dean of the College of Engineering and the Don and Carol Scifres Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering: “The excellence of our graduate program is a testament to the talent and hard work of our graduate students. Their persistent pursuit of excellence is why the college has received this recognition.”

Engineering has 825 U.S.-issued patents in the last nine years — a feat possible only with graduate students who play a role in every stage of patent formulation, driving research, designing and putting together patent applications with faculty.

“Graduate students are the next generation of leaders, and they are also the researchers and pioneers of today,” says Janet Beagle, senior director of graduate programs. “They are the ones working — right now — alongside our preeminent faculty to push the very boundaries of discovery.”

Engineering graduate students bring a diversity of experiences, talents and backgrounds — a medley of perspectives that contribute to the program’s trailblazing innovation. 

“Without graduate students, there’d be fewer creative ideas and less collaboration,” Villarreal says.

Behind every great university is a team of skilled graduate students. This is especially true for Purdue’s College of Engineering, which has 4,992 graduate students in a program that’s poised to become the most consequential graduate engineering program at a public university, with global impacts through education, innovation, workforce development and beyond.

“When you look around and see all that the College of Engineering is doing,” Beagle says, “none of this would be possible without our graduate students.” 

Writer: Allison Troutner


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