April 29, 2024

NSF director Panchanathan, U.S. Sen. Young tout value of university-private sector partnerships to grow national, economic security

Duo also joins Purdue leaders to celebrate Birck Nanotechnology Center’s $100M in renovations, meet with Boilermaker students, faculty

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The director of the National Science Foundation and the senior U.S. senator from Indiana spent Thursday (April 25) at Purdue University touring a state-of-the-art research facility, meeting with leading researchers and students, and capping the visit with a Presidential Lecture Series conversation with Purdue President Mung Chiang. 

Sethuraman Panchanathan, who has led the NSF since 2020, and U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., highlighted the essential role that universities like Purdue are playing to help expand the bridge between fundamental and applied research. They also stressed how public-private partnerships are advancing and securing this nation’s innovation ecosystem, helping ensure the U.S. remains competitive in semiconductors, artificial intelligence, biotechnology and other major industry sectors driven by science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The two joined Chiang in celebrating the first phase of the $100 million enhancements for the Birck Nanotechnology Center in Discovery Park District at Purdue. Panchanathan and Young helped mark the Birck event, cutting a ceremonial ribbon in front of the Scifres Nanofabrication Laboratory, the research center’s state-of-the art cleanroom. 


The planned Birck renovations include a dedicated training bay for students, updated cleanroom and laboratory space for advanced microelectronics packaging, development of semiconductor chip processes for growing industry partnerships, and enhanced capabilities for quantum research. 

tour-young-panchanathan Zhihong Chen, director of Birck Nanotechnology Center, with U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., and Sethuraman Panchanathan, NSF director, during a tour of Birck Nanotechnology Center on Thursday (April 25). (Purdue University photo/Kelsey Lefever) Download image

“This is a great day, a unique moment because of the great leadership we have here at Purdue,” Panchanathan said. 

Renovations at the Birck Center, Young said, represent an important milestone that aligns with the mission and goal behind the CHIPS and Science Act. This investment at the federal level, he said, requires close partnership among three stakeholders — state, local and federal government; the private sector; and universities and community colleges — to prepare and grow this nation’s semiconductor workforce ecosystem. 

“I send my congratulations, fully aware of the foundational technologies that are developed here, but more importantly about the scholars and future workers who will be trained here,” Young said. “Birck Nanotechnology just needed to be given the opportunity to produce the workers of the emerging technologies of tomorrow. You are doing that with great expertise, attracting the attention of businesses and government leaders in the process. I’m very proud about what’s going on here.”

Chiang described the Birck Nanotechnology Center and its Scifres Nanofabrication Laboratory as “the tip of the spear of Purdue’s investment” in the university’s institutes and centers since 2015 and one of the country’s most impactful research centers of excellence in the past 20 years. And this renewed investment in Birck “is our statement of support for our students, faculty and industry partners.”

Support for students was also a topic during the Presidential Lecture Series event at Stewart Center’s Fowler Hall, where Panchanathan and Young participated in a fireside chat with Chiang.

pls-young-panchanathan Purdue President Mung Chiang, from left, with U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., and Sethuraman Panchanathan, NSF director, during a fireside chat Thursday (April 25) as part of the Presidential Lecture Series in Stewart Center’s Fowler Hall. (Purdue University photo/Kelsey Lefever) Download image

Over the course of the hourlong conversation, Panchanathan and Young touched on the value of the nation’s investment in science and technology in preserving and growing high-quality jobs in the U.S. Additionally, Panchanathan and Young answered student questions about how Congress and the NSF are helping grow the pipeline talent of master’s- and PhD-level students, and offered their advice for Boilermaker students training and embarking on their chosen careers. 

“Purdue has a special connection with the National Science Foundation: from multiple Boilermakers leading the NSF in recent decades to a broad range of major NSF centers led by Purdue faculty,” said Chiang. “Purdue-NSF interactions are now intensifying to an even higher level.” 

In addition to his NSF role, Panchanathan serves in leadership roles on several key interagency councils and committees, including as co-chair of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. A computer scientist and engineer, he also is a member of the White House CHIPS Implementation Steering Council and the White House Gender Policy Council.

Young, a former member of the U.S. Marine Corps who is in his second term as Indiana senator, co-sponsored the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act to boost domestic manufacturing of computer chips. The measure provides for $52 billion in grants and incentives for the semiconductor industry, as well as $200 billion for scientific research. Its goal: Decrease dependency on other countries, including China, and make the U.S. a tech leader.

Writer: Phillip Fiorini, pfiorini@purdue.edu, 765-430-6189

Purdue University, 610 Purdue Mall, West Lafayette, IN 47907, (765) 494-4600

© 2015-24 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints | Maintained by Office of Strategic Communications

Trouble with this page? Disability-related accessibility issue? Please contact News Service at purduenews@purdue.edu.