New Horizons

Program Description

New Horizons is a program for Purdue faculty to pioneer new areas of scholarship. It is a competitive, West Lafayette campus-wide initiative that challenges faculty to create groundbreaking fields of inquiry that will place Purdue in the vanguard of new disciplines in the coming decades.

New knowledge is being generated at an accelerating rate, leading to the emergence of new fields of study and new methods of inquiry as old paradigms give way to new ones. Today we are realizing the endless frontiers of science that Vannevar Bush imagined in 1945 and the paradigm shifts that Thomas Kuhn described in 1962, brilliant ideas that are as relevant today as when they were conceived decades ago. Pushing the boundaries of unexplored frontiers is a concept not bound to an era. It is a challenge for the ages.

The conventional approach is to invite new scholars into Purdue’s faculty ranks, ensuring that they bring their research, reputations and expertise. However, enhancing Purdue’s position solely through new faculty recruitment is neither sustainable nor prudent, especially when excellence already resides within our own faculty. Our faculty are research-mature and entrepreneurial, understand the institution at a deep level, and are knowledgeable about its resources, challenges and culture. Our faculty already know how to comprehensively develop a new area of study through research, educational programs, community engagement and broader impacts. The convergence of thinking, skills and experience within the Purdue faculty creates an ideal catalyst for change, one that will lead to new fields of inquiry and worldwide impact.

The Office of the Provost announced New Horizons in February 2016 to challenge tenured Purdue faculty to think anew, to be boldly innovative, and to see contours on the horizon before others even imagine change. New Horizons supports ideas for potentially transformative scholarship from senior Purdue faculty, typically full professors, who are in a position to take significant risks and are interested in pursuing much more than a research redirection. It will support the transition of small faculty cohorts from their current areas of scholarship to brand new or emerging area(s) in which Purdue currently has little or no expertise. Over time, we expect these new fields and disciplines to have national and international impact and to be forever associated with Purdue and our brilliant faculty.

Ongoing exploration is fundamental to our land-grant mission and imperative if we are to secure our position as a premier research university. The physical sciences, data sciences, engineering and life sciences might be considered the modern day “quadrivium” that undergirds today’s scientific thinking and education. To be sure, these fields also have influenced scholarship in the humanities and social sciences and continue to offer new opportunities for paradigm shifts in higher education in the 21 st Century.  It is likely, albeit not without risk, that deep exploration to uncover embedded strands or synthesize existing ones will lead to exciting new frontiers—the new horizons! Amongst Purdue’s tenured faculty are scholars and thinkers who are eminently qualified to take significant risks, bend traditional rules and become the new pioneers of the knowledge frontier.

Rest assured, the risk will not belong to the faculty alone. New Horizons requires the full support of the Office of the Provost, Deans and Department Heads who must also welcome the mantle of this nascent experiment. Although a select number of faculty will be awarded the New Horizons opportunity each year, all participants will benefit from the focused efforts inherent in the program. Common interests and shared investments will generate novel ideas, inspire innovation and create excitement on campus.

Ideas submitted for New Horizons support should propel Purdue forward in the proposed area(s) such that within 5-7 years Purdue is likely to be recognized as an exemplar in new areas of scholarship. While New Horizons funds will be available to seed selected initiatives, we anticipate and expect that programs and faculty will rapidly become competitive and succeed in securing extramural funds.

New Horizons is not an ordinary solicitation for research proposals or for study in a second discipline. It requires bold, new thinking by accomplished senior faculty to build new areas of scholarship from the ground up. The program must support activities that contribute to intellectual inquiry and growth (faculty and students), academic community building (internally and externally), and include plans for scaling up. Examples of activities that may be supported under the New Horizons program include, but are not limited to: release time, small conferences and research symposia to bring in outside experts, traveling to workshops and conferences, external training and online courses, hosting visiting scholars and post-docs, and community building within and outside Purdue. We strongly encourage faculty to think broadly and comprehensively about what it takes for Purdue to be recognized as a progenitor of new domains.

Awards will be made on a competitive basis for a project period of two years to allow sufficient time to explore and develop the new area(s) of scholarship. At the end of the award period, recipients will be asked to provide an account of their activities including descriptions of the benefits of the focused time on the participating faculty’s transition to the new research area(s). Each faculty cohort receiving a New Horizons award will commit to submitting proposals to external agencies and foundations, ideally within the project duration or within the first six months following completion of the project.


New Horizons will support faculty research and creative work in all fields. The program is open to tenured faculty, typically full professors, with a solid track record of success, who seek to take risks and are determined to continue their efforts beyond the program duration. Faculty must secure strong support from their department and college leadership.


Faculty interested in developing a New Horizons proposal must first meet with the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs with a one-page summary describing the theme and key activities. Full proposals should only be developed after approval from the Office of the Provost. Full proposals may request funding for a project period of two years. To provide protected time to focus on project activities, funding can be requested for the actual cost of course release(s) during the entire or partial project period. In addition, up to one month of summer salary per year for each project faculty member will be allowable; other faculty or staff salaries will not be funded. Allowable costs include: travel to attend workshops and conferences; travel to visit colleagues to consult or learn new techniques; support of graduate assistants or post-docs; and other research project expenses.


  1. This program has been established to enable tenured senior faculty to have focused time and resources to pursue new and emerging or newly identified area(s) of scholarship that impact local, national or international needs. Ideally, a project group will have 3-5 faculty members, but smaller groups may also apply.
  2. Applicants must propose a thoughtful and comprehensive program with clear articulation of the new frontiers to be explored, the intellectual merits and broader impacts and, most importantly, the new area of study, methodology and/or sub-field that is likely to result from the project.
  3. The faculty group must submit a one-page preproposal on or before April 30, 2018 for review by the Office of the Provost. Preproposals must be submitted electronically to the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, at the following email address: The email Subject line should read “New Horizons.” Follow up meetings will then be scheduled. Approved groups must submit a full proposal electronically to the Office of the Provost at on or before September 14, 2018.  Again, the email Subject line should read “New Horizons.”
  4. Proposals must indicate world-renowned experts in fields that are related to the proposed project. Applications will be reviewed by panel(s) consisting of Purdue faculty and external experts if appropriate.
  5. Support is necessary from the Head of each participant’s home department/school and from the respective Deans. Approval should address support for course release and other forms of support to be provided by the home unit(s). Cost sharing is a necessary condition for the proposal submission.
  6. Award decisions will be made by the Office of the Provost in consultation with the relevant deans. Awards will be announced by December 1, 2018. Projects are expected to begin within six months of the award and in consultation with the appropriate unit Head(s) and Dean(s).
  7. Upon acceptance of the New Horizons award, the faculty cohort agrees to submit at least one external proposal within the project duration or within the first six months following completion of the project.

Full Proposal (Due September 14, 2018)

The narrative section of the full proposal is limited to five pages (12-point font) plus one additional page for references, and should include as much detail as possible about the planned activities and how this award will support moving the proposed project forward. Letters of support from Heads and Deans as well as a short CV (up to 5 pages) for all participants should be submitted with the proposal.  A detailed budget and budget justification should also be submitted (guidance will be provided to each team selected for the full proposal submission). Projects must begin within six months of the award. Subject to the quality of the proposals and availability of funds, the Office of the Provost will fund a maximum of two New Horizons projects each academic year. Full proposals should be submitted to Peter J. Hollenbeck, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, Office of the Provost at the following email address:  The email Subject line should read “New Horizons.”

Future Submissions

The timeline for submission of the next round of proposals will be announced at a later date.

2016 New Horizons Award – Resilient Extra-Terrestrial Habitats (RETH)

The first New Horizons grant has been awarded by the Provost’s Office to a team of researchers proposing to create a program in Resilient Extra-Terrestrial Habitats – believed to be the first such university program.

The initiative will work to develop new technologies and systems that will allow humans to live on the moon or other planets. The goal of the funding is both to develop a research center as well as academic programs starting with a minor in Resilient Extra-Terrestrial Habitats.

The four principal investigators of the RETH program are:

  • Antonio Bobet, professor of civil engineering.
  • Shirley Dyke, professor of mechanical and civil engineering.
  • Jay Melosh, Distinguished Professor, Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.
  • Julio Ramirez, professor of civil engineering, and center director of the Network Coordination Office for the National Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure.

The team presented its vision for the initiative at an open seminar at 9 a.m., Friday, Jan. 27 in the Herman and Heddy Kurz Atrium of the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering on Purdue's campus.

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