Mark Lewis named inaugural CEO of Purdue Applied Research Institute

Mark Lewis (Photo courtesy of Kevin Allen)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University announced Tuesday (April 11) the hire of Mark Lewis as the first chief executive officer of the Purdue Applied Research Institute (PARI), the nonprofit applied research arm of Purdue with a particular focus on national security, economic security and food security for the United States. A renowned researcher, professor and former deputy undersecretary of defense, Lewis brings a wealth of national security, scientific and academic experience to PARI.   

“We couldn’t be happier that Mark will lead PARI,” said Karen Plaut, Purdue’s executive vice president for research. “He brings strategic leadership and research experience from the public and private sectors that will be vital to our large and complex portfolio of applied and translational research programs.”   

Purdue established PARI in 2021 through its Next Moves initiative, a set of strategic investments designed to extend the reach and impact of Purdue’s research strengths and top-ranked academic programs in engineering, agriculture, science and technology, especially in hypersonics, energetics, cybersecurity, secure microelectronics and other research areas essential to national security.  

“PARI is really cutting edge,” Lewis said. “Its agile structure brings together Purdue’s world-class research talent and state-of-the-art facilities in strategic collaborations with federal agencies and industry. This combination will advance the development of emerging technologies that are critical to the economic prosperity and security of the United States and the world. It also provides exciting opportunities for faculty and students to participate in applied research.”   

“Mark Lewis is one of the most prominent leaders in defense research in our country. He brings the perfect combination of academia excellence, industry experience and government leadership,” said Purdue President Mung Chiang. “With this transformational hire today, PARI is ready to grow rapidly to become the most impactful emergent organization for national security and defense in the United States. Hundreds of researchers will be recruited in the coming years to win dozens of crucial projects, substantially elevating excellence at scale at Purdue.”  

Since its founding, PARI has launched:  

  • The Hypersonics Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center, equipped for secure communications. The center is focused on developing high-temperature materials and creating new manufacturing processes that will extend hypersonic vehicles’ capabilities and apply to other industries.
  • Infrastructure Research and Innovative Solutions, which focuses on advanced infrastructure and building systems for defense, civil and energy applications. 
  • The Global Development and Innovation Division, which leverages applied research for meaningful improvements in youth workforce development, education, digital technology and cyber, entrepreneurship, regenerative tourism, food security and climate change.
  • Technology acceleration through the Digital Innovation in Agri-Food Systems Laboratory, which applies innovation to addressing food issues such as safety, supply chain, sustainability and environmental impact. 

Other efforts in PARI include building out a 64,600-square-foot facility to expand Purdue’s hypersonics capability, set to open in June.

Lewis is one of the world’s foremost experts on hypersonics. His research and teaching have shaped many of the concepts in the field today and spanned aerospace, from the analysis of conventional jet engines to entry into planetary atmospheres. Lewis taught at the University of Maryland for 25 years, where he conducted basic and applied research in hypersonic aerodynamics, advanced propulsion and space vehicle design and optimization.  

Lewis’ unique career has seen him with footholds in both academia and government. From 2004-08, Lewis was chief scientist of the Air Force, where he led efforts on hypersonics, low-cost space access, energy, sustainment, advanced propulsion, expansion of basic research and workforce development. 

From 2012-19, Lewis directed the Science and Technology Policy Institute, a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) that supports the White House and executive branch agencies on national science and technology policy.   

In 2019, Lewis became director of defense research and engineering for modernization in the Defense Department, in charge of developing the Pentagon’s strategy for delivering emerging technologies to the military. In 2020, he became acting deputy undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, the Pentagon’s senior-most scientist. He managed a $17 billion budget that included the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Missile Defense Agency, Defense Innovation Unit, Space Development Agency, FFRDCs and the Pentagon’s basic and applied research portfolio.  

In 2021, Lewis became the first executive director for the Emerging Technologies Institute, a nonpartisan think tank focused on technologies critical to national defense and part of the National Defense Industrial Association of Arlington, Virginia.  

Lewis attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received two Bachelor of Science degrees in aeronautics and astronautics, and Earth and planetary science; and a master’s degree and doctorate in aeronautics and astronautics. He has served on various boards for NASA and the Defense Department, including two terms on the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board.  

Lewis will assume his new role on May 8 and will be based in the new Purdue office in Washington, D.C.  

About PARI   

The Purdue Applied Research Institute (PARI) is the nonprofit applied research arm of Purdue University. PARI significantly enhances Purdue’s ability to translate discoveries into innovative solutions and services for mission-oriented government, industry, NGO and foundation partners, through increases in applied research and program personnel, state-of-the-art facilities and infrastructure. It also serves as an incubator for advanced development and transition of leading ideas and technology with potential for significant impact through large-scale prototypes, pilots and startups.   

Media contact: Evamarie Socha, communications director, PARI;