Bio faculty represent at 'Pillars of Excellence in the Life Sciences'


In an effort to boost Purdue's national reputation in the life sciences, the Office of the Provost and the Office of Research and Partnerships launched an initiative to advance and invest in the life sciences at Purdue.

Donna Fekete
Biological Sciences professor Donna Fekete presents her latest work at "Pillars of Excellence in the Life Sciences" event.

A Faculty Town Hall meeting was held to discuss ideas for new initiatives in the life sciences and a request for concept papers for "Pillars of Excellence in the Life Sciences" was released in March. As a result, 10 Purdue faculty teams were selected to present their concepts for pillars of excellence for review by Purdue faculty and staff at the "Pillars of Excellence in the Life Sciences" faculty presentations, held July 30 at Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship.

Members of the Department of Biological Sciences made four presentations in front of fellow faculty members and alumni ingrained in life science industries. The presentations were short to allow the panel to ask questions. Prof. Donna Fekete pitched the need for a center for integrative neuroscience within the department to push the program and to raise the national profile of Purdue Biological Sciences. She revealed the department’s goal of taking the program from No. 55 to No. 30 in the next few years, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Fekete cited the program’s strength in faculty and the millions of available grant dollars from National Institutes of Health for neuroscience research, “particularly in advancements in nuerotechnology, large data sets and brain mapping.”

“We punch above our weight in some areas, like hearing research, but for most of the others, we are lagging behind,” Fekete said. “We need about a 30 percent increase in research and training dollars per year, about 4 million a year, plus two program grants to reach University of Illinois (at No. 30 in the U.S. News and World Reports’ ranking).”

External seminar series to showcase faculty and boosting outreach activities – like creating the “Brain Bowl” at Purdue Spring Fest allowing friends to take lie detector tests in front of each other – would also raise Purdue’s neuroscience profile, according to Fekete.

Bio department head Dr. Richard Kuhn, who discussed the need for the Purdue Institute of Inflammation, Immunology and Infectious Diseases, joined Fekete and fellow Bio professor Christopher Staiger, who touched on cell biology and cellular dynamics at the event. Biochemistry professor Barbara Golden presented her latest work, “Precision Medicine -- Launching Pharmacophenomics,” as well.

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