sealPurdue News

March 24, 2003

Purdue heat transfer conference

John Sununu to talk about role of engineers in public policy

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Former White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu, also an accomplished engineer, will speak April 4 at Purdue University about the need for engineers and scientists to become more involved in politics.

John H. Sununu

Sununu will deliver the 20th annual Hawkins Lecture as part of a three-day "Celebration of Heat Transfer at Purdue," a gathering of world leaders in the field, which begins April 3.

"Purdue is one of the noted universities in the area of heat transfer," said Sununu, who holds a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was associate dean of engineering at Tufts University from 1968 to 1973.

The Hawkins Lecture, from 3:30-4:30 p.m. in Stewart Center's Fowler Hall, is open to the public and will be followed by a question-and-answer session from 4:30-5 p.m.

Purdue President Martin C. Jischke will introduce Sununu.

"Purdue has distinguished itself as a pioneer and continued leader in the field of heat transfer, so it's only fitting to highlight our celebration with the insights of John Sununu," Jischke said. "He has distinguished himself as an engineering scholar as well as a political leader, which is a rare combination."

Sununu will deliver a talk entitled "The Engineer in the Public Policy Arena."

"People don't think of engineers as being actively involved in public policy, but I think there is a great need for people with the quantitative skills and the problem-solving understanding that engineers have to be much more visible, active and involved," Sununu said. "Public policy is getting more and more dependent on technology."

Sununu was governor of New Hampshire for three consecutive terms beginning in 1983. He then joined the White House staff under President George H.W. Bush, serving as chief of staff from 1989 to 1992. He is now president of JHS Associates Ltd., an engineering consulting firm in Salem, N.H.

"Nobody ever expects a mechanical engineer to end up as governor or chief of staff to the president of the United States," Sununu said. "I think my background served me well in government, and I try to encourage some of the young engineers who might be listening to be a little bit more interested in taking that route. I understand there is only one real engineer in the U.S. Senate, and it happens to be my son."

Sen. John E. Sununu (R-N.H.) holds a master's degree in mechanical engineering from MIT.

The heat transfer conference honors Purdue's mechanical engineering history in heat transfer, which can be traced to the 1930s. The annual Hawkins Lecture, established in 1984, is named after George A. Hawkins, former dean of the Schools of Engineering, who earned a doctoral degree from Purdue in 1935. He was one of Purdue's first researchers to specialize in heat transfer and was instrumental in establishing Purdue's international leadership in the field. During his 41-year academic career at Purdue, Hawkins wrote several textbooks and more than 150 research papers and articles, many dealing with heat transfer.

Research in heat transfer involves mathematical theories and practical applications regarding the flow of heat and has been critical for technologies ranging from the design of steam engines and locomotives, to modern-day computer circuits, cars, nuclear power plants and space vehicles. Heat transfer is a key research area for emerging technologies, including applications in fuel cells and forms of renewable energy, biomedical devices and tiny machines that contain parts so small they are measured by the nanometer – or billionth of a meter, said Suresh Garimella, a professor of mechanical engineering who specializes in heat transfer.

Too much heat can destroy or reduce the efficiency of minuscule devices and circuits, making the transfer of heat vital to their functioning. Other applications require just the opposite, the efficient heating of materials, in order for a technology to work properly.

"Heat transfer is continually evolving as a field," said Garimella, who is director of Purdue's Cooling Technologies Research Center, a consortium of corporations, university and government laboratories working to overcome heat-transfer obstacles in developing new, compact cooling technologies.

Hundreds of mechanical engineers with heat-transfer training have graduated from Purdue over the years.

Raymond Viskanta, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering, has taught 63 doctoral students during his career at Purdue. He and former Purdue mechanical engineering professor Frank Incropera, have written so many papers and textbooks on this area of research that they are among the 100 most-cited engineers in the world, according to the Institute for Scientific Information.

A panel will meet at 8:30 a.m. April 4 to talk about Purdue's contributions to heat transfer research, followed by a 10:30 a.m. session on heat transfer education issues and a 1:30 p.m. discussion of emerging areas in the field of heat transfer. Visitors and Purdue researchers and students will be displaying their latest research during a poster session from 8:30-10 a.m. April 5.

"Heat transfer has long been a flagship program for the School of Mechanical Engineering and, in fact, for Purdue," said E. Daniel Hirleman Jr., the William E. and Florence E. Perry Head of the School of Mechanical Engineering. "Purdue graduates in this field have gone on to become academic and industry leaders around the world."

Hirleman will present highlights of the school from 8-8:30 a.m. April 5. Hirleman's talk will be followed at 9:30 a.m. by an alumni presentation regarding some of Purdue's major contributions to the field of heat transfer, many of which are included in a document listing the technical accomplishments. The document, which includes brief statements from alumni describing how they remember their time at Purdue, was compiled by alumni Brent Webb, a professor of mechanical engineering at Brigham Young University, and Marcus Bianchi, an engineer at Field Diagnostic Services Inc., in Langhorne, Pa.

"The heat transfer celebration is important because it allows us to express our respect and appreciation for the pioneers in the field," said Jayathi Y. Murthy, a professor of mechanical engineering. "It also allows us to look ahead to the future to understand what new research areas are opening up, how they affect heat transfer education and the new ways in which heat transfer practitioners can contribute to society."

Writer: Emil Venere, (765) 494-4709,

Sources: Martin C. Jischke, (765) 494-9708

Suresh Garimella, (765) 494-5621,

Raymond Viskanta, (765) 494-5632,

Jayathi Y. Murthy, (765) 494-5701,

E. Dan Hirleman, (765) 494-5688,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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