sealPurdue News

November 15, 1996

Purdue labs serve students, faculty and industry

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- It's not easy balancing the needs of industry, academics and basic research.

But over the past 40 years, Purdue's Ray W. Herrick Laboratories has developed a formula for satisfying the practical needs of industry without compromising on the professional or academic needs of Purdue's engineering faculty and students.

"Other institutions tend to focus on one or two of these needs," says Herrick Labs director Robert Bernhard, professor of mechanical engineering. "At the Herrick Laboratories we've learned to successfully combine all three so that everyone involved benefits."

The research facility is affiliated with the School of Mechanical Engineering, with 18 faculty members involved with research and teaching. About six undergraduate and 50 to 60 graduate students work directly with faculty members and company representatives each year at the Herrick Labs on a variety of real-world engineering problems brought to them by various industrial sponsors.

"We have developed this into a win-win-win situation, something other schools are interested in emulating," Bernhard says. "Our students receive a solid academic background and real-world experience, interacting with engineers just as they would in an industrial setting. Our faculty work on fundamental engineering problems, leading to publications that help them advance professionally. And our industrial and government sponsors get solutions to specific, practical problems."

How has Herrick Labs achieved such a successful balance?

"We have faculty and students who know how to interact with industry," Bernhard explains. "Also, we have developed relationships with funding sources such as the National Science Foundation and other government agencies, so that we have consistent sources of seed money for new projects. With such funding, we are able to develop new technologies to the point where industry takes notice and gradually takes over funding the research."

Research at the labs ranges from heating, ventilation, refrigeration and air conditioning to noise control, automotive industry concerns and new materials. A new initiative focuses on developing "smart" machines, which would automatically adapt to changes in their operating environment or in performance requirements.

"Another key factor in our success is our state-of-the-art research facilities and instrumentation," Bernhard says. "Industry is attracted because our facilities are comparable to theirs.

"In addition, students gain valuable experience, and companies get highly skilled graduates. Many of our alumni go on to become key contacts between the Herrick Labs and their company."

Equipment in the Herrick Laboratories includes:

Source: Robert J. Bernhard, (765) 494-2141; e-mail,

Writer: Amanda Siegfried, (765) 494-4709; e-mail,

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