sealPurdue Business and Technology Briefs

November 1998

Purdue's new Food Science Building opens for business

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A color photo of two graduate students working in a pilot food processing lab is available. The photo is called Wert.foodsci.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- New and improved food science graduates won't be the only product coming out of the new food science complex at Purdue University. The new $28 million facility, dedicated this fall, offers opportunities for food and fiber companies that want to augment internal research and development efforts with expanded sponsored research projects.

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"The new building will provide us with expanded research facilities, including equipment," says Philip Nelson, head of the Department of Food Science. "This will allow us the opportunity to work directly with companies to develop new technologies for the food industry."

Because cost-cutting has significantly reduced corporate research funding, aligning with Purdue provides a business advantage, Nelson says. Such a partnership allows businesses to perform cooperative research with Purdue at less cost than doing it alone.

"Our industrial partners will have the advantage of working with a team of internationally known Purdue University professors," Nelson says. "They will have access to resources that are duplicated nowhere else."

Purdue's Department of Food Science is recognized as a world leader in aseptic processing, carbohydrate research and computer-integrated food manufacturing. Dedicated to satisfying the needs of both industry and consumers, the department has contact with more than 100 companies annually. Interactive relationships with more than 30 core companies form three key industry alliance efforts: the Industrial Associates Program, the Whistler Center for Carbohydrate Research and the Computer-Integrated Manufacturing Center.

"Aseptic processing in the pilot lab will be a major new thrust," Nelson says, thanks in part to a major equipment gift from Gerber Products Co. including new analytical equipment to examine advances in food safety.

Additionally, the department plans a faster response to industry needs, Nelson says. He says the new pilot laboratory will allow industry to test new methods or processes without significant initial start-up delays or costs.

Operating as a small manufacturing area, the pilot laboratory allows students and manufacturers to see how a process functions before putting it into production. Specific capabilities include aseptic and thermal processing of liquid and particulate foods, equipment design and development, destructive and nondestructive package integrity testing, sensor evaluation and application, and process design and improvement. In addition, the lab can evaluate shelf-life and sensory characteristics of foods.

The Computer-Integrated Food Manufacturing Center focuses on the integration of all aspects of production, from product design and production to shipping and distribution.

Graduates of the Purdue food science program are considered among the top-ranked in the nation, Nelson says, thanks to targeted recruiting and a 100 percent placement rate over the past decade. The department had the highest enrollment growth in the School of Agriculture this fall, and starting salaries in 1997 averaged $32,000 and as high as $42,000. The list of employers includes such giants as M&M Mars, General Mills Inc., Kraft Foods Inc. and Frito-Lay Inc.

CONTACT: Nelson, (765) 494-8256; e-mail,

New software protects ownership of Web images

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Researchers have created an invisible "digital watermark" to protect copyrights for images placed on the World Wide Web.

The watermark, developed at Purdue University, can be added to multimedia images -- everything from news photos and NASA pictures of the Martian landscape to original art and video.

"The idea is to ensure the intellectual property rights of people who create digital media," says Edward Delp, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue. "Adding a digital watermark to an image identifies the owner and protects copyrights. It's invisible, but I can extract it to verify the image is mine."

Delp presented a paper on his research group's digital watermarking research Oct. 5 in Chicago at the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers' International Conference on Image Processing. The research team includes colleagues Christine Podilchuk, at Bell Laboratories, and Raymond Wolfgang, one of Delp's graduate students.

Several companies are using their own digital watermarking techniques, and a few commercial programs also are available. Delp's method is different because it is tailored for Web-based imaging.

The technique Delp developed embeds the watermark in the very pixels of an original digital image. A pixel is the basic unit or picture element that makes up an electronic image.

"We can search the Web for our watermark in images in order to find unauthorized copies," Delp says. "We can find the watermark even if it was altered when the image was altered."

Delp, who has been working on the watermarking project for about four years, is working with an electronics company to incorporate watermarking technology into digital cameras.

"Watermarking technology can help verify whether an image taken with a digital camera is authentic," Delp says. "If the image is watermarked when it is taken, you would be able to verify later whether the image has been altered." This is a particularly important issue in the case of verifying the authenticity of news images, historical images, and images that might be used as evidence in court.

Purdue has applied for patents for the technology, and Delp's watermarking technique has been licensed by Louisiana-based Intellectual Protocols 2, or IP2, a computer technology company. IP2 has incorporated the Purdue technology into a product called Copysight.

"Digital watermarking is not foolproof," Delp says. "You really need to embed it in a larger security product that includes a whole set of security tools, and that's essentially what Copysight is."

CONTACT: Delp, (765) 494-1740; e-mail,

Purdue helps FAA keep eyes on the sky

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The Federal Aviation Administration is uniting with Purdue and a dozen other universities to head off a looming shortage of air traffic controllers.

By the year 2005, the FAA expects to need 10 times more flight controllers annually -- 2,000 to 4,000 people -- than were hired in 1997. Anticipating the necessity of training thousands of recruits within a short time, the FAA turned to universities to determine which had programs already in place that meet the government agency's pretraining requirements.

The FAA put its stamp of approval on programs at 13 universities, including Purdue University's aviation administration program, which is designed for individuals seeking careers in either airline or FAA management.

"Purdue's aviation administration program is the only curriculum approved for this purpose in the Midwest," said Mike Nolan, associate professor of aviation technology at Purdue. "Students are encouraged to enter our four-year program, or they may transfer into the program from two-year institutions. However, if they want to be hired as an air traffic controller before the year 2005, it is important that they are enrolled in an FAA-approved program for both their junior and senior years."

The seeds for the upcoming air traffic controller shortage were sown during a 1981 strike that caused the FAA to hire, all at one time, thousands of replacement workers. Because they are eligible to retire at 60 percent of their salary after 20 to 25 years, these workers will be able to exercise that option sometime after the year 2001.

Compounding the problem, the FAA's capacity to train large numbers of flight controllers has dwindled. Over the past 15 years, very few flight controllers have retired, leaving open just 200 to 400 new positions a year.

"These university programs provide a foundation for the FAA's own 15-week training course, allowing it to be reduced to 10 weeks," Nolan said. "It's also anticipated that this approach to recruiting air traffic controllers will help reduce the time needed for their on-the-job training."

An air traffic controller's average annual starting salary is $24,700, jumping to the mid-40s after three years on the job. The salary can reach as high as $80,151 per year. CONTACT: Nolan, (765) 494-9962; e-mail:

Compiled by Kate Walker, (765) 494-2073; e-mail,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

Kent Wert, manager of the Computer-Integrated Food Manufacturing Center in Purdue's new Food Science Building, oversees the work of master's students Gopal Rangaswamy and Amy Devitt. The two are working on a direct stream injection tank that purifies the food products produced in a new pilot lab. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger)
Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Wert.foodsci
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