sealPurdue News

August 2000

$200 million upgrade planned for engineering program

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University is greeting the new millennium with a long-term, $200 million plan to upgrade its Schools of Engineering facilities and expand them by almost 60 percent.

The first step in the plan is the construction of a new $60 million general engineering facility of more than 100,000 square feet. The new structure will be at the corner of Stadium and Northwestern avenues on the current site of the university's four creative arts buildings.

Construction will begin after the Department of Visual and Performing Arts moves into its new structure in two years. The new engineering building is slated for completion in 2005.

The overall project is the outgrowth of more than three years of comprehensive planning and is expected to meet the anticipated need for engineering space and facilities for the next 15 to 20 years. When completed, it will increase Purdue's current engineering space of 580,000 square feet by nearly 325,000 square feet and allow more industrial-scale experiments, technology-enhanced learning and interdisciplinary team projects.

"This is an enormous undertaking, but Purdue is recognized as a top engineering university in the world and these extensive plans are essential to keep our Schools of Engineering on the cutting edge of education and research," said Robert L. Ringel, executive vice president for academic affairs. "We already attract high-caliber students, faculty and researchers, but this ensures that we will provide the right tools and environment well into the 21st century."

When completed, the new engineering building will house the Department of Freshman Engineering, the School of Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, and the School of Materials Engineering, as well as the Women in Engineering and the Minority Engineering programs. With these new space assignments, vacated areas in many buildings now housing other engineering disciplines will be available for remodeling and reassignment.

The master plan includes renovations and additions to the Mechanical Engineering Building and the Chemical Engineering Building, a new facility to house the Department of Biomedical Engineering, an interdisciplinary manufacturing facility, and a new interdisciplinary research complex on the west edge of campus.

Other long-term goals for the Schools of Engineering include continued growth of the graduate program, increased diversity and outreach efforts, substantial growth in the new biomedical engineering graduate program, development of a new biomedical engineering undergraduate program, expanded short courses, and certificate programs in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

"This has been planned very carefully and will impact all the disciplines and programs in engineering," said Richard Schwartz, dean of the Schools of Engineering. "With this, our students will be better able to work in teams and experience more applied research. Purdue buildings also will provide more flexibility.

"For example, one educational concept has classrooms clustered around central workshops and laboratories with workspace conducive to team projects. One of the west campus research buildings will be designed with adaptability in mind, so its interiors can be transformed to explore emerging research areas or house short-term research projects."

The complex on the west edge of campus, near the Purdue Airport and Purdue's Zucrow Laboratories, will have a research focus.

"The new west campus will have more experimental research activities and less theoretical research," Schwartz said. "The complex will facilitate cross-disciplinary research and enable a variety of research activities that might not be appropriate for central campus, such as the testing and research needed for studying large structures, such as bridge beams. It will also feature evolving research so students and faculty can explore in greater depth new areas such as nanotechnology in the semiconductor industry."

Ringel said the master plan will have an impact beyond Purdue's Schools of Engineering. "Although the initial impact will most affect engineering, the full benefit of this bold move will be felt by the entire campus," he said. "The new west campus is also viewed as the site for future expansions for the School of Science and the School of Agriculture."

The West Lafayette campus has no room to expand its boundaries, Ringel noted. "Therefore, we must develop an area in close proximity to the current campus complex in order to provide space for our research-intensive initiatives. Locating certain activities on a common site will facilitate interdisciplinary research, allow for sharing some laboratories and expensive equipment, and encourage key personnel to work in close cooperation."

Funds for the undertaking will come from a number of sources. The university will approach the Indiana General Assembly in 2001 for financial assistance in construction of the general engineering building, and federal and state economic development grants will help pay for the nanotechnology facility. Additional funding for the engineering renovations and expansions will come from corporate partners, alumni and friends.

With undergraduate enrollment of nearly 6,000, graduate enrollment of about 1,800 and a faculty of about 275, Purdue's engineering program is one of the largest in the United States and is consistently ranked as one of the best in the world. Since the first engineering degree from Purdue was awarded in 1875, the university has graduated more women engineers than any other school in the nation. Currently about 22 percent of engineering undergraduates at Purdue are women, compared to a national average of 19 percent, according to Jane Z. Daniels, director of Purdue's Women in Engineering Programs.

Purdue engineering encompasses 13 schools, departments and divisions: aeronautics and astronautics: agricultural and biological; biomedical; chemical; civil; construction engineering and management; freshman; electrical and computer; industrial; interdisciplinary; materials; mechanical; and nuclear.

Sources: Robert L. Ringel, (765) 494-9709

Richard Schwartz, (765) 494-5346,

Writer: Cynthia Sequin, (765) 494-2073,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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