Purdue News

May 2006

A monthly letter from President Martin C. Jischke

Dear Purdue Partners,

When Purdue began developing plans to build a nanotechnology research center, the dream was to make the university an international leader in a field that holds revolutionary potential.

Although the Birck Nanotechnology Center was completed less than a year ago and the program is far from full maturity, Purdue already has been recognized as one of the nation's top universities in this emerging field.

Small Times, a magazine that focuses on the nanotechnology business, ranked Purdue's effort 11th among 50 U.S. university programs in a survey published in its May-June 2006 issue. I'm especially pleased that Purdue's industry outreach effort ranked third in the nation. Even though the impact of the Birck Center has only begun to be felt, the survey ranked the facilities on the West Lafayette campus 10th among all universities.

Nanotechnology involves making devices on the atomic and molecular level with applications in computer, medical, military, textile and even the sports equipment industries. Annual sales of products and services using nanotechnology could hit $2.5 trillion by 2015, according to Lux Research. At Purdue, we believe that developing a leading research and education program in this discipline will position Indiana to attract and create new industries based on nanotechnology.

In recognizing Purdue, Small Times stated: "The (Birck) center opened in October, unveiling the latest in cleanroom and lab design and tools, but its industry initiative had begun long before the doors opened, placing it among the leaders in the industry outreach category."

The magazine also took note of the Birck Center's low-vibration metrology lab, which is shielded against electromagnetic interferences, and its $10 million integrated semiconductor nanofabrication and bio-pharmaceutical cleanrooms.

Birck also houses the National Science Foundation's Network for Computational Nanotechnology, "which allows researchers to perform computer simulations of nanomaterials and processes," the magazine stated.

The Small Times survey included 26 questions about funding, facilities, patenting, company formation, collaborations with industry, research, publishing, and micro- and nano-specific courses and degree programs. It also gave respondents an opportunity to state which of their peer institutions they thought were leaders in micro- and nanotech research and commercialization.

The 187,000-square-foot Birck Center — one of the anchors of Discovery Park — brings together faculty, researchers, staff members and graduate students from 27 schools and departments across campus.

The impetus for the center came with an initial $5 million appropriation from the state of Indiana. Purdue was able to leverage these funds to attract significant private support for the new facility and its operations, including $30 million from trustee Mike Birck and his wife, Kay, more than $25 million from the Lilly Endowment, and $10 million from alumni Donald and Carol Scifres.

The recognition from Small Times is a welcome indicator that we are on the right track with the nanotechnology initiative, but I am confident that Purdue has only begun to tap its potential in this field. As the Birck Center becomes fully operational and our faculty develop new research concepts, look for bigger and better things to happen as the university's foothold in nanotech grows stronger. I believe the state of Indiana will get a tremendous return from that $5 million investment.

• • •

In last month's letter, I mentioned The Richard G. Lugar-Purdue Summit on Energy Security, which will take place in West Lafayette on August 29. The summit will focus on the nation's energy future with emphasis on the national security and economic policies in regards to future American energy demands.

I'm happy to report that Brian Lamb, founder of C-SPAN, has agreed to chair a panel discussion focused on strategies for reducing America's dependence on imported oil. This will be the panel that sets the tone for the entire summit. I will have more information for you on this later.


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