WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Building on years of growing engagement and collaboration with the defense, homeland security and intelligence communities, Purdue University is creating the Purdue Institute for National Security, a new interdisciplinary institute purposely structured to attract worldwide talent, advance national security and grow the defense ecosystem at and around the West Lafayette campus.
Approved by the Board of Trustees on Oct. 7, the institute is the latest component of Purdue’s Next Moves, a series of initiatives and a corresponding five-year investment launched in April 2021 that will ensure Purdue remains amongst the world’s top research and teaching universities.
“At Purdue, we see supporting the national security of our nation as central to a public university’s duties,” Purdue President Mitch Daniels said. “The dramatic expansion of defense research is a source of pride and a fitting extension of Purdue’s historic contributions in this area.”
The institute will provide strategic access to Purdue’s full spectrum of national security and defense research capabilities, talent and world-renowned facilities. This will enhance Purdue’s visibility and streamline engagements with key stakeholders. Its initial purview will include the topical areas of hypersonic and space systems, energetic materials, and secure microelectronics. All are considered top-priority technologies for the United States and necessary to broaden its advanced defense capabilities and ensure its economic security.
“The institute will become Purdue’s front door to national security and defense research and partnerships,” said Theresa Mayer, executive vice president for research and partnerships at Purdue. “It will allow us to better leverage the breadth and depth of our expertise and thus further our contributions to these vital areas. We will send our students on to impactful careers in the high-technology areas so deeply needed in the United States.”
The Purdue Institute for National Security will span the basic and early-stage, use-inspired research of Purdue and the later-stage applied, translational and classified research of the Purdue Applied Research Institute. It will involve the work of several hundred faculty from schools and departments across at least five of Purdue’s colleges.
Jeff Rhoads, a widely recognized and lauded mechanical engineer, will serve as the institute’s inaugural executive director. A professor in Purdue’s School of Mechanical Engineering, Rhoads currently is the director of the Ray W. Herrick Laboratories and director of practice for the Mechanical Engineering Education Research Center at Purdue. He will transition out of the role of director of the Herrick Laboratories on Oct. 21. Rhoads previously served as the associate director of the Purdue Energetics Research Center. He has led more than $75 million in research sponsored by federal agencies and industry partners, including multiple large-scale research cooperative agreements focused on energetic materials. He was the principal architect of the recently announced Air Force Research Laboratory’s Regional Research Hub - Midwest. He also brings entrepreneurial experience to the role, having launched two successful defense startup companies over the past five years.
“My vision is for the institute to be a preeminent, agile and trusted partner for national security research, testing, evaluation and workforce development,” Rhoads said. “I’m elated for this Next Moves-related endeavor at Purdue and am honored to be entrusted with leading this entity. Our work here will have lasting and profound impact on our nation and its high-technology workforce.”
Since 2019, Purdue has had record-breaking growth in external funding for national security and defense-related research from federal agencies – from $48 million to $82 million in fiscal year 2022, a 72% increase. This has enhanced a rich high-tech ecosystem in hypersonics, microelectronics, energetics, cybersecurity and other related mission-critical areas.
Purdue’s Institute for Global Security and Defense Innovation (i-GDSI), founded in 2016, built the University’s solid foundation in national security with public- and private-sector entities. Examples of i-GDSI’s successful programs and partnerships include founding and formalizing the strategic academic alliance between Purdue and Sandia National Laboratories, the formalization of Purdue in the Space Force’s University Partnership Program, and winning contracts such as the Scalable Asymmetric Lifecycle Engagement (SCALE) program for national microelectronics workforce development and research. SCALE just received an additional investment of nearly $11 million from the Department of Defense to expand and to increase student participants and develop K-12 curriculum. The new institute will integrate and further the work of i-GDSI, which was sunsetted upon the approval of the new institute.
The new Purdue Institute for National Security will be part of the Office of the Executive Vice President for Research and Partnerships, which oversees several universitywide strategic initiatives as well as operational and regulatory functions of Purdue’s $769 million-plus research enterprise and associated technology commercialization activities.
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