Centers of excellence

Originally published in the 2015 edition of Innovation magazine

The Purdue Polytechnic Institute has added nine of its 11 centers in the past five years. The increased interest in centers can be traced to more research activity, more collaboration across campus and more engagement with industry partners.

Each center approaches its operations differently. Some invite membership from industry partners to help define research activities, such as the Center for Technology Development. Others, such as the Biotechnology Innovation and Regulatory Science Center (BIRSC), create cross-disciplinary research teams to address research questions from several perspectives.

“As a center, we will be able to forge stronger collaborations with companies globally as we address innovation and emerging technologies in biotechnology,” says Kari Clase, co-director of the BIRSC, the college’s newest center.

Several other center directors echo her sentiments. In the Department of Aviation Technology’s two centers, faculty collaborate with industry partners to confront specific challenges. Their research involves students, who gain added experiences related to their future careers.

In the Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Center, faculty and students use their expertise in digital products and process data to solve problems for industry partners. Director Nathan Hartman says solutions developed in the center often save those businesses time and money, all while giving students valuable experience working on industry projects.

On a larger scale, the work that these research centers tackle will affect society for years to come. They will improve access to life-saving medicines in Africa, strengthen security measures through biometrics, create cleaner burning biofuels for use in aviation and optimize shipping configurations for manufacturers.

Some centers incorporate educational components into their programming. The Center for Professional Studies in Technology and Applied Research (ProSTAR) provides educational opportunities to professional adult learners. ProSTAR works with BIRSC to coordinate a master’s degree program in Tanzania, and with the PLM Center to offer a PLM certificate. Sabine Brunswicker, director of the Research Center for Open Digital Innovation, plans to coordinate an interdisciplinary doctoral program and a master’s level area of specialization through her center.

“Inspired by real-world problems and implemented through experimental and actionoriented research, the center will become the main hub in Indiana establishing and sustaining innovation ecosystems,” Brunswicker says.

In addition to these college-affiliated centers, Purdue Polytechnic faculty share their expertise with centers in other colleges across campus and sometimes at other educational institutions. One of the larger collaborations for Purdue Polytechnic is the Partnership to Enhance General Aviation Safety, Accessibility and Sustainability (PEGASAS). It is a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Center of Excellence for General Aviation. Mary Johnson, associate professor of aviation technology, is coprincipal investigator of the project. Read more about PEGASAS.


Purdue Polytechnic's 11 centers

Advanced Aviation Analytics Institute for Research (A³IR-CORE), 2012
Director: John Mott, MS, clinical assistant professor of aviation technology

A³IR-CORE’s research is aimed at assessing and improving global aviation enterprise processes through the acquisition and analysis of related data. It has three divisions: one that works with the Department of Aviation Technology’s flight and maintenance operations, one that works with industry sponsors, and a third that disseminates center research through internationally recognized conferences and peer-reviewed scholarly journals. Graduate and undergraduate researchers assist with research. Industry partners sponsor the center, and a portion of the center’s research is performed with those partners.

Air Transport Institute for Environmental Sustainability (AirTIES), 2011
Director: David Stanley, MS, professor of aeronautical technology

To develop viable, sustainable jet fuels, AirTIES is currently working with bio-fuels company Mercurius Biorefining on a U.S. Department of Energy-funded project. It also supports the PEGASAS center’s alternative fuel projects, and has created cross-disciplinary collaborations enabling Purdue fuel researchers to work with the Purdue Energy Center and industrial aerospace partners. Faculty have also created concentrations in the master’s program in aviation and aerospace management focused on sustainable aviation and transportation operations. Research team members hail from across Purdue, including agricultural and biological engineering and agricultural economics.

Biotechnology Innovation and Regulatory Science Center (BIRSC), 2014
Co-director: Kari Clase, PhD, associate professor of technology leadership and innovation

The college’s newest center, BIRSC grew out of research by Kari Clase, associate professor of technology leadership and innovation, and Steve Byrn, the Charles B. Jordan Professor of Medicinal Chemistry. Its goals are to develop global programs to ensure sustainable access to medicines for Africa and developing nations, and to advance discovery in manufacturing technology, quality of medicines and rare disease research. The center also oversees a master’s degree specialization on campus, online, or in Tanzania.

Center for Professional Studies in Technology and Applied Research (ProSTAR), 2009
Mitchell Springer, EdD, executive director

ProSTAR coordinates Purdue Polytechnic Institute’s education programs for working professionals. What started as a weekend master’s program has expanded to include administrative functions for 15 master’s degree options and a certificate program. The programs are a mix of weekend, online or hybrid course delivery.

Center for Technology Development (CTD), 2012
Director: Haiyan “Henry” Zhang, PhD, associate professor of mechanical engineering technology

Working with three founding industry partners and an associate partner, this center works on projects that can benefit a variety of industries. Initial projects included optimizing shipping configurations, strengthening metal surfaces and testing solar panel microgrids for manufacturers. Doctoral and master’s students assist with research and project management, and 16 faculty are involved with research.

International Center for Biometric Research (ICBR), 2013
Director: Stephen Elliott, PhD, associate professor of technology leadership and innovation

The center’s goal is to improve biometric system performance by understanding how users interact with biometric devices. Such devices are used to identify users by physical or behavioral characteristics in a variety of applications and environments. Biometric technologies range from fingerprint recognition to signature recognition. Users need to be able to operate the biometrics easily to reduce the chance for error. Researchers combine ergonomics and usability in investigating human interaction with biometric technologies, and evaluating the impact of product design on system performance and user experiences.

Joint Purdue-Tsinghua Center of Innovation (JPTCI), 2015
Director: Sabine Brunswicker, PhD, associate professor of technology leadership and innovation

The goal of the center is to build a sustainable, special relationship between Purdue University and Tsinghua University in education, research and industrial outreach in the general field of open innovation.

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Center, 2002
Director: Nathan Hartman, EdD, professor of computer graphics technology

The center is an educational resource for the tools and processes for digital product representation, as well as a fully functional infrastructure of PLM hardware and software tools for disseminating product data. The center often addresses challenges posed by the proliferation of the digital product and process models among various information authors and consumers. The software and hardware systems used by companies to develop, deploy and use the digital product definition present many challenges.

Purdue Center for Materials Processing Research, 2013
Director; Qingyou Han, PhD, professor of mechanical engineering technology

This center conducts interdisciplinary research and education programs to advance current commercial materials processing technologies and develop new ones. The center also combines a broad spectrum of experimental capabilities with advanced computational modeling for advancing materials processing methods. Strong emphasis is placed on educating students, research scholars, and engineers. Center researchers collaborate with international partners and center members.

Purdue Robotics Accelerator, 2014
Director: Richard Voyles, PhD, associate dean for research and professor of electrical engineering technology

The Robotics Accelerator showcases faculty and student robotics research and innovation across many colleges within Purdue. It serves as an umbrella center that brings together other Purdue centers, such as the NSF RoSe-HUB center investigating robots for human well-being, and specialized labs, such as search and rescue robots, micro-robots, wireless robots, soft robots and medical robots. It fosters collaboration and knowledge sharing to accelerate Purdue’s international robotics reputation in both academic and entrepreneurial circles. The center also acts as a focal point for the integration of undergraduate research experiences in robotics and sensing into Purdue Polytechnic’s curriculum.

Research Center for Open Digital Innovation (RCODI), 2013
Director: Sabine Brunswicker, PhD, associate professor of technology leadership and innovation

This center is engaging in an innovation revolution by studying how digital technologies can best shape the process of “open innovation.” Open innovation combines an organization’s research with information from external sources to solve problems and develop new products or services. With leading researchers from around the world participating, the center is a thought leader in this rapidly evolving field. Leveraging big data, sentiment analysis, crowdsourcing, open data, living laboratories and real-time experimentation, the center investigates how technologies can change the way innovations happen.