Purdue announces 3-pronged ‘Purdue Computes’ initiative: Propel Computer Science to the nation’s top 10, launch the Institute of Physical AI and expand semiconductor facilities
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – As student interest in computing-related majors and the societal impact of AI and semiconductor chips continues to rise rapidly, Purdue University and its Board of Trustees announced Friday (April 14) a major initiative, Purdue Computes, consisting of three dimensions.
The first pillar of Purdue Computes is a significant investment in Purdue’s computing faculty:
The Department of Computer Science, which became America’s first such department 60 years ago and today offers degrees including computer science, data science and artificial intelligence, will be strategically positioned to continue its rapid upward trajectory, with the target of achieving a top 10 national ranking before the end of this decade.
Similar to the Purdue model of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, which has ranked No. 1 in the country, Computer Science will now have affiliations with both the College of Science and the College of Engineering, to maximize both external impact and internal opportunities for cross-disciplinary engagement. Productive collaborations spanning computer engineering and other areas in the Elmore Family School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, which offers a minor in AI applications, will follow.
Over the next five years, across Computer Science, Computer Engineering and related departments, 50 new top-notch faculty hires are anticipated, along with staff and support resources to ensure quality education for some of the fastest-growing undergraduate and graduate programs on campus.
“We have a remarkable situation whereby Purdue has generated enormous upward momentum while simultaneously tripling its undergraduate enrollments in Computer Science,” Provost Patrick Wolfe said. “With additional investment and a focus on exceptionally high-quality faculty, this momentum will accelerate further. Great things are in the future at Purdue.”
The second pillar of Purdue Computes comprises research spanning strategically selected areas in artificial intelligence, especially at the intersection between the virtual and the physical where Purdue can leapfrog to prominence, between the bytes of AI and the atoms of growing, making and moving things in the long-standing strength of the university and the state:
A universitywide research Institute of Physical AI (IPAI) will be launched by early September. A faculty steering committee has been formed with broad participation by many colleges and departments across campus. An advisory board has been formed, with outstanding alumni from leadership positions in the AI industry participating.
Over the next five years, 50 new top-notch faculty will be recruited, with primary appointments in various academic departments and affiliation with IPAI, and over the same time span a total of 250 Presidential Doctoral Excellence Awards will be deployed to recruit the best PhD students in the field. Some of the new faculty hires will naturally overlap with those in the first pillar.
A range of current centers in AI and closely related areas representing existing research strength at Purdue provides a foundation for rapid growth in research excellence in physical AI, including open agricultural data, neuromorphic computing, deep fake detection, edge AI systems, smart transportation data, AI-based manufacturing, etc. Nationally prominent open data sets will also be created and curated.
Close collaboration with Indiana industries, such as with Eli Lilly and Company on AI in drug discovery and pharmaceutical manufacturing and with High Alpha on AI-based startup creation, will be carried out, especially in joint research talent recruiting and in workforce development.
“The Institute of Physical AI will couple scientists from across Purdue who bring interdisciplinary thinking and problem solving to solve issues at the intersection of AI and a variety of critical functions, such as more efficient pharmaceutical manufacturing, digital forestry and more efficient transportation,” said Karen Plaut, executive vice president of research.
The third pillar recognizes that all computing, including AI, takes place in physical substrates such as semiconductor chips, and further amplifies Purdue’s dominant position today in the education, research and industry partnership in semiconductors:
$100 million of semiconductor facilities is planned, with Phase 1 of $49 million approved Friday (April 14) by the Board of Trustees for capital project and equipment procurement to upgrade the 20-year-old national treasure Birck Nanotechnology Center.
The new facility and equipment will further position Purdue as a national leader in workforce through the Semiconductor Degrees Program, in research through CHIPS and Science Act-funded national institutes, and in partnership with both the industry supply chain and like-minded nations globally.
“Purdue is leading the charge in semiconductor research and education,” said Mark Lundstrom, chief semiconductor officer, who is leading the universitywide semiconductors task force. “State-of-the-art facilities like the Birck Nanotechnology Center provide the foundation for new and exciting research in many facets of microelectronics and support our workforce development initiatives.”
Early next week, more details will be announced on each of the three pillars of Purdue Computes.
“Purdue Computes takes three interrelated, strategic focus areas to the next giant leaps at our university, with participation from and benefit to many parts of campus,” Purdue President Mung Chiang said. “When it comes to computing, AI and chips, areas that will redefine the entire economy and society in every way imaginable, the strategic hiring, structuring and investment announced today enables Purdue University to advance at the forefront, with unparalleled excellence at scale in the country.”
“Purdue’s Board of Trustees is excited to support Purdue Computes, an initiative of tremendous strategic value for Purdue to advance as a top university in the world and take global leadership in these areas that matter significantly to both our own students and the entire society,” said Michael Berghoff, board chair. “Along with Purdue in Indianapolis and the Daniels School of Business, a connected set of strategic focus areas has emerged this year with clarity and momentum.”