Purdue professor elected to the National Academy of Engineering

WEST LAFAYETTE – Laura Pyrak-Nolte has dedicated her work at Purdue University to understanding fractures with the goal of ensuring environmental safety and enhancing renewable energy production.

Dr. Laura Pyrak-Nolte in her lab.

Pyrak-Nolte, Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Science, is one of Purdue’s latest members of the National Academy of Engineering, among the highest professional honors accorded to any engineer in the United States.

Also honored as part of the Purdue family among the academy’s latest class of 106 members is an adjunct professor, Santokh Badesha, and six alumni including alumnus Christopher Burke, a well-respected expert in water resource projects.

“These latest elections certify both Purdue University’s magnificent science and engineering tradition and their current leadership positions,” Purdue President Mitch Daniels said. “Expanding our College of Engineering is at the core of our land-grant mission, and Purdue’s program has the highest enrollment in the Big Ten.”

Mitch Daniels

Pyrak-Nolte leads the Rock Physics Research Group that studies the physics of fractures in rock, detecting whether they slip or leak fluids into the environment. Understanding fractures is vitally important to a wide range of fields, including improving the safety and efficacy of geothermal energy and natural gas production, carbon sequestration and nuclear waste disposal. She also holds courtesy appointments in both the Lyles School of Civil Engineering and the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at Purdue.

“Research has been always been tremendously exciting to me,” Pyrak-Nolte said. “I love working in the laboratory, and working with students is a great joy. I never dreamt about being in the National Academy of Engineering, so to be recognized is incredible.”

Innovation is a job description for Santokh Badesha, an adjunct professor for innovation in the College of Engineering’s School of School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the manager of open innovation at Xerox Corp.

Badesha was elected to the academy for developing materials enabling the broad use of laser printing and the creation of color laser printing.

Santokh Badesha

Through his research, Badesha has totaled more than 250 patents at Xerox – breaking the company’s all-time record in the process. He has more than 40 patent applications in various stages of the process, making 300 patents a conceivable goal.

His latest patent, awarded late last year, is a dryer subsystem that enables removal of water and co-solvents from the ink in Xerox aqueous ink jet-based printing presses.

Burke (BSCE ’77, MSCE ’79, Ph.D. ’83, HDR 2010) is chief executive officer of Christopher B. Burke Engineering Ltd. At Purdue, Burke has established the Burke Hydraulics and Hydrology Research and Teaching Laboratory, the Burke Undergraduate Hydraulic Laboratory and the Christopher B. Burke Professorship.

His election to the academy comes from his demonstration of leadership in executing complex water resources projects and service to the engineering community.

Burke has managed more than 500 municipal engineering projects, watershed studies, stormwater management studies and channel modification projects. Burke maintains his connection to academia as an author and as an instructor on water resources.

The other alums elected to the academy are:

  • Theodore Rappaport (BSEE ’82, MSEE ’84, Ph.D. ECE ’87) is a pioneer with his research influencing many international wireless-standards bodies. He was elected for his contributions to the characterization of radio frequency propagation in millimeter wave bands for cellular communication networks. He is the David Lee/Ernst Weber Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Tandon School of Engineering at New York University, Brooklyn.
  • Khaled B. Letaief (BSEE ’84, MSEE ’86, Ph.D. ECE ’90) is an internationally recognized leader in wireless communications and networks. The academy elected Letaief, the New Bright Professor of Engineering at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, for contributions to adaptive resource allocation in multiuser orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing wireless systems and for academic leadership.
  • Christopher N. Bowman (BSChE ’88, Ph.D. ’91) and his work in photopolymerization reactions and their applications earned his election to the NAE. A distinguished professor, Bowman is the James and Catherine Patten Chair of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder.
  • Hani Mahmassani (MSCE ’78) was recognized by the academy for his contributions to modeling of intelligent transportation networks and to interdisciplinary collaboration in transportation engineering. Mahmassani is the William A. Patterson Distinguished Chair in Transportation at Northwestern University and director of the Northwestern University Transportation Center.
  • Mario J. Paniccia (Ph.D. Physics ’94) is the CEO of Anello Photonics, which focuses on developing a new type of sensor for the autonomous market based on silicon photonics. He was elected to the academy in recognition of his contributions to ingerated silicon photonic devices and their commercialization.

According to the National Academy of Engineering, membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to “engineering research, practice, or education, including, where appropriate, significant contributions to the engineering literature” and to “the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education.”

Individuals in the newly elected class will be formally inducted during the NAE’s annual meeting in October. 

About Purdue University

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