As student interests in computing-related majors and societal impact of artificial intelligence and chips continue to rise rapidly, Purdue University’s board of trustees announced a major initiative, Purdue Computes.

Purdue Computes is made up of three pillars: academic resource of the computing departments, strategic AI research, and semiconductor education and innovation. This story highlights Pillar 2: strategic research in AI.

At the intersection between the virtual and the physical, Purdue will leapfrog to prominence between the bytes of AI and the atoms of growing, making, and moving things: the university and state’s long-standing strength.

The Purdue Institute for Physical AI (IPAI) will be the cornerstone of the university’s unprecedented push into bytes-meet-atoms research. By developing both foundational AI and its applications to “We Grow, We Make, We Move,” faculty will transform AI development through physical applications, and vice versa. 

IPAI’s creation is based on extensive faculty input and unique strength of research excellence at Purdue. Open agricultural data, neuromorphic computing, deep fake detection, edge AI systems, smart transportation data, and AI-based manufacturing are among the variety of cutting-edge topics to be explored by IPAI through several current and emerging university research centers. The centers are the backbone of the IPAI, building upon Purdue’s existing and developing AI and cybersecurity strengths as well as workforce development. New degrees and certificates for both residential and online students will be developed for students interested in physical AI.

“Through this strategic research leadership, Purdue is focusing current and future assets on areas that will carry research into the next generation of technology,” said Karen Plaut, executive vice president of research. “Successes in the lab and the classroom on these topics will help tomorrow’s leaders tackle the world’s evolving challenges.”

  • A steering committee of 17 faculty members features a multidisciplinary group of individuals from many of Purdue’s colleges and departments across campus.
  • IPAI will include an advisory board consisting of alumni in leadership positions throughout the AI industry. This includes Tesla, Intel, Apple, and Ring.
  • Purdue’s leadership in defining physical AI also will be supported by the recruitment of 50 new faculty during the next five years, tenure-homed at departments in colleges throughout the campus while holding affiliation with IPAI. This addition will be bolstered by 250 Presidential Doctoral Excellence Awards to be deployed to recruit the best Ph.D. students in the field over the same period.
  • Industry collaboration is a planned hallmark of Purdue’s AI ambitions. Eli Lilly and Co., on AI in drug discovery and pharmaceutical manufacturing, and High Alpha, on AI-based startup creation, are among the Indiana industries that will partner with the university, especially in joint research talent recruiting and workforce development.