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Purdue Commits to Physical AI Research, More Online Learning

The Indiana university's latest investments in physical AI, where "bytes meet atoms," include more professors, Ph.D. grants and added degree programs, plus a commitment to online students in various technical industries.

University graduate with career icons
Purdue University aims to capitalize on fast-growing interest and potential in artificial intelligence with a new research hub, for which it will hire 50 new tenure-track faculty members over the next five years.

According to a news release this week, the new “Purdue Computes” initiative is a three-pronged effort: devoting academic resources to computing departments, researching strategic applications of artificial intelligence, and promoting education and innovation in semiconductors. The effort will center around a new Purdue Institute for Physical AI (IPAI), which will employ existing and emerging university research centers to explore open agricultural data, neuromorphic computing, deepfake detection, edge AI systems, smart transportation data and AI-based manufacturing.

In addition to hiring 50 faculty positions, the university will offer new degree and certificate programs for both residential and online students interested in physical applications of AI, though it has yet to release details regarding added curriculum and new areas of online instruction. Moreover, the university will add 250 Presidential Doctorate Excellence Awards to attract PhD students between now and 2028, according to the news release.

Much of this initiative will be led by a 17-member faculty steering committee representing departments across campus, and the IPAI advisory board will consist of alumni who work in leadership positions at companies such as Tesla, Apple, Intel and Ring.

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

In conjunction with this initiative, Purdue University trustees this week endorsed an “Online Learning 2.0” vision statement that pledges not just to meet the needs of traditional undergraduate students and mid-career students working toward advanced degrees, but also non-traditional adult students working on a college degree while balancing other responsibilities at work, home or in the military.

According to a news release, the vision statement also commits the university to expanding programs with the U.S. Department of Defense and increasing workforce development programs in semiconductor, pharmaceutical manufacturing and cybersecurity industries.

The news release said programs at Purdue University Online include master’s degrees in electrical engineering, industrial engineering and mechanical engineering, as well as in communications, health-care administration and hospitality management. The university also has an online veterinary technology certification program.