In a university where one out of five international students is from India, the country has never really been far from its management's consciousness. But now Purdue University, one of America's most respected institutions, is going all out to engage India, which many of its faculty members describe as "one of the two most exciting destinations".
Set amid America's heartland and known particularly for its excellence in teaching engineering, agriculture and pharmacy, Purdue has traditionally drawn a large number of students from India.
Currently, of the 4,831 international students enrolled at Purdue in the academic year, 1,021 are from India. China with 782 and South Korea with 680 complete the top three countries from international students come to study in large numbers. The university also has more than 85 faculty of Indian origin, mostly in engineering, management and science.
After Purdue president Martin C. Jischke visited India in November 2004, he came back convinced that the university's Asia focus should be on India and China.
Charles Rutledge, vice president for research, who is leading a delegation to India from Jan 29 to Feb 7, says: "I am really looking forward to going to India at a time of great progress. I believe Purdue with its expertise in agriculture, pharmacy and engineering can contribute a great deal to India."
An organic chemist, Rutledge is particularly excited about a research agreement with India's Department of Science and Technology scheduled to be signed in New Delhi Feb 5.
"We hope this visit and this agreement with the Indian government's leading science and technology agency will boost Purdue's visibility at the highest levels of India and at the grassroots level, where the seeds of cutting-edge university research are being planted," Rutledge said in an interview.
"Of Purdue's international enrollment, India provides Purdue with more students than any other country. And by expanding the bridge between India and Purdue's Discovery Park, we look to become a preferred US institution for research collaborations with India," he said.
The agreement will establish formal research collaborations and exchanges of researchers, students and faculty between Purdue and Indian institutions.
Apart from Rutledge, the four-member delegation will consist of Alan H. Rebar, executive director of Discovery Park; Pankaj Sharma, assistant director of Discovery Park; and Jay P. Gore, interim director of Discovery Park's Energy Center and Purdue's Vincent P. Reilly Professor of Mechanical Engineering and associate dean of the College of Engineering.
Discovery Park is Purdue's impressive $330 million interdisciplinary complex tackling challenges in areas ranging from alternative energy and health-care delivery to nanotechnology and cyber infrastructure.
"We believe that many scientific and economic challenges that India faces today align closely with the work we do at Discovery Park. The time has never been as opportune as it is now for India and Purdue to work together," Sharma said.
He said that officials in Amethi in Uttar Pradesh had announced plans to open a 60-acre Discovery Park research complex, modelled after Purdue's Discovery Park with a focus on health, education and agribusiness.
The Purdue delegation's week-long visit will feature meetings with academic and political leaders in the research areas of nanotechnology, entrepreneurship, energy, life sciences, IT, health care, pharmaceuticals, agriculture and the environment, according to Rutledge.
Meetings also are planned with officials at several research facilities in India, including the Indian Institute of Science, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Tata Energy Research Institute, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi, Indian Institute of Information Technology in Allahabad and Indian School of Business in Hyderabad.
Purdue officials will meet top executives at Dr. Reddy's Laboratories Ltd in Hyderabad, Infosys Technologies Ltd in Bangalore and Satyam Computer Services Ltd in Hyderabad.
"With a middle class of 300 million people fascinated with buying American-made products, India, as the world's largest democracy, is poised to eclipse Japan and China as Asia's fastest growing economy by 2010," Rebar was quoted as saying by a Purdue release.
"We believe Discovery Park is ideally suited to help Purdue expand and collaborate with institutions, governmental agencies, researchers and industries in countries such as India."
"As economic neighbours and trade partners in a flat world, we know that India faces many of the same challenges in the areas of energy, science and technology that we face in this nation," Gore said. "The expansion of this partnership to India's primary government research agency will benefit both of us as we travel this challenging world together."
In January 2006, Purdue Provost Sally Mason led a group of university officials who spent a week in India.
During the visit they signed a five-year agreement with the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai to foster collaborations in life sciences fields between Indian scientists and Purdue researchers from the Bindley Bioscience Center at Discovery Park.
Some of India's most high profile names, including C.N.R. Rao, an eminent scientist and policy advisor, and industry leaders such as Ravi Venkatesan, the India chief of Microsoft, as well as Satish Reddy and G.V. Prasad, COO and CEO respectively of Dr. Reddy's Laboratories are Purdue alumni.