of Purdue Policy
Laurel Weldon, a distinguished professor of political science in Purdue’s
College of Liberal Arts, will serve as
inaugural director of the Purdue Policy
Research Institute, effective Feb. 15.
The Purdue Policy Research Institute,
formerly known as the Global Policy
Research Institute (GPRI), is now a part
of Discovery Park and has been relocated to Mann Hall. “The integration
into the strategic framework of DP will
deepen faculty participation in policy
research on campus and maximize
the impact on society of the solutions
to the grand challenges DP seeks to
address,” says Tomás Díaz de la Rubia,
chief scientist and executive director of
Weldon was a key figure in the
evolution of GPRI, chairing the Presidential Task Force
established for its
serving as chair and
co-chair (with Wally
Tyner, the James and
Lois Ackerman Professor of Agricultural
Economics) of the
Committee for GPRI from
its inception until 2012. Specializing
in public policy, she has authored two
books, and co-edited the first “Oxford
Handbook on Politics and Gender.”
She is also a founding co-editor of the
journal Politics, Groups and Identities.
A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School for Public and
International Affairs, Weldon came to
Purdue’s political science department
in 1999. She was the founding director
of the Center for Research on Diversity
and Inclusion. From 2013 to 2014,
she served as interim vice provost for
faculty affairs and also served briefly as
Acting Provost in 2014.
Suzanne Nielsen, a faculty fellow
of the Office of Corporate and Global
Partnerships and a professor in the
Department of Food Science in
Purdue’s College of Agriculture, is
serving as interim director of PPRI
until Weldon takes over.
New Chief Scientist Outlines DP Vision
Tomás Díaz de la Rubia knows the new leadership role for Discovery Park will tap his years
of experience as a physicist and materials science researcher, a national laboratory administrator and an energy consultant for a major company.
Add social media marketer to that list.
“We just started a Twitter feed for Discovery Park,” he says. “That’s one
of the many ways we can use to help get the word out about Discovery
Park and its commitment to large-scale interdisciplinary research.”
Assuming duties as chief scientist and executive director of Discovery
Park on Aug. 17, Díaz de la Rubia has the national and international stat-
ure, capabilities in networking with government agencies and industry and
a proven record of providing leadership to benefit Discovery Park, which
has seen its operations reach the $1.15 billion mark this year.
He plans to use that foundation to advance Purdue’s interdisciplin-
ary research efforts to tackle society’s grand challenges, those unstoppable
megatrends centering on global population growth, food production, energy, climate, water
and the environment. His tagline for Discovery Park captures the spirit of that vision –
“Innovating for life on a sustainable planet.”
“My biggest priority right now is to create and communicate the vision and strategic
framework for the future of Discovery Park,” says Díaz de la Rubia, who has a courtesy
appointment in strategic management within the Department of Management at Krannert
School of Management. “Within that framework, we will create a roadmap that focuses on a
few agreed-upon priorities relevant to the interests of the faculty and the students of Purdue
that will help us meet these societal challenges of the 21st century.”
Before coming to Purdue, Díaz de la Rubia spent two years as innovation leader and a
director in Deloitte’s energy and resources industry practice in Washington, D.C. In that role,
he worked with Fortune 500 energy and manufacturing companies to identify and capitalize
on business opportunities arising from potentially disruptive, innovative new technologies.
Before that, he was chief research officer and deputy director for science and technology
at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). There, he was responsible for the
long-term health of the science and technology for the lab’s $1.6 billion research program.
So he knows how to conduct research, how to lead a team and how to deliver impact
from the laboratory that helps make society better and healthier. He’s excited about
Discovery Park and its impressive facilities. But it will take more than quality labs to put
Discovery Park on map as a global leader of large-scale interdisciplinary research.
“The facilities in Discovery Park are great, they’re fabulous, state-of-the-art, world-class.
But the facilities don’t drive the way I think. You have to have something else. And that
something else is that desire and culture of interdisciplinary collaboration in science and the
willingness to work on big problems and to do it effectively with minimal bureaucracy.”
Moreover, while the Purdue community can be proud of Discovery Park’s accomplish-
ments the past 14 years, Díaz de la Rubia says, the university must “open up the aperture
of the lens” by which the Purdue community as well as external partners, stakeholders,
policymakers, industry leaders and others view Discovery Park.
“Discovery Park is a well-kept secret. I think there is more we can do to make DP much
more visible to the world.”
That why the entire campus community — “from President Daniels down to the junior
and senior faculty, the students I have met, administrative staff, the deans” — are so criti-
cal to identifying the large-scale research initiatives that Discovery Park addresses under
Díaz de la Rubia’s leadership.
“The areas that we select, we have to be No. 1 or No. 2 in the world. We won’t select
them if there is not a path to that,” he says. “We must make it very explicit that, at the end
of the day, we are going to be the world-leading interdisciplinary center for research and
innovation that helps us address these grand challenges.”
Tomás Díaz de la Rubia