seal  Purdue News

January 26, 2004

Purdue grad, astronaut to lead Discovery Park 'super projects'

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – For the first time, Purdue University has hired one of its 22 astronaut alumni to return and work at the university.

Guy Gardner

Guy Gardner, who piloted two shuttle missions and helped create the Shuttle-Mir program, has been named director of super project development for Discovery Park's E-enterprise Center at Purdue.

Gardner, who started this month, will be charged with overseeing and increasing the number of research projects involving multiple disciplines and large numbers of faculty members. These projects are deemed "super projects" within the E-enterprise Center.

"There are a lot of exciting things happening at Purdue – it's a great time to come back," Gardner said. "Purdue has a fantastic educational program that excites me as a former teacher, and the interdisciplinary approach to research at Discovery Park is the way of the future."

Charles O. Rutledge, vice provost for research and executive director of Discovery Park, said researchers in Discovery Park are working on a number of projects that apply various information processing systems to complex problems with large numbers of questions and variables, such as homeland security or sending people to Mars. Gardner's position will focus on those types of projects.

Five of these have already reached super project status, and 57 other projects have the potential to grow, Rutledge said. Gardner will work with researchers to not only manage the projects, but also to seek out related research opportunities and maximize the impact of research.

Gardner said he also hopes to be able to use his position and experience as a tool for university outreach.

"I've come to appreciate the value of the jobs I've had in the past – being an astronaut, in particular – in allowing me to meet a wide variety of people and to get their attention," he said. "At Purdue, we've got a great story to tell, and my position should help to give me the opportunity to tell it."

After receiving a bachelor's degree from the Air Force Academy in 1969, Gardener earned a master's degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from Purdue in 1970. In 2000 he completed a master's degree in math and physics education from Virginia Tech University.

During 11 years as a NASA astronaut, he flew two missions to space as pilot of the space shuttle Atlantis in 1988 and Columbia in 1990. While at NASA he also worked in various areas of mission support and space shuttle and space station development.

In 1992, after a brief second period with the military as commandant of the Air Force's Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, Gardner returned to NASA as the initial program director of the joint American and Russian Shuttle-Mir Program. He also served as mission director and director of quality assurance.

In 1995 Gardner joined the Federal Aviation Administration, where he has worked with research and development and was responsible for oversight and regulation of civil aviation. He also has worked with high school students, both as a teacher and a motivational speaker.

Rutledge said hiring Gardner is an important step in the growth of Discovery Park.

"Guy Gardner has years of volunteer work and motivational speaking with young people, and he has worked as a high school math and physics teacher," Rutledge said. "He understands young people and is excellent at inspiring them to get interested in science and engineering. That is central to the mission of Discovery Park."

Rutledge referenced Gardner's experience as a manager with the FAA and the Air Force as central reasons he was hired. Through his experience and technical expertise, particularly as part of NASA, Gardner has the understanding of federal agencies necessary to facilitate developing super projects with national and international impact.

"Guy Gardner's experience and leadership will be key to coordinating large-scale interdisciplinary activities at Purdue and with external partners," said Joseph Pekny, director of E-enterprise Center. "As such, he will play a pivotal role in increasing Purdue's economic impact. These super projects also will provide a valuable learning experience for students working with researchers at Discovery Park."

Purdue's new E-enterprise Center will bring together faculty and students with strengths in database systems design and integration engineering, software engineering, communication, management, operations systems, production systems, decision theory applications, system performance, risk evaluation, marketing, customer service and model simulation.

Through this center, an entire business – commerce, supply chain, management, operations, product life cycle control, customer service and data security – can be modeled, analyzed and made more efficient.

Discovery Park is a central point in the future growth of research at Purdue, Rutledge said. Besides the E-enterprise Center, the park will house the Birck Nanotechnology Center, Bindley Bioscience Center, Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship and Discovery Learning Center.

Writer: Matt Holsapple, (765) 494-2073,

Sources: Charles O. Rutledge, (765) 494-6209,

Guy Gardner, (765) 494-9258,

Joseph Pekny, (765) 494-7901,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Related Web sites:
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