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Chemistry alumni elected to the National Academy of Engineers



Purdue Chemistry alumni James M. Tour and Thalappil Pradeep were elected to the National Academy of Engineers (NAE) on February 6.

The NAE is one of three academies within The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. As a private, independent, nonprofit institution, the NAE's mission is to provide national engineering leadership and advising when called upon by government departments or agencies. Membership to the NAE, decided by a vote of their peers, is considered one of the greatest professional honors awarded to an engineer.

According to a release from the NAE, the two join a membership of 2,310 U.S. and 332 international members, selected based on their "outstanding contributions to engineering research, practice, or education" and to "the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education."

Tour (PhD ’86), a professor of chemistry and materials science and nanoengineering at Rice University, was elected to the NAE for his research on carbon materials, their composites and commercialization. Tour has published hundreds of papers and holds hundreds of patents based on the synthesis, characterization and application of these materials. Tour's work has included batteries, quantum dots and medicines for the treatment of stroke and traumatic brain injury.

“I am so thankful I have been embraced by my engineering colleagues in their recognition of this work,” Tour said

Pradeep (PhD ’91, Indian Institute of Science) is a professor of chemistry at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras. Pradeep’s work is largely focused on materials. In one of his projects, his team discovered phenomena at the nanoscale that can be used for delivering affordable clean water technologies. This discovery has already reached many in need, especially in rural and impoverished areas with highly contaminated water supplies.

When asked what being elected to the NAE means to him, Pradeep credited his team's hard work.

"Let me thank them, my institution and my nation for everything that was accomplished. This recognition reaffirms my faith in the interdisciplinary nature of science,” Pradeep said.

They credit their time at Purdue as instrumental to their work, for which they were elected to the NAE.

Tour was inspired by his professors. He said he learned from the best, Ei-ichi Negishi and Herbert C. Brown (both winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2010 and 1979, respectively).

“I was taught to think logically and with an eye to determining the full breadth of a process,” Tour said.

Since Pradeep’s time at Purdue, he has kept the link alive with periodic visits, joint papers, jointly advising PhD students and providing research seminars as recently as Feb. 2 — just a few days before his election to the NAE was announced.

“I built my lab in India, from scratch, with components and consumables from Purdue,” said Pradeep, who was a postdoctoral researcher with Professor R. Graham Cooks. “Purdue made me realize that focused attention is the reason for success. For me, Purdue symbolizes generosity and care."