Tuesday afternoon at the Purdue University Northwest Westville Campus, students, high school officials and the public had the opportunity to see the latest renovations, state of the art technology, and changes on campus. Department heads and professors were eager to explain the changes to those arriving.
“What we have done across several of the colleges this summer is invest in renovation and improvements in our laboratories primarily. In the College of Nursing we made improvements in our simulation area,” said Dean Lisa Hopp of the PNW College of Nursing.
This simulation area is a space for the nursing students to practice on dummies that blink, breathe and are generally lifelike. Students participating in these simulations deal with the patient as though the dummy were a real person, so the nursing students can hone their skills before experiencing the real thing.
“It’s a very safe place for them to learn without worrying about impacting a real patient. It’s really, really powerful,” said Dean Hopp.
The staff at Purdue Northwest go to great lengths to make the experience as realistic as possible, with instructors going into a control room behind one-way glass and talking as if they are the patients as the nursing students learn to deal with each scenario. Other improvements include large screens to present material to multiple groups, equipment over the hospital beds to make the space look more modern and realistic, as well as a debriefing room where students’ simulation experiences can be critiqued.
Meanwhile, downstairs from the College of Nursing, Dean of the College of Engineering and Sciences Kenneth Holford was enthusiastic about the changes within his own college and what they meant for the students.
“One of the things I’m very proud about is the investments that PNW is making. In particular, many of our science labs and engineering labs have gotten great technology upgrades. We’ve certainly added a whole new level to the capabilities of the students. The idea is to put the students in front of modern, cutting edge equipment and always have them in mind,” said Dean Holford of the changes on campus.
PNW academic leaders also spoke of new opportunities for students from both the Westville and Hammond campuses. George Nnanna, chair of the Mechanical and Civil Engineering Department, talked about a competition sponsored by NASA which students at the Westville and Hammond campuses will be joining in, along with more than 40 other schools in Huntsville, AL. The competition will allow students to build their own Human Exploration Rover which will require them to simulate the conditions a rover would face on Mars and how to overcome those obstacles. The rover may never go to Mars, but it will have to endure those same challenges here on Earth to match up with the other rovers. Students from Purdue Northwest campuses have been participating in the competition for many years, and won first place in their division in 2016.
“It’s a great opportunity for them,” said Nnanna, “and the equipment here is practically brand new and helps us to support the mechanical engineering experimentation.” He stressed the optimization of space and the new, state of the art equipment including a compressible flow device for use in fluid dynamics.
Electrical Engineering students would also see many improvements including 20 new computers and almost $75,000 worth of new equipment for them to use in labs as well as new high definition projectors for better accuracy during demonstrations.
“It’s all state of the art equipment, we’ve had some people come in and they said that’s better equipment than I have at work!” said David Kozel, chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.
A common thread in discussions with faculty members was the emphasis on maintaining an equality between the experiences of students on both campuses and giving them access to the same equipment wherever possible.
“Hands on is a key aspect of our programs,” said Academic Advisor Jonathon Dackow of the Engineering Technology Department, which has its own 3D printers and machining tools.
In Schwarz Hall, the Biology Department saw its own improvements in equipment and showed off their tools such as a fluorescent microscope that can highlight different aspects of what the student is trying to magnify and allow the student to isolate them. One of the PNW chemists doing cancer research also uses this tool to look at different markers within cancer cells.
Lindsay Gielda, assistant professor at PNW, referenced other experiments that graduate and undergraduate students were working on, including using alligator serum in experiments to test its resistance to various pathogens and using fungal secretions as antimicrobials, important in fighting antibiotic resistant bacteria. Other improvements included a chromatogram and a sonicator which, among other things, can split cells in half.
“We’ve had a serious investment in technology in recent years,” said Gielda of all of the new technology and investments in the laboratory.
The workstation of resident paleontologist Michelle Spaulding featured a 3D model using a CT scanner of a fossil skull. In this instance, it was the last common ancestor of cats and dogs before their lineages diverged on separate evolutionary paths. Spaulding uses her 3D model to show the vacant cavity in the skull where the brain, long since decomposed, would have been, allowing her to compare the size and shape with the specimen’s evolutionary descendants.
“The big question my research is getting at is, did these two lineages independently become smart? Is it convergent evolution or is it something that happened at the base of the order?” said Spaulding of her research.
With all of the improvements brought to the campus, students are sure to have a well-rounded and superior experience at Purdue Northwest, whether at the Hammond or Westville campus.
To learn more about Purdue University Northwest, please visit https://www.pnw.edu/