What’s Next, IU?

Two men wearing safety glasses work in a lab.
James Mendez (left), IUPUC chemistry professor and Fulbright Scholar, with Chris Nigarura, BS’18 (Photo courtesy Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus)

IU’s first 200 years saw a cure for testicular cancer, nine Nobel Prize winners, hundreds of Fulbright Scholars, and countless other monumental expressions of creativity, ingenuity, and innovation. But we’re not resting on our laurels.

See what big ideas and questions IU faculty, researchers, and students are ready to tackle in IU’s third century.

Are mushrooms the new plastic?

IUPUC chemistry professor and Fulbright Scholar James Mendez is investigating chitin—a naturally occurring plastic in shellfish, mushrooms, and insects—and fabricating it into various applications, like super-healing wound dressings. Lately, he’s been exploring how chitin might make 3D printing more sustainable.

How can we fight the ravages of addiction?

IU alumnus David H. Naus, BA’77, made a $1.5 million gift to establish an endowed chair for a researcher specializing in the field of substance use disorders and addiction—contributing to IU’s already substantial investment in the Grand Challenge initiative Responding to the Addictions Crisis.

Is fingerprint analysis flawed?

IU professor Tom Busey’s lab analyzes fingerprint analysis. Their ultimate goal is to contribute to computer algorithms that could take the potential for human error out of the equation.

Are prerequisites pointless?

Terri L. Renner, senior lecturer in the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, is using big data to determine what predicts student success. (An early finding? Success in prerequisite courses isn’t a great indicator.)

What is that mysterious material that makes up our universe?

IU South Bend professor Ilan Levine leads a team dedicated to detecting dark matter particles, the most abundant and mysterious material in our universe, which is estimated to make up about 85 percent of the mass in the universe.

Can we cure triple negative breast cancer?

This is just one of the life-saving goals being pursued by IU’s multidisciplinary Precision Health Initiative team as part of IU’s Grand Challenges program. The team is also pioneering treatments for Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Could mother nature inspire a safer football helmet?

In a study sponsored by the Sports Innovation Institute at IUPUI, students Jacob DeHart and Joel Najmon explored how biological elements—like the thick peel of a pomelo—might inform the design of safer, stronger helmets.

Can the arts save rural communities?

IU alumnus Matt Ehlman, MPA’06, PhD’18, researches how “creative placemaking” (implementing arts and culture initiatives) can be used to address economic downturns in communities where the technology industry is outpacing and replacing manufacturing jobs.

Can we save the planet by controlling the weather?

IU professor Ben Kravitz is exploring the theoretical science of geoengineering to help slow climate change. He uses computer models to see, for example, how putting sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere might help reflect sunlight back into space.

Written By
Andrea Alumbaugh
A native Hoosier, Andrea Alumbaugh is a graduate of IU (BAJ’08) and a senior writer at the IU Foundation.