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U.S. military official visits Purdue, encourages students to help defend the country

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Lt. Gen. Patrick J. O'Reilly (U.S. Army), director of the Missile Defense Agency

The director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (M.D.A.) is looking to Purdue researchers to help solve problems the nation is facing.

Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly (U.S. Army) believes work underway at the university can help protect the country and its allies from a ballistic missile attack.

“What we’ve already seen and benefited from here at Purdue is research in battle management, which is basically using computers and software to understand and operate complex missile defense systems, and in propulsion of missiles and rocketry.”

O’Reilly met with students before giving the William E. Boeing Distinguished Lecture for the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He told the group of future engineers about the Agency’s goal of developing transformational technology that will have a long-term, major impact on the military.

“In the old days, the discussion was: Could you hit a missile with a missile going 15,000 miles per hour? We’ve shown, in the last ten years, we’ve done this over 50 times," he said. "So, now we’re moving it to the next stage, and making challenges even harder for ourselves, so we can stay ahead of any threats to our country, our allies, or any of our forward deployed forces.”

O’Reilly said, in some cases, universities take on these challenges the private sector cannot afford.

Dr. Daniel DeLaurentis, associate professor in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, is one Purdue researcher working with the M.D.A. He thinks the visit from Lt. Gen. O’Reilly serves two purposes.

“First, the General was able to review first-hand the research being done at Purdue for his Agency and see the variety of additional Purdue capabilities that could tackle the many challenging problems in missile defense," he said. "Second, General O’Reilly conveyed to our students a vision for great career opportunities available in missile defense and a stressing of the fact that there is “no shortage of challenging problems” in this area.”

For his part, O’Reilly said the Agency’s focus is to develop a relationship with Purdue, not just the faculty under contract. He feels enthusiastic about the research facilities on campus and the students’ desire to take on complex challenges, specifically in the area of engineering.