Chemical Engineering Academia-Industry Alignment: Expectations about New Graduates

In November 2015,¬†an NSF-Sponsored study¬†led by the¬†American Institute of Chemical Engineers entitled, “Chemical Engineering Academia-Industry Alignment: Expectations about New Graduates” was published. ¬†Included in the list of authors were representatives from industry (Praxair, Tesoro, Dow, Dupont, BioPE), academia (NC State, Carnegie Mellon, Kentucky, UCSD, Purdue) and AICHE.

This study sought to answer questions that included, “How should chemical engineering graduates be¬†prepared most effectively for their careers?” ¬†NMSU CHME will use this document as a guide to modifying the BSCHE curriculum to assure graduates of the program are immediately relevant to the industry they will enter.

Key findings and recommendations of this study included the following:

  • The ChE undergraduate core-topic structure (balances,¬†thermodynamics, transport, separations, kinetics, and¬†design) has endured not because it is frozen but because it¬†has adapted dynamically to new ideas, emphases,¬†challenges, and opportunities.
  • Industrial voices asserted that academics should provide¬†still greater technical breadth of topics. At the same time,
    depth is necessary in central, foundational topics.
  • Learning biochemical principles now is generally¬†accepted and desired by industry as a ChE fundamental.¬†It should be woven better into the core structure. ¬†(BIOL 211 will remain in the BSCHE curriculum. ¬†Fermentation will be added as a biological kinetics experiment to CHME 423L.)
  • New emphasis is particularly needed on process safety,¬†applied statistics, process dynamics, and applied process
    control through new teaching materials and effective integration into the curriculum. (CHME 448 has been added to the BSCHE curriculum.)
  • Re-emphasis is needed on actively developing¬†communications skills, especially writing; critical-thinking¬†skills; leadership and team-function skills; open-ended¬†task analysis and problem solving; and time¬†management. Passively expecting such skills to develop¬†is inadequate. (CHME provides many activities across the curriculum as well as in many student-centered organizations that build these skills.)
  • Getting professional experience in co-ops, summer jobs,¬†and international contexts has increased in importance. (This can’t be emphasized enough. CHME will continue to work with Career Services and directly with industry representatives to bring more such opportunities to the program.)

Also of note is the finding, “There is discontinuity between computing skills of new¬†graduates and what is desired by industry. Academia often¬†has the benefit of modern software in use by industry (such¬†as process simulators and statistics) available at low cost,
but faculty often lack the expertise to use it at a level which facilitates effective instruction. Industry often has little interest
in the software that many faculty members do teach well, such as advanced math software. There is a particular need
for training faculty for using process-simulation software for¬†industrially relevant analyses.”

The following was noted about simulation science:

  • Simulation is used heavily in some careers. ¬†‚ÄúThe undergraduate and graduate degree I obtained offered¬†no preparation in simulation. It was optional for students to¬†pick up in their ‚Äėspare time‚Äô and apply to the course work as¬†they saw fit. In summary, nobody used it and we were¬†unprepared for industry where everyone uses some type of¬†simulation software.‚ÄĚ ‚Äď Junior industrial
  • And computers are omnipresent but not omniscient. ¬†‚ÄúMany of the hired engineers were too reliant on computer¬†tools and blindly accepted the output from the tools without¬†thinking critically.‚ÄĚ ‚Äď Senior industrial

NMSU CHME has been ahead of this problem through significant incorporation of Apsen Plus(R) in the BSCHE curriculum.  In particular, students take four 1-credit hour simulation labs in semesters 5-8 and use the simulator in other courses as well.

Read the entire publication below.

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