- 3:15 PM

The Next Century of Process Principles...or Let's Just Settle for the Next Ten Years

Richard M. Felder, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7905

In the past century, American chemical engineering students could pretty much map out their careers while still in college and be fairly accurate, at least for the next decade or two. They would graduate, go into the chemical or petroleum industry and be process or project or production or sales engineers, OR, go to graduate school and then take a research position in a chemical or oil company or join a faculty. If they were in industry, they would either continue doing what they did in their first position or move into management, and if they were on a faculty they would prepare other people to do the same things previous generations of chemical engineering students were taught to do and ended up doing.

That was a different world from the one we're inhabiting now. Chemical engineering graduates still go to work for chemical and oil companies but they're doing fewer traditional engineering tasks, many of which have now either moved offshore or been taken over by computers. Moreover, the graduates don't go into those two industries in nearly the numbers they used to--they're also going into biotechnology, biomedicine, nanotechnology, infotechnology, environmental engineering, medicine, and law, among other fields. Making things even more complex, the chances are that our graduates will change jobs fairly often in their careers, forcing them to continue acquiring new knowledge and skills—and even if they stay in the same place, the rapidly evolving capabilities of technology and shifting demands of the marketplace will force them to keep learning and growing. The traditional chemical engineering curriculum is poorly equipped to prepare our students for any of those things.

The stoichiometry course sets the tone for the chemical engineering curriculum and is the one course that most practicing chemical engineers say they continue to refer back to. This talk will address the following questions:

1. How can the stoichiometry course begin to equip students with the skills they will need to get and keep jobs in the coming decade? What changes in the current course content are required? What about the way the course is taught?

2. How should the stoichiometry course text evolve to keep pace with whatever changes are needed in the course?

3. What role should instructional technology play in all this? Can textbooks be replaced by software? Should they be?