Chemical Engineering In a Complex World: Grand Challenges, Vast Opportunities

Wednesday, November 10, 2010: 11:15 AM
Grand Ballroom A/C (Salt Palace Convention Center)
Julio M. Ottino, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

The Institute Lecture provides an opportunity to take a long view of chemical engineering both where we have been and what opportunities lie ahead. By the mid-1970 to 1980s ChE had organized itself around an accepted set of principles, largely science-based, with mathematics and analysis providing the foundation. Beginning in the mid 1980s, new areas were incorporated, including materials, biology, and molecular-based elements. This broadening occurred even though ChE departments, when compared with areas such as mechanical engineering or electrical engineering, are typically smaller (at least in the US). Remarkably, often one or two people from ChE have risen to the very top levels of significant areas with relatively small footprints in ChE itself. I will illustrate, using part of my own work as a point of departure, how basic work can expand into new domains, and will present a broad view of ChE in the context of science and engineering. There are now tremendous opportunities for ChE and, in many respects, a current confluence of factors energy, global health, environment, and many others arising from increased connectedness and complexity make ChE more relevant than ever.

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