NM Tech Chemical Engineering Advisory Board

Comments and Actions from the October 15, 1999 Meeting




Recommendations for Consideration


1.              Identify an Ombuds-person to carry student concerns to the Department Head or School Administration.   Head of the student AIChE chapter is one possibility.


2.         Reevaluate at ES 110 & 111 with considerations to provide information used in  subsequent courses, and assure use of computers in all following technical courses.


3.         The Department develop a flow diagram of courses to aid faculty and students in defining programs and identifying potential scheduling problems.


4.         Review the extent of detail required in written reports to make the writing more time efficient, and better focus the student on writing skills rather than technical knowledge.   Comments that limiting reports to 2-5 pages may have merit. (Note:  The Board agrees that the development of communicating skills is essential and felt that many of the comments on this were out of line from the real world)




1.         The Department and the Board develop a plan for possibly setting up an endowment and an operating fund, both externally supported, to add funding to the department. Don Weinkauf will explore the possibilities with the school by mid November and send the results to the Board.  Don Hooper will be the Board support and point of contact for this effort.


2.         Don Weinkauf and Doug Dunston develop a concept for an NSF proposal on teaching innovation in one month, and the proposal by January.   Lincoln Busselle will be the Board contact and support for this effort.


3.         Don Weinkauf with the department and students will develop a brochure of the department with a summary of students available for summer and permanent employment to mail to industries in January. Don will also have the students prepare resumes and have a resume booklet to give to potential and active recruiters.


4.         Individuals of the Board identified areas to serve as advocates and points of contact.  These are listed at the end of the report.





State of the Program


The School, College and Department are to be commended on the accreditation of the chemical engineering curricula.  Obviously the enthusiasm of the staff and students, and the ability to explore new educational concepts were key elements in the approval.   We also feel that the participation of the Advisory Board lent credibility to many of the actions of the Department.




As noted in the last review, University support for the start-up activities of the Department have been excellent, and required.  Also as noted previously, the operating budget with out the start up funds is woefully inadequate to support any viable outreach activities for students and funding, or to even maintain the existing facilities.   The Board acknowledges the limitations of the University and offers its support to obtain increased funding for all the programs at NM Tech.




Discussions were held with students, sans the faculty, for an hour and then informally during lunch.   The Board was most encouraged by the positive outlook of the students.   Comments included:

    "We want to be, and are challenged"

    "Homework is important to learning and the faculty pushes that"

    "Every professor knows my name"

    "I came because of reputation and the low tuition"


Concerns centered around five points:


1.         There appears to be no mechanism, eg ombuds, for the students to identify concerns and receive feedback that such have been addressed.   The end-of-semester reviews are fine but there is no evidence they have any impact or are considered.


2.         Courses ES110 and 111 are taught in part at the high school level with some parts (eg significant figures) repeated in every engineering course.  The words ñprofessional ethicsî are not of value, particularly at this stage of education.  MATLAB may be nice to know but we never have used it or needed it since.  In fact, we just donÍt need to attend these classes since we have had the information in high school and it has no relevance to our interests or future study.   In addition, follow up with computer use in subsequent courses.  Considerations for 110 and 111 might include items such as teaching programming for an understanding on how programs work, including sessions on Word and Excel since they are needed for future work, include an early "design" problem (lack noted by ABET) to stir the studentÍs imaginations and innovation.  Thoughts for consideration included:


Use of the modified INTEL training program for new hires

Switching the order of the two courses

Focus on a "clinic" problem

Identify a community need that could be met through a team effort, such as Habitat for Humanity, proposing a recycling plan for the Univeristy etc

Do a failure analysis of some existing structure, eg highway paving, corroded pipe etc


Such projects would involve all disciplines, introduce the engineers to design concepts and allow hands on work to enthuse the students.


3.         Review the prerequisite requirements, and possibly change many to co-requirsites.   For example the ES110 and 111 are prerequisites for ensuing courses but really have no relevance to the subject matter.  Defining them, and others as prerequisites, often requires an extra year due to scheduling problems.


4.         Scheduling is causing some students to add a year to their schooling due to both the prerequisite requirements, and the understandable annual or biannual scheduling of required courses.   The Board suggests the Department develop a course flow diagram for use by both faculty and students.


5.         Required reports for labs, and for Tech Writing can be time overwhelming.  The need for tech writing capabilities is acknowledged.   However the requirements for extensive papers in lab reports, or developing a complete thesis topic in Tech Writing could be modified by limiting the length and the technical detail required.


Budgets & Funding  


1.         In response to a previous request from the Board, Don Weinkauf reviewed the  department budget.  The Board believes the operating funds are inadequate for an effective operation, essentially limiting any outreach to industry, new students or peer groups that impact the reputation of the University.  The Board also acknowledges the funding limitations on the University as a whole and appreciates the support the University has provided for this new Department.  The Board is willing to work with the University and the Department to enhance the support of the school.


2.         The Board agrees that this is not the time to attempt a graduate program in Chemical Engineering, and recognizes the lack of graduate students limits state funding.   The Board does support Dr. Weinkauf in his proposal that the department staff who teach graduate courses get the state allocation for the time they commit;  that the funding be allocated appropriately between the department of the degree and the department of the faculty.   The fact that the teaching department puts in the hours, provides support and initiative for students to attend NM Tech, and supports the rest of the school justifies the equitable sharing of the funds.


3.         The Board agreed to pursue the concept of possibly initiating an endowment and an operating fund for the department.   Monies would be solicited from alumni, industries and other organizations.




1.         The newness of the department has not allowed time to initiate any outreach programs for approaching future students or possible financial supporters.  However the Board is disappointed in our understanding that the University does not have an active outreach program that could support the individual departments.  This will be a topic for discussion at future meetings.


2.         The Board supports Dr. WeinkaufÍs initiative to use the NM Tech Albuquerque office as one focus for recruiters coming to the state.


The Board


1.              The Board "elected" Dick Traeger to serve as chair and secretary until the next meeting.  


2.              A decision was made to have the next meeting in the February-March time frame with a focus on the students.   Members of the Board will also attempt to participate in the Design Review, scheduled for April 28.


3.         Individuals offered to provide the Board point-of-contact for issues on the table, and to be the external advocates for those issues.  These included:

Student Interactions-Ombuds etc:  Justine Johannes

Innovative Curricula:  Kevin Honnell

                        Developing Funding Mechanisms:  Don Hooper

NSF Innovation Proposal:  Lincoln Busselle

Industry Interaction Program:  Dave Boneau

Overall Curriculum and Sequence:   Jerry Parkinson and Paul Wantuck



Innovation in Curriculum Discussion



1.         Doug Dunston facilitated two sessions in the meeting, in which ideas for curriculum innovation were discussed.  First, a provisional list of skills, abilities, and traits found in outstanding chemical engineers was assembled.  This list included the major headings: flexibility, technical depth, technical breadth, communication, curiosity, initiative, and fantasy.  It was agreed that hands-on experience with complex, real-world problems is essential for engineering students striving to obtain or improve these attributes in themselves.


2.         Second, the Board examined possibilities for changing the NMT Chemical Engineering curriculum with the goal of more consistently producing outstanding chemical engineers.  The ideas discussed included 1) models for in-depth project courses, some of which could be used as early as the freshman year, 2) instilling a culture of good communication skills, and 3) studying failures in industrial systems as a way to encourage curiosity and explore real-world complexity in a controlled, classroom environment.  As an NSF grant to support innovation in engineering curricula has recently been announced, the Board decided to continue its examination of these issues with the intent of submitting a proposal to the NSF in January, 2000.  The proposal will seek support for further study and for the implementation of innovative curriculum changes.  Lincoln Busselle will help Dr. Weinkauf and Dr. Dunston write the proposal.



In Attendance


Don Weinkauf

Doug Dunston

Bob Bretz

Len Truesdell

Eric Chang

Hyun Jeon

Robert Lee



Dave Boneau (Yates)

Lincoln Busselle(Adherent Technologies (now w/ Intel))

Kevin Honnell (LANL)

Don Hooper (Intel)

Justine Johannes (Sandia)

Dick Traeger (Sandia/AIChE)

Jerry Parkinson (LANL)