NMTech  Chemical Engineering Advisory Board

Meeting Report Ü October 27, 2000

 

 

 

The New Mexico Tech Chemical Engineering Advisory Board was formed in 1998. Members of the Board represent the broad spectrum of industry within the State of New Mexico.  Each fall, the Board convenes on the New Mexico Tech campus for a full day review of the program.  Through sessions with administration, faculty/staff and students, the Board develops an assessment and a plan for improvement as demonstrated in this report.

 

The following summary of results from the Advisory Board review is provided for consideration by NM Tech administration and by the Department of Chemical Engineering. The purpose of the review was to identify Department strengths and weaknesses as viewed by industry potentially impacted by the university.  The Board acknowledges that the short time of the review allowed only a glimpse of the many department activities and some of the comments may be incomplete.

 

The following report prepared by Justine Johannes contains a summary of the Fall 2000 Advisory Board meeting chaired by Don Hooper. The BoardÍs Observations, Recommendations, and Actions are followed by a summary of the discussions and an appendix.

 

 

 

Observations

 

Administration

            Participation by Dr. Gerity (VP Academic Affairs) in discussions, and Dr. Gerity and Dr. Lopez (NMTech President) at lunch showed true interest in support of the department and was truly appreciated by the Board.  The Board believes the administration will improve administrative procedures to allow the engineering college, and specifically the chemical engineering department to enhance their educational process and provide improved interfaces with industry.  Increasing the effectiveness of the Placement Office, currently in process, is important and was noted as a concern in past reviews. 

            Recognizing the limited resources of the university, and the past support of the department through start-up funding, the Board encourages the administration to enhance the discretionary operating budget of the Department.  The lack of funding and uncertainty of obtaining support limit normal department operations such as interactions with industry and high schools, attending local professional meetings, and supporting office needs such as telephone and xerox.

 


Department of Chemical Engineering

            The enthusiasm and dedication of Dr. Weinkauf has developed a viable chemical engineering program in a few years.   The support of the University through start-up funds was essential for the program.  Interactions in courses and teaching throughout the school are positive solutions for some staffing needs, and the Board encourages continued interactions between departments.  The Board does have concerns that the Department is understaffed and Dr. Weinkauf, the ñglueî, will burn himself out.  At least one more chemical engineering full time faculty member is needed to effectively continue the program.

            All the students praised the faculty for always being available, interested in each individual, and willing to help resolve problems.  The fact that all faculty had industrial experience as highlighted by all students.  Active support in obtaining summer jobs or other internships by Dr. Weinkauf was praised by the students.  Discussions with the faculty verified the dedication to the students.  However addition of another faculty member will be essential to maintaining a needed research base.

            The Board enthusiastically supports the interactions with non-engineering faculty, such as Doug Dunston to provide needed innovations involving the human side of engineering.  ñOut-of-the-boxî thinking by Dr. Weinkauf and the faculty must be continued recognizing there will be some failures along the way.

            The DepartmentÍs new web site focused on potential students is innovative and exciting.

 

Students

            The students were verbal, outspoken, enthusiastic and positive Ü a noted improvement over past year interactions.  As mentioned above, the students only had praise for the professors.  Student involvement in faculty reviews, developing department policies, web sites etc were all considered to be important, and obviously led to student loyalty.  Students praised the support for internships which is supported by the Board.

            Student major concerns were the lack of any insights into engineering, specifically chemical engineering until the junior year; too late in their education to be of value.  The students repeated their request of last year for continued improvement of ES110 and ES111,  They felt the focus was on high school knowledge (eg significant figures) and several said they just didnÍt go to class.  However the students we spoke with had not encountered the changes initiated this year and the Board cedes judgement on this concern to Dr. Weinkauf.

            Students also had concerns with the Junior Design course where they were thrown into a group to solve a problem, and left to organize and solve the problem by themselves.  The Board suggests that some preparation in personal interactions, and in structural problem solving may be of benefit prior to assignment of the lesson.  The students also had concerns about the extent and relevance of the laboratory experiments to their other course work.  The Board encourages the Department to continue current efforts to add more experiments tied to the course work.

 

Facilities

            Establishment of the multipurpose laboratory in MSEC is an important improvement to the DepartmentÍs infrastructure.  Additional office space is needed for one of the professors, and another needed for new staff.  A concept of providing a large building with facilities for free standing equipment and flexible usage by Mechanical and Chemical Engineering is supported by the Board.

            Although safety practices have been established in some areas, the Board identified a number of safety concerns in the labs.  More important is a need for the students to automatically use safe practices even if the work appears benign.  Safety needs to be a part of every laboratory experience.


 

           

Recommendations

 

1.     Provide an introduction to chemical engineering in the freshman year, possibly  as an alternative to ES 110 relieving  ChE 326 of that function.            

2.     Consider additional programming languages besides MatLab (C++, Fortran, Visual Basic, etc.). For commercial software use industrial standards when possible (ex. ASPEN instead of SimSci).

3.     Integrate computer programming into upper level class assignments.

4.     SAFETY needs be integrated into work approach. Students need more formal training in safety and its value!

5.     Recreate ES 110 to include basic engineering, and  ñsandboxî skills (teaming, social styles, etc).

6.     Hire additional permanent Chem. Eng. faculty. New faculty needs to have DonÍs passion for the department to help in out-reach to perspective students, working ñissuesî through administration, curriculum development, etc.

7.     Increase TA support. Administration needs to develop formula for distributing TA funding. (Other possibilities include work study students, MST folks, etc.)

8.     Placement office should benchmark against placement offices at other Universities. Advisory Board can offer recommendations based on recruiting experiences at a broad range of placement offices and what works.

9.     Chem. Engineering should be given high priority in facilities planning because of a need for more lab and faculty space.

10.  Investigate alternate teaching opportunities (internet, joint with other Universities and businesses).

11.  Board members support the students in obtaining interactions with chemical engineers in industry.

 

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Recommended Actions

 

1.     Find a champion to revamp ES 110. Owner Pete Gerity/Don Weinkauf

2.     Develop staffing plan, due by 01/01. Owner Pete Gerity

3.     Advisory Board should contact Melanie Torres in the placement office to share lessons learned from recruiterÍs perspective. Owner Don Hooper.

4.     Safety

      Perform a safety audit of all chemical engineering facilities and procedures

      Investigate transferring safety training from Intel to NMTech. Owner Don Weinkauf will find owner/Lincoln Busselle.

5.     Pursue formula driven TA funding plan. Don will make it an agenda at the next Council of Chairs. Owners Pete Gerity/Don Weinkauf.

6.     Inform Advisory Board of legislative efforts to rally support. Distribute membership information of Advisory board to Debbie in Administration. Owner Pete Gerity/Don Weinkauf

7.     Evaluate different possibilities for getting ASPEN into classroom. Check into possibility of sharing with other departments in the university or sharing with industrial partners. Owner: Bob Bretz/Barbara Savage.

8.     Continued course innovations are encouraged, including drawing on non-engineering resources such as Doug Dunston.  Owner: Don Weinkauf

9.     Develop a course road map for undergraduate students including coop options.  Owner: Don Weinkauf and faculty with student input.

10.  Advisory Board members actively support the student interactions with industry.  Owner:  All Board members


 

 

 

 

Discussion

 

 

Observations, recommendations and suggested actions are based on conversations between the Advisory Board and Dr. Gerity (VP Academic Affairs), Dr. Don Weinkauf (Department Chairman), the Chemical Engineering Faculty and Chemical Engineering students ranging from sophomores to seniors.

 

Administration

            Dr. Gerity spent several hours with the Board and actively participated in the discussions.   His approaches to streamlining the Administrative processes and allocation of resources would provide needed benefits to the Department.  He said the Tech focus on science, engineering and research would not be diluted and their student population (about 1600) was stable.  He noted the Tech #20 ranking of public colleges for best quality and value, and the #2 ranking in small colleges has increased the Tech reputation nationally.  He mentioned the problem of getting and retaining faculty with the current salary structure, and also commented on the upcoming 3 year ABET review of chemical and mechanical engineering.  Dr. Gerity mentioned the cooperation between faculty for teaching and recognized the need for alternative methods of providing courses.   His background in distance learning will benefit the school.

            Dr. Gerity and Dr. Lopez joined the students, faculty and Board for lunch.  Their interest and participation were greatly appreciated by the Board.

 

Department

            The Department continues to draw top students (ACT average 26.5) and has a freshman enrollment of 25.  Concerns expressed include the need for a proactive placement office (currently being revampted under Melanie Torres),  an additional faculty member replacing Dave Schechter, making Eric Chang an official faculty member, TA support, and p office and laboratory space.  A proposed large Mechanical-Chemical laboratory facility with non-fixed experiments would provide needed lab space.

            The new Department web site developed by Dr. Weinkauf and the students provides a novel approach for attracting new students.  The site includes a questionaire aimed at illustrating the breadth of chemical engineering, and provides a mechanism for continued interactions with potential students.

            Dr. Jeon, the other full time chemical engineering faculty member, is currently teaching one course while developing a research program.   He and other faculty members felt that a two course per semester load was reasonable.

            Funding department operations continues to be a concern of the Board.  Recognizing financial limitations of the university, the Board suggest increasing operating money allocations to cover phones, xeroxing etc, and to give the department head flexibility in recruiting, local travel, and industry interactions.  Existing mechanisms to obtain travel money, for example, are cumbersome and not cost effective.

            Sharing of teaching across department lines adds to the studentÍs education and is faculty effective.  The involvement of Doug Dunston with a social skills background is a significant asset to the curriculum development and strongly supported by the Board.

 

Students

            The students were cheerleaders for the school and the professors.  Most had gotten summer internships through the help of the faculty.  Industrial experience of the faculty was a major benefit. Students have input into  the curricula, into selection of a new professor.  The students noted the need for another professor.

            Of major concern was the job placement office which they felt added no value to their industry interactions.  Career Fairs have limited industry participation (understandable) and some students participate in the Fair at NM State.

            The students asked for help aligning several courses:

      ES110 Ü significant figures, unit conversions and other highschool level work; ethics too soon to be of value; quit going to class; can insights into chemical engineering be introduced ?; use speakers from industry ?; EE has their own course, why not chem e ?

      ES111 Ü the course has improved with limited introduction to engineering problems; question the focus on MatLab and suggest adding an alternate language such as fortran or C++. (Note:  Students at our discussion had not been exposed to the course taught by Weinkauf this year)

      ChE 326 Ü Soph/Junior year and first exposure to the life of a chemical engineer; algebra the only math need so move up in time to second semester freshman year.

      Lab on the Hill Ü only a few experiments and need more (note: the department has other experiments being readied for the lab); better correlation with the course; assumed knowledge of Fortran but no previous exposure.

      Junior and Senior Courses Ü need continued programming efforts and exposure to other languages.

      Junior Design Ü Thrown into the soup and told to swim (Board felt it was the real world);  since most of the work done out of class, coordination was key but non-existent;  break into smaller pieces would involve more students;  was a good experience. (Note: Weinkauf is aware of all the issues and actively improving this course with the help of Doug Dunston.  The Board supports this initiative and encourages continued improvement of the current course.)

      Advanced Courses Ü many are listed but few are offered; students understand the problems but would like alternatives; suggestions include distance learning and sharing with other universities.

      Develop a roadmap for course sequences, particularly for coop students.

Students asked for more exposure to engineers from industry.  Field trips were considered most valuable.  Students in the Chem E Club participate in national and regional AIChE meetings but need funding to support registration and travel.  Board members should be able to help meet these needs.

 

Faculty

            An additional faculty member, stability of dual teaching responsibilities (eg Chang teaching in ChemE and Computer Sci but does not have a formal faculty position), and TA support were identified needs.  Development of a ñformulaî for TA allocation was suggested, and is supported by the Board. The willingness and ability for departments to share professors and facilities is to be commended.  Administrative changes to accommodate and reward such sharing may be valuable for future staff recruiting.

 

Facilities

            The university with its limited resources has been most supportive of the department through start-up funding and making facilities available.  The addition of the new data processing lab in MSEC is an example of that support.  Innovative use of labs, such as the multi use of this data processing lab is encouraged by the Board.

            Safety needs to be reviewed and safety practices improved.  Safety not only includes the chemical and pressure concerns, but also electrical and other physical hazards.  Several potentially unsafe operations and equipment was noted by the Board. Students must acquire an inherent safety attitude for industrial jobs.  The Board recommends a safety audit of all chemical engineering facilities by an independent university group, and required adherence to safety practices (safety glasses or goggles, electrical grounding, hard hats, appropriate warning signs etc by the students and the faculty.

 

 

 

 


 

 

Appendix

 

Agenda for Board Meeting on 10/27/00

            9:00                 Preliminary Interactions

            9:10                 Dr Gerity, VP Academic Affairs Ü NM Tech and Engineering

            9:30                 Don Weinkauf Ü Status of chemical engineering at Tech

            10:00               Last Year Actions reviewed by Weinkauf and the Board

                                                (Note: this item was eliminated to maintain schedules)

            10:30               Faculty Discussions

            11:00               Student Discussions

            Lunch              Informal discussions with students, faculty and administration

Tour of new data acquisition laboratory

            1:00                 Don Weinkauf Ü needs and concerns of Chemical Engineering

            2:00                 Closed Session of the Board to identify needs and actions

            3:00                 Close out discussions with Dr. Gerity and Dr. Weinkauf

            3:30                 Define next steps for the Board

            4:00                 End of the review

 

Board Attendance

 

                        Dave Boneau                           Yates Petroleum

                        Lincoln Busselle                      INTEL

                        Don Hooper                            INTEL

                        Justine Johannes                     Sandia National Laboratory

                        Barbara Savage                        Phelps Dodge

                        Dick Traeger                           Retired/Sandia National Laboratory


Status of Last Year Actions

(Note: These were not addressed due to the lack of time)

 

   Develop a plan for setting up an endowment.  Initial checks by Don Hooper raised legal concerns at INTEL.  (Status:  This should be followed up with Dr. Gerity.)

 

   Weinkauf, Dunston develop an NSF proposal supported by Busselle. Preliminary proposal was developed and discussed with NSF program managers.  NSF input suggested the proposed approach would not fit in any of their active programs.  (Status:  The proposal was dropped.)

 

   Weinkauf with the students will develop a brochure including students available for employment to be mailed in January.  Don will also have the students prepare resumes and have a resume booklet available for recruiters.  The students had no problems getting employment and the focus of this task was shifted to the  departmentÍs home page oriented toward potential students (Status:  Accomplished Spring 2000).

 

   Individuals of the Board identified areas where they would be advocates and points of contact.

Student Interactions Ü Justine Johannes

Innovative Curricula Ü Kevin Honnell

Developing Funding Mechanisms Ü Don Hooper

NSF Innovation Proposal Ü Lincoln Busselle

Industry Interaction Program Ü Dave Boneau

Overall Curriculum and Sequence Ü Jerry Parkinson and Paul Wantuck