Fall 2003 Chemical Engineering Advisory Board

Notes from Meeting November, 7 2003

 

 

The Advisory Board met at the request of Dr. Weinkauf to critique the department plans for their continued self-assessment, and to comment on the health of the Department.  The review included interactions with students and faculty.

 

Summary

 

NM Tech is an exciting, unique university that supports its departments, allows flexibility in educational programs, encourages departmental interactions, and minimizes bureaucratic procedures.  The administration has been most supportive of the growing Chemical Engineering program by providing funds, space, and interactions.  The Department is viable, bursting at the seams, producing excellent graduates, and still obtaining external research grants. The Department understands the ABET requirements provide a structure to improve the educational environment, and so is aggressively pursuing processes to become a better department.

 

The Administration and the Department must make decisions whether to continue to grow research and students, or stay at the current levels.  Current programs are limited, and future growth prohibited by the lack of space. Faculty is not at a critical size (generally considered 6-7 faculty) but faculty cannot be added because of space and resource constraints.  Current faculty has large teaching loads and the potential for individual burnout was evident. Research is limited because of the lack of lab space.  The students feel disenfranchised because they have no resources to jointly meet, tutor each other, and feel a part of the university.  A student quote: ñWe have a community but no homeî.

 

Taking some modest actions can preserve the results of years of effort to move the program to excellence, but there is a need for immediacy.

 

Suggested Actions:

 

Administration

Work with the department to develop a realistic future plan and make a decision on the future of the department, e.g. status quo as is, status quo with accommodation for existing programs, or continued slow growth in students and research.  Since space is the current limiting factor in any plans, a review of space needs and use across the campus may be appropriate.  Continue improvement of information on scholarships and careers to be of greater benefit to the students.

 

Department Head

Continue on the enthusiastic support of the university, the students and faculty that has been shown to date.  Maintain pressure to follow and upgrade the Department goals and objectives along with the assessment processes.  Consider the addition of industrial and academic employers to your constituents.

 

Students

Identify areas of need (i.e. plant trips, speakers) that are of benefit to your education and solicit help from faculty and the Advisory Board.

 

Advisory Board

Review the summary report provided by Dr. Weinkauf at this meeting, and the Educational Objectives Report found on their web site.  Send comments to Don W. and retain for discussion at our next meeting.

 

Observations

 

Department Self Assessment:

Effective reviews of the program are being done through the FE Exam results, queries to graduates, success in graduate school, and use of this Advisory Board. Solicitation of comments from graduate studentsÍ employers and major professors may be of benefit.

 

Students:

The students remain enthused and dedicated to the school.  Faculty and financial support are generally available to meet their needs. Pluses included:

      Education is well rounded in providing the fundamentals

      Internships are usually available and valuable for financial support and more importantly for the learning process

      Hands on experiments are of value, such as the polymer synthesis in kinetics class

      Great faculty

Suggested improvements included:

      Need to have a ñhomeî, a place to study, tutor, and develop strong interactions among the students

      University services of scholarship listings and career services have improved but are still not effective

      Course ES110 does not fit a need (noted as ña slap in the faceî) and should be changed to meet the needs of chemical engineering, similar to that by EE

      Need to see and talk to the ChE professors as freshmen and not wait until the second semester, sophomore year. Students could/should develop a strong early identity as chemical engineers with the good fortune to be in a great department

      Involve all faculty in student advising to provide early interaction of the students and faculty

      Provide options for education in newer and diverse technologies, i.e. bio, electronic, environment, explosives etc

      Early interaction with industry, e.g. field trips, speakers, internships

      Continuing highlighting of ethics awareness through all courses

 

Faculty:

The faculty is truly dedicated toward teaching the undergraduate students and still solicits research funding.  Current research grant level of $300,00-$400,00 supports 11 undergraduate students and many undergraduate expenses as well as allows the professor to maintain technical competence.  Last yearÍs publication of 10 professional papers is strong evidence of the viability of the research. Positive input included:

      Weinkauf interest, involvement and support

      AdministrationÍs support of new faculty

      Flexibility of university policies and procedures

Problems mentioned included:

      Lack of lab space for research, for experiments by students, and for new funded research

      Need for another faculty, but no office or lab space is available for an addition

 

Department Operations, Dr. Weinkauf

The University and Dr. Weinkauf have done an amazing job in building an aggressive, vibrant undergraduate chemical engineering program.  Involving Doug Dunston, a music prof, in developing the softer areas of the engineering curriculum has been most successful.  Joint teaching and interactions with other departments provides the breadth and interest that not only conserves resources, but also adds to the learning experience.  Morale of faculty and students remains high, and student-faculty interactions are excellent.  Budgets are ample to maintain the existing programs.  TA support from the Administration is being used effectively and is needed.

 

The NM Tech, Chemical Engineering Department is currently the best undergraduate program of universities in New Mexico. Department objectives and goals are well defined and processes are actively pursued to do the self-assessments and needed follow-ups.  Results of future ABET reviews should be positive and supportive.

 

A decision needs to be made by the Administration in combination with the Department on the future of the department.  Extreme options are to hold the course or to grow to accommodate existing programs and additional students.  The current staff is over extended, getting somewhat frustrated, and will probably leave if things remain status quo.  Another professor is justified but there is no facility to locate a staff addition.  Solicitation of research funds is limited by the lack of available lab and office space.  The students feel a bit disenfranchised due to the lack of a ñhomeî.

 

Administration:

Unfortunately time did not allow the usual interaction with Dr. Gerity for getting a sense of the University directions, needs, and thoughts on this Department.  This Board is in no position to evaluate Administration policies or recommend Administration actions.  Recognizing our limited perspective, we offer some thoughts for consideration.

      Review space allocation based on student and faculty use to identify any inequities and consider needed changes

      Provide a mechanism for profs teaching courses in other departments or serving as major professors on graduate programs to receive part of the financial credit for their efforts

      Continue to encourage inter-departmental teaching and research, and use of facilities

 

Meeting Attendance

            Board             

Lincoln Busselle, INTEL

                        Dave Boneau   , Yates Petroleum

                        Dr. Glen Kuswa, Sandia National Laboratories

                        Dr. Dick Traeger, Sandia National Laboratories (Retired)

            Faculty           

Dr. Don Weinkauf

                        Dr. Junhang Dong

                        Dr. Doug Dunston