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Improving Schools for Young Engineers

Believe it or not, the chemical engineering education and other types of engineering education degree must be change or revolutionize. This is pretty much simple - due to Globalization!

While technological and social progress depends on the efforts of many different individuals from many professions, chemical engineers are usually at the center of such progress. Chemical engineers create the structures, basis, technologies, process and products that revolutionize the way people do things and improve the way people live.
Since the nature of what chemical engineers do continues to progress just as quickly as the technologies they develop, the way in which educators teach potential chemical engineers must continue to progress as well. Even though most chemical engineers laboured for five to seven years getting their degrees, many are finding it helpful to attend top online schools in the middle of their careers to supplement their education with new information (An example is the SPACE program offered by the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) to those who are in the middle of their career). Further, various parties hold that the current methodologies and approaches of engineering education need to be updated. It makes no sense to prepare engineers to solve the problems of the 21st century by teaching them the same things they were taught in the 20th century.

Long distance learning is now popular to get a degree.
One of the principal continuing developments for which engineering students must prepare for is globalization. Due largely to the efforts of chemical engineers themselves, the world is becoming increasingly connected, both through communications and transportation. Internet access continues to broaden and the functionality of Internet-based technologies continues to deepen. Extensive transportation networks, cheaper and more efficient public transportation, and increasingly efficient transportation technologies continue to bring people together and make markets more interconnected than ever. For this reason, chemical engineers must be prepared to compete on a global scale. They must be able to vie for employment wherever it exists, especially in the more rapidly developing economies, and they must be able to help employers apply engineering solutions on a global scale.

Some of the impediments to progress in the field of chemical engineering education lie in academia’s inability to apply the very interconnectedness that it is trying to instill in its students. Affected by feelings of unnecessary competition and jealousy, educators do not collaborate to the degree that modern communications technologies have already made possible. To fulfill their mandate, educators must tear down these synthetic walls and be an example of that which they intend to instill in students. Engineering professors, researchers, and teachers must learn to work together in concerted efforts within their respective institutions as well as across institutional and international boundaries. This necessity is particularly evident in the fact that, as technologies continue to improve, a higher degree of specialization will necessarily arise, and such specialization always requires collaboration. A good example has been shown by a professor who lecture Matlab software and uploaded his lecture in youtube. Here is the link. As a result, not only his student can learn but others can learn as well. Yep, that include myself who is presently working hard to understand some parts of Matlab to solve my nonlinear simultaneous equation.

The fact of increasing globalization and the growing prominence of new economic powers has important implications not only to how engineers must learn, but also what they must learn. Currently, the lingua franca for business and academia across the world is English. For this reason, chemical engineers in English-speaking countries rarely see the need to learn other languages, and engineers in other countries frequently go to great pains to learn English.

However, according to one British Council report, the prominence of English as the global language is actually waning. Mandarin Chinese will remain the most widely spoken language in the world for the foreseeable future, and as China becomes wealthier and more educated, its sphere of international influence will expand. English, on the other hand, will most likely be soon overtaken by Spanish. To compete in the job market and contribute to society in the most efficient ways, engineers must learn languages other than English. For this reason, chemical engineering programs must advocate and require language education as part of the core curriculum.

The field of chemical engineering is undergoing significant change, and it will continue to do so. Rather than standing as inhibitors to change, educational institutions must become the bellwethers of a new age. Only by recognizing the merits and the necessity of globalization and increased connectivity can engineering programs provide their students with the tools necessary to do that which they intended to do by deciding to study engineering.

1st image credited to chemical-engineers.regionaldirectory.us.
2nd image credited to http://www.isaeur.org/oldn03.html.
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posted by zaki yamani @ 4:04 AM, , links to this post

I'm a Newcastle University Student for 2 Months

I'm still doing my Ph.D in Chemical Engineering and I'm in my final year. My university allows its staff who is doing Ph.D locally to engage in a research attachment anywhere in the world for a period of 3 months/year or a combination of 9 months per 3 year. Hence, I took the opportunity to go for this research attachment. However, I only took 2 months out of the maximum 9 months allocated. That's fine. 

After discussion with my supervisor, I decided to perform the research attachment in Newcastle University, United Kingdom, under a newly promoted professor whom is Dr. Adam Harvey and another lecturer, Dr. Job Lee. Prof. Adam Harvey is professor in the field of process intensification. I'm going to work on my thermodynamic modelling of my reaction for this 2 months duration. Yes, for this 2 months, 2 supervisors will be monitoring my progress.

My tenure as a Newcastle University occasional student is effective from 1st of May until 30th June 2012. I registered on my first week in the UK and met my supervisors on the first Friday of May. I was allocated a desk in the Research Associate room C124 in the first floor of Merz Court, the building hosting the School of Chemical Engineering and Advance Material. A PC was placed at work place complete with the latest Aspen and Matlab software for me to perform my thermodynamic modelling research.

17 days has passed and I have managed to get my Gibbs free energy datas via Aspen software. Now, I'm working on the Matlab to solve 15 of my non-linear simultaneous equations which have 15 unknowns. Since I don't have any Matlab background, it is quite tough. I need to learn the basic of Matlab and learn the software by hard. I appreciate anybody who help me with Matlab who knows how to incorporate "Ln" in the non-linear simultaneous equation matrix.

To make things clear and in perspective, my mission to come to the UK for two months is to produce 2 technical papers. One is related to the thermodynamic modelling while the second paper is related to the catalytic conversion of glycerol to hydrogen. It ain't easy. It's a difficult and tough tasks for me. Anybody who writes a technical papers know how hard and how long it is to write a technical paper. Well, that is basically what my supervisor have asked me to do in the UK.

Besides that, I'm going to take the opportunity to learn various reactors available in the Chemical Engineering and Advanced Material school as well as other crucial and imperative equipments. I'm also going to get as many contacts and attempt for any future research collaboration with researchers here. Well, let's just see how it goes.

I hope I can accomplish my goals in this 2 months smoothly. Then, I'll continue with my research work and try my best to submit my thesis by September this year. Again, let's see how it goes. Wish me the best of luck ok... :)


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posted by zaki yamani @ 4:22 AM, , links to this post

A Structural Engineer is More Than a Degree

The following article (which is contributed by my friend, Wade Luther) is not directly related to chemical engineers, but it is worth to know other branches of engineering. Structural engineers can relate to chemical engineering especially in the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) arena. Hence, some chemical engineers will be involve in this area within the EPC industry. Nevertheless, if you are not from the EPC industry, that's fine, you can just read and learn more about structural engineer. Enjoy reading...

When selecting a structural engineer, it is important to look beyond a college degree. Of course education and a license are important, but once you check those items off your list be sure to dig deeper to gain a better understanding of the engineer being evaluated. 

Core engineering skills are gained through a four-year program at an accredited university. After passing a formal examination the engineer achieves a chartered Structural Engineer status. In order to practice in a particular state, the structural engineer must obtain a license. This process includes passing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination, accumulating a set amount of experience, and passing the Principles and Practice in Engineering (PE) examination. After all of this, a Professional Engineer status is granted and the engineer is eligible to seal engineering drawings and take legal responsibility for engineering work and calculations, allowing them to submit the proper documents to apply for building permits. 

Once the fundamental educational criteria have been met, the next consideration is experience. Through their education, engineers collect a “toolbox” of skills. As they move along in their careers they enhance their ability to understand how and when to use those tools. This time gives them practice using their tools in various situations and analyzing their effectiveness. Eventually, they get to a point where they are able to predict outcomes when given specific scenarios. This experience is invaluable when designing complex facilities. It helps to avoid unexpected problems and keep costs down. 

The more time spent on the job also gives engineers working knowledge in a variety of different aspects of engineering. This is important as most projects will involve an assortment of building materials, structure types and external influences and you don’t want your project to be the first time your engineer has faced a certain situation. Some engineers focus on a very specific specialty; others have experience in a wide range of specialties. Examples of specialty types include: 

• Materials: brick, concrete, steel, etc. 
• Structure types: shopping centers, pipelines, industrial plants, material handling, storage facilities, chemical plants, roofs, towers, churches, etc. 
• External influences: earthquake, fire, wind, etc. 

Another quality of an engineer that goes beyond degrees and titles is their understanding of the construction process. It is great if a design looks good on paper but it is completely ineffective if it is unnecessarily difficult to build or cannot be built properly. A good engineer will ensure that their design has “constructability”, meaning it will be buildable and that cost can be controlled. Knowledge of the construction process also enables the engineer to effectively oversee the project to make sure that the builder is building the project according to the approved design. 

The next time you are evaluating an engineer, be sure to take a closer look at their background. Your extra effort could result in a smarter designed, better built and lower cost facility. 

This is a guest post submitted by Wade Luther. Wade works with AMG, Inc., a full-service engineering company that supports clients in the agricultural commodities, food/beverage, and biotechnology industries. AMG supports clients with everything from structural engineering services to piping engineering design to foundation design. Wade prides himself on sharing valuable insight regarding the engineering services industry and is happy to contribute!

Image credited to: glasscurtainwall.com/careers.htm

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posted by zaki yamani @ 9:13 PM, , links to this post

The Author


I’m Zaki. I used to be a project, process and chemical engineer. Few years ago I successfully became a Chartered Engineer (IChemE) and Professional Engineer (BEM). I'm now employed as a chemical engineering educator/researcher/consultant. Hope you like reading my blog. I welcome any feedback from you. My email: zaki.yz[alias]gmail.com. TQ!

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