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le a r nin g in in d u s tr y

Thi s column pro vides examples of cases in which students have gained knowledge, insight , and experience in the practice of chemical engineer ing while in an indu strial setting. Summer intern ship s and co-op assignments typify such ex periences; however, reports of more unusual cases are also welcome . Descripti on of anal ytical tool s used and the skills developed during the project should be emphasized. Th ese exa mples should stimulate inno vative approaches to bring real world tools and experiences back to campus for integration into the curriculum. Please submit manu script s to Professor W. 1. Koros, Chemical Enginee ring Department , Unive rsity of Texas, Austin, Texas 787 12.


And How Does It Work?

University of Texas Austin, TX 78712 -1062

me . My usua l method of solving problems by memori zing a fixed procedure began to breakdown. I was blindl y completing ca lculations on complica ted probl em s by memorizing the method s. I felt it would help to have a physical picture and understand ing of the basic equipment before attempting these calc ulations. Hopin g to get some answe rs, I proceeded to one of the chilling stations on campus. The plant mana ger gave me a tour so I could actuall y see these mysteriou s pump s and heat-exchangers. I became slightly frustra ted when he showed me a metal box and said, "This is a heat-exchanger," then proceeded to a smaller metal box, and said, "This is a pump. " What doe s it look like inside? We sat down in the co ntrol room with the owner's manu al for the heat-exchanger and he ex plained the co mponents of the diagram , how they work indi vidually, and how they work as a unit. Thin gs finally began to come into perspecti ve ! I want ed and need ed to know what I was calcul ating and how these calculations would be useful to me at a later date.
Shanaya God lwatta is currently a chemical engineering and dance major at The University 01 Texas at Austin. She has two years of industrial experience and has accepted a tult-time position in process engineering at The Dow Chemical Company.

1 think this article should be read by every instructor ofintroductory chemical engineering courses. The author, a j ust-graduated BSChE, provides a view fro m the trenches ofwhat it is likef or a "practical learner " to translate the theoretical inf ormation we provide into meaningful know ledge. The student, Shanaya Godiwalla, was more asserti ve than most and took responsibilityforfinding the missing "hands-on" component to her education that she fo und necessary for understanding. As Rich Felder has point ed out, student learning styles are diverse, and accommodating them will tend to maximize the efficiency of learnin g. As Shanaya notes, sometimes the accommodation can be quite simple. Bill Koros

t all began in the first chemical engi neering class "Ma ss and Energy Balances." We had j ust learned to size pump s, calculate the heat duty requi red for heat exc hangers , and draw process flow diagrams. I questioned exactly what a pump looked like. How does it actually move fluid ? What are its interna l components, and how wo uld chan ging its internal compo nents mod ify its ca pabilities? What does a heat-exchanger really look like? And process flow diagramsdoes a chemical plant rea lly look like that? Thi s class brought up an infinit e number of que stion s for

Copyright ChE Division of ASEE 1998


Chem ical Engineering Education

Engineering Sciences and Market Deve lopment represented my th ird term at Dow Chemical. My project entailed running co-polyme rization ex periments to better define the reaction kinet ics of a free radi cal initiated suspensio n polyme rization . Th is infor mation helped to optimize the process, thereby increasi ng productio n. My proje ct used a reaction calor imClass roo m learning usuall y skips straig ht to the "how ." Th ere are many different types of learn ing styles, and my eter to meas ure the heat flow released in co mbination wit h learn ing ability is not maximi zed in a classroom. Touring the an on-line mass spec trometer and Fouri er transform infrared chilling station allowed me to see the pract ical uses of heatspec tro meter. Th e ex perime ntal data yielded co nversion and exc hangers, pumps, and process flow diagram s. Thi s simple conce ntration versus time data to imp rove mathem atical reex perience allowe d me to understand that these ac tion models. The proj ect was co mpleted ca lculations wou ld beco me so me of the basic success fully, and I drafted a research and building blocks in my ed ucation ahead. As I developmen t report prior to returning to Co-oping has co ntinued through the chemical engineering curca mpus for my senior year. been an riculum, the same probl em began to reemerge. I REAPING THE BENEFITS found mysel f at a higher level , but aga in resort ing to mem orization rather than understand ing and analysis. Since I co uldn' t place where the mem ori zed techniqu es fit into a chemical engineer's jo b, I again began to think I was learnin g useless information. I decided co-oping was the answe r to my frus tration. My thought was that the pieces wo uld fall into place by my being in a plant environme nt, ge tting practical ex perience, and developin g a basic knowled ge of process equipmen t. As it turned out, the benefits of co-oping grea tly outweig hed graduating a bit later. I resea rched several co mpanies and chose Dow Chemica l because of their high standa rds of safe ty, intense traini ng opportunities, and es prit de co rps of the employees .

I have always been a " prac tica l" learn er. To learn so met hing effe ctive ly, the first few questions that need to be answered co nsist of, " Will I need to do this someday? When , where, and why?" Onc e these questions have been answered, my interest and mo tivation develop bec ause I have an und erstanding of the big picture. Th en the "how" can be put into perspec tive.

a tas te of the wo rld of research and the unlim ited opp ort unities of discovery it has to offer.


My first term at Dow Chemi cal was in manufacturing. I was given a list of proj ects, which varied from installing and auto mating pumps and valves to dem olish ing old process units. Th e ex perience provided hand s-on opportunities and vas t expos ure to basic process equip ment. In additio n, I learn ed further how to wo rk with people and how to "ge t work" from peop le. My second term at Dow Chemica l was in Epoxy Process Research. My prima ry proj ect was to develop a neur al networ k model for a gas phase reactor. Thi s process model wo uld ultim ately be used as an on-line sensor for process co ntrol. The assignme nt gave me an opportunity to gai n a thorough understanding of Process Insights, a neural netwo rk softwa re. I also became more fami liar with the VAX and DEC term sys tems and co mpleted a research and developme nt rep ort that detailed the entire project. I also acquired
Fall / 998

essential part of my education. [It] helped me realize what tools I need to be successful in the workplace and to understand what the "real world" would be like.

Co- opin g has been an ess ential part of my education. I am a hands-on type of stude nt who learn s best and thrives in the wor k environment rather than in the academi c one. Th e co-op progra m has allowed me to look at chemical engineering in a different light. Initially, it was very difficult to imag ine how I co uld apply some of the thin gs I was learning in school to the outside wo rld. Before co- oping, I learned the academic material for the moment, never plann ing on using it again. No w I have a better und erstanding of which mate rial is useful back gro und information and which will actually be useful in the wor kplace. This experience was ideal for me becau se it forced me to use the inform ation I learned in schoo l and to app ly it immedia tely in the wo rkplace. For example, after completing thermodynamic s, I wo rked on a reac tion calorimetry project at Dow.

Co-opin g also promoted my perso nal growth. I fina lly had the opportunity to ex perience living on my ow n outside of a uni versity en viro nme nt and having a job, ju st like a real adult. It led me to thinking about what it wo uld be like in the future to have that particul ar eight-tofive job . I began to co nside r whet her I wo uld be happ y co mpleting those types of task s, worki ng with those types of people, and for that kind of co mpany, day in and da y out. Working full-time and living on my own forced me to learn mo re abou t myself and to establish so me sort of career path to prevent future misery. Co-op ing helped me realize what tools I need to learn to be success ful in the wor kplace and to understand what the " real wo rld" would be like. I wo uld highl y reco mmend the co-op progra m to anyone! 0