One year, 365 days blogging as IChemE President (Day 365)

And then there was one…

Andrew Jamieson, IChemE President 2015-2016; and myself, Geoff Maitland, IChemE President 2014-2015

(L-R) Dr Andrew Jamieson, IChemE President 2015-2016; and myself, Geoff Maitland, IChemE President 2014-2015

Well here we are. It’s the final day of the ChemEng365 blog and last night I handed over the chains of office to my successor, Dr Andrew Jamieson.

Aided and abetted by my team of loyal ‘blog elves’, it’s been quite a journey. But I hope you’ll agree with me that we’ve made a pretty good fist of my original ambition, which was to shine a light on chemical engineering on every single day of my presidency.

It’s been great fun and I trust that you have been impressed at the seemingly endless supply of chemical engineering good news that has been aired via my blog over the last twelve months.

The stories will remain here to provide an enduring resource for anyone who wants to find out more about what chemical engineers get up to. So when you come across someone who ought to know more about the profession, send them here!

The search box at the top of the page is a doorway to the richness and diversity of chemical engineering.

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Two disciplines: chemistry and chemical engineering matter together (Day 364)

Today is Day 364, the penultimate day of my blog and just two days left to shine a light on chemical engineering.

So I want to take the opportunity to talk about the important relationship between chemistry and chemical engineering before time runs out on ChemEng365.

Element cubesMy most popular blog over the course of this year has been ‘Ten differences between chemistry and chemical engineering’ and I hope that this has helped to clarify the differences between the disciplines.

However, it is also important to note that chemistry and chemical engineering are interdependent and must work together. I have made it part of my focus as president of IChemE to build further on our strong relationship with the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC).

I am proud to have started out my career studying chemistry at the University of Oxford, UK, however, I am also now proud to be a chemical engineer and to have spent my presidential year promoting the fact that chemical engineering matters.

But let’s not forget that chemistry matters too.

So I’m going to use today’s blog to highlight two world-changing collaborations between chemists and chemical engineers, which illustrate the importance of the relationship really is.

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Six continents but why don’t penguins read my blog? (Day 360)

Day 360, six days of blogging to go.

Prior to starting this blog I had already attracted a reputation as a keen advocate for the positive benefits of chemical engineering; perhaps as a result of my media appearances following the Deepwater Horizon incident in 2010. My interventions were driven by a desire to react positively to what was clearly very bad news.

I wanted to use my presidency to do something more proactive. I wanted to find a way of shining a light on some chemical engineering good news on a daily basis, but I wasn’t entirely sure how to go about it – until I was told, “Get blogging Geoff!”

Once I’d figured out what blogging entailed, the idea started to take shape. A pipeline of stories was developed and ChemEng365 was born.

360 days later, I have been amazed at the extent of the readership that the blog has attracted. Here are some numbers for you:

The blog has been viewed more than 250,000 times by over 75,000 people in 180 countries. The top five countries, in terms of readership, will not come as a surprise: UK; US; India; Malaysia; and Australia. This is broadly in line with IChemE’s membership and the extent of chemical engineering activity around the world.

Readership of the #ChemEng365 blog

Heat map illustrating the global readership of the ChemEng365 blog

The list of countries where I have gathered just a single follower is far more exotic; the blog has been read in Aruba, Curacao, the Faeroe Islands and New Caledonia to name just a few of the far flung territories that have popped up in the analytics.

ChemEng365 has a following in six continents: Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Europe and Australasia. But there are seven continents in total – Antarctica is missing?

This begs the question: ‘Why don’t penguins read my blog?‘ Maybe it’s because their flippers are too big for a computer keyboard! Or maybe it’s because I haven’t blogged about Antarctica just yet.

Here are my favourite blog stories from six continents:

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Eight ways to demystify chemical engineering (Day 358)

Today is Day 358, and there are just eight days left to shine a light on chemical engineering. One of the driving motives behind this blog has been to find ways to make chemical engineering more accessible to a wider audience.

We sometimes struggle when we have to explain our work to non-chemical engineering friends and family.  But I think I know how to do this and over the years I have found a variety of useful examples to help get the point across.

Here are my eight simple ways to demystify chemical engineering to your friends and family:

1. Turn the lights off

light switchThis is probably the easiest way to demonstrate the power (if you’ll excuse the pun) of chemical engineering. So much of the work we do goes to provide electricity supplies for homes and business worldwide. Without chemical engineering, our lives would be much harder and a lot darker. Turn out the lights and challenge your audience to switch them on again without gas, oil, coal, nuclear or renewable power and a lot of chemical engineering.

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Nine ways chemical engineering makes a difference (Day 357)

Today is Day 357, meaning there are just nine days left to shine a light on chemical engineering. I thought today would be a good opportunity for me to select my nine favourite reasons why chemical engineering matters.

I really enjoyed the whiteboard messages that were written at the ChemEngDayUK 2015 conference held earlier this year in Sheffield, so I have chosen my favourite ‘I make a difference’ snapshots to share with you today.

Here are the nine people who use chemical engineering to make a difference:

1. Jon from the University of Bath who makes a difference “by providing safe water to developing countries”.

Jon from the University of Bath

Jon from the University of Bath

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Ten chemical engineers that shaped our world (Day 356)

Today is Day 356, meaning there are just ten days left to shine a light on chemical engineering. So I thought I would take the opportunity to countdown some important facts and stories from the wonderful world of chemical engineering in the ten days remaining before the end of ChemEng365.

I’m starting with ten chemical engineers who have truly inspired the chemical engineering community, used their skills to shape the world we live in and improved quality of life for all.

1. George E Davis

George E Davis

Photo Credit | IChemE
George E Davis

George E Davis is often regarded as the ‘founding father’ of chemical engineering, No list of chemical engineers is complete without him. George shaped the world of chemical engineering as it emerged in the late 1800s; with George coining the term ‘chemical engineering’. The first chemical engineering course was delivered by George at the University of Manchester in 1887 in the form of 12 lectures covering various aspects of industrial chemical practice – this kick started the revolution that spawned generations of world-changing chemical engineers.

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CCS equals ‘Carbon Capture and Students’ (Day 355)

As regular readers will recognise, I am based at Imperial College London and today, I want to describe some of the work that goes on here.

The Carbon Capture Pilot Plant

Photo Credit | Imperial College London
The Carbon Capture Pilot Plant

I am the Professor of Energy Engineering, in the Department of Chemical Engineering, and much of my research is now built around carbon capture and storage (CCS). I’d like to tell you a little more about the work on carbon capture here at Imperial, with particular focus on our carbon capture pilot plant.

The carbon capture pilot plant is so big that it stretches over four floors of our building, right at its centre – which is pretty impressive for a university pilot plant and helps provide a sense of scale for the real thing.

The pilot plant provides our students with an opportunity to grapple with some of the practical challenges that they will encounter in industry. It certainly presents the opportunity to hone a few of the skills that might prove useful in the  future.

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Planning for the future – say YES (Day 352)

Throughout my blog, I have highlighted some important chemical engineering innovations.  I wanted to shine a light on the valuable contribution that my profession makes to the world around us.

Some of the most important work that we do isn’t just using our technical knowledge; it’s talking to the next generation of chemical engineers and sharing that knowledge.

My first work experience of industrial chemistry and engineering, a summer job at Podmore and Sons pottery in Stoke-on-Trent, UK, sparked an interest that shaped my future career.

Amec Foster Wheeler LogoBeing exposed to different careers can give a taster for chemical engineering. These experiences can spark excitement and interest that can grow into a fruitful career.

With this in mind, IChemE is proud to support an initiative run by Amec Foster Wheeler. The Amec Foster Wheeler Young Engineers Scheme (YES) has been developed by the company’s engineering teams in Reading, UK, to encourage student involvement in engineering.

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A breath of fresh air (Day 351)

Chemical engineering has to be one of the most creative of all professions. We look for opportunities in everything, even in the air that surrounds us.

In the early 20th century, Carl von Linde pioneered the process of air separation, splitting air into its pure components. He developed a technique to obtain pure oxygen and nitrogen by means of fractional distillation from liquefied air.

Since then, air separation has been applied to many products we use every day. In February, I attended an IChemE event at the University of Surrey. During the event, I met Jama Salimov, an Advanced Process Control Engineer at Air Products. Jama was keen to shine a light on his work in air separation and ensure that we all understand its many applications.

liquid nitrogen

Liquid Nitrogen

Air separation typically separates air into its primary components – nitrogen and oxygen. However, it can also isolate some of the more rare parts of the air such as argon.

The products of air separation have a wide variety of uses in our everyday lives. Many of us use them without even realising it – and Jama was keen to tell me all about them.

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The life of a Brewer (Day 350)

I was so impressed with today’s guest blogger’s recent webinar (arranged by IChemE’s Food and Drink SIG) I got in touch with him to ask about his work and why he became a chemical engineer. Thomas Brewer works in the food industry for SABMiller as an engineering consultant.

He has had an interesting career path, so I’ll let him explain it in more detail:


Tom BrewerName: Thomas Brewer
Job: Engineering Consultant
Course: Chemical engineering (MEng), University of Cambridge
Graduated: 1998
Employer: SABMiller

 

Quote startI am perhaps unusual amongst our profession as I knew from a very early age that I wanted to be a chemical engineer. At about the age of 11, I was becoming more aware of the world around me and noted the science articles about Brazil, the oil crisis and biofuels in newspapers. I decided chemical engineering would help me be a part of the solution and give me an opportunity to make an impact.

If asked what today’s big challenges are, I would say we already recognise the issues around water and energy and we are going to have to deal with protein. Every day our society downgrades or throws away protein, we need to get better at valuing it for what it is.

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You don’t have to practise chemical engineering to be a chemical engineer (Day 349)

Throughout this blog, I have made a conscious effort to promote career options for chemical engineers (see my blog ‘Ten job titles of chemical engineers… and what they actually mean‘). But many chemical engineers do not work as chemical engineers, so today I thought I would highlight some alternative careers.

Great jobWhen I speak to chemical engineers, there is lots of discussion about the sectors they work in: energy; water; food; pharma and more.

However, I often hear people saying that the big issue in the professional science and engineering community is retention of people.

In the UK, the phrase ‘leaky pipeline’ has been used to describe science and engineering graduates that leave their fields to pursue careers in other areas – the finger is normally pointed at finance or investment banking.

But I don’t see this as problem, because you don’t have to practise chemical engineering to be a chemical engineer. I am pleased that other professions actively seek to recruit chemical engineers – because of the skills they have (see my blog ‘Ten skills chemical engineers should be talking about‘) and the calibre of our chemical engineering graduates.

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Making squishy robots (Day 348)

green robotsWhen I think of ways to describe robots I might use words like advanced, intelligent, practical, metallic… but never squishy!

However, today’s story comes from a team of chemical engineers who are working to create squishy robots by designing a synthetic gel.

The team, from the University of Pittsburgh‘s Swanson School of Engineering, US, have developed a computational model which has allowed them to design a new material. The material has the ability reconfigure its shape and move using its own internally generated power. This ability to change was seen as a catalyst for the development of a soft robot.

This research, undertaken by Dr Anna C. Balazs, Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and Dr Olga Kuksenok, Research Associate Professor, uses a single-celled organism, Euglena mutabilis, as a model. E. mutabilis is able to process energy to expand and contract its shape. This results in movement.

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Using oregano as an antibacterial agent (Day 346)

Contamination is a big danger in the food industry. For example, in the US nearly half of all food borne illnesses can be attributed to contamination.

Preventing and controlling bacterial contamination is critical to ensure the food we eat is safe.

oil with oregano leafThe most common strategy to do this is through industrial washing of food in water containing chlorine. However, this is often not effective and there is a need to develop new methods to combat food contamination.

A team of researchers from Wayne State University, US, have found an alternative to conventional methods; by using oregano oil, which is known to have a strong antibacterial effect.

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Make your voice heard – vote! (Day 345)

If you are reading this in the UK – still home to around half of IChemE’s members – I’m sure you are aware that a General Election is taking place today.

IChemE is politically neutral and it adopts an independent position on issues that are viewed as partisan. However, the institution believes that political decisions should be evidence-based and supported by the strongest possible input from the engineering community. That’s why it’s important to engage with politicians and to express a view.

So for today’s blog post, I’ve asked IChemE CEO, Dr David Brown, to share his thoughts on the need for chemical engineers to influence policymakers, not only in the UK but around the world.

I’ll let David take it from here:


David Brown

Name: Dr David Brown
Job: CEO
Course: Natural  Sciences, University of Cambridge
Graduated: MA 1978, PhD 1982
Employer: IChemE

 

Quote startPollsters are predicting that this UK general election will be one of the closest in living memory. In the latest edition of tce (May 2015) I set out my election wish-list for the new UK government covering areas such as education, immigration and climate change.

Whatever the outcome of the election, the government that emerges will undoubtedly have an impact on many areas of the UK economy that rely on chemical and process engineers.

That’s why we need to engage in debates on public policy issues.

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Creating products to Goldilocks’ standard (Day 342)

goldilocksMost people, in the UK at least, will be familiar with the fairy tale of ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears‘, where Goldilocks, a young girl, seeks out products that are not too strong and not too weak – aiming for ones that are ‘just right’.

This is the aim of chemical engineers who work on the development and delivery of consumer products. There is a strong focus on achieving a consistent outcome that the customer deems to be ‘just right’.

I recently attended a talk given by Professor David York, Chair of Structured Particulate Products, from the University of Leeds, UK, on how to convert commodities into high value components.

David described how science and engineering are applied to transform household detergents into higher value specialty products. He went on to explain how improved consumer satisfaction is being delivered by creating a washing product that leaves an appealing fragrance on freshly laundered clothes.

David and his team achieved this by creating a product that deposits perfume micro-capsules onto fabric during the wash cycle. The capsules subsequently fracture and release a pleasing odour in controlled doses.

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Putting the lab into the patient to improve chemotherapy success (Day 341)

The fight against cancer is ongoing and I have blogged about this before; see ‘Twin track cancer attack’ and ‘Fighting lung cancer with personalised medicine’. Each new discovery we make shines more light onto effective treatments.

Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses one or more chemical substances to kill cancerous cells. It can be used in conjunction with other cancer treatments, or given alone. But as there are over 100 different chemotherapy drugs, our ability to prescribe the most effective drug to treat a particular tumour can be difficult.

MIT chemical engineers have designed an implantable device that can deliver many drugs at once, allowing researchers to determine which drugs are the most effective against a patient's tumor.

Picture Credit | MIT
MIT chemical engineers have designed an implantable device that can deliver many drugs at once, allowing researchers to determine which drugs are the most effective against a patient’s tumor.

A new device, developed by chemical engineers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), US, could provide a solution.

The device, which is about the same size as a grain of rice, is not swallowed or injected, but instead is implanted directly into a cancerous tumour, where it can directly administer small doses of up to 30 different drugs.

 

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Super cooling computers could save billions (Day 340)

We are all heavily reliant on personal computers.  At home, at work and on the move. However, we have all experienced the noise and annoyance of the cooling fan in our computers when we push their processing power too hard.

A team of chemical engineers from the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), US, have come up with a solution – ditch the fan altogether.

The cooling computer

Photo Credit | UAH
The cooling computer

Now obviously, their solution is not as simple as that; they have also developed technology that keeps computer chips cooler.

The team also estimates that the adoption of this technology could save US consumers more than US $6.3 billion a year by reducing the energy used in computer cooling fans.

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Training the next generation of chemical engineers (Day 339)

I think I may be a little unusual amongst chemical engineering professors in that I started out in academia, before switching to a career in industry and then switching back again. I recounted the story in my presidential address: Chemical engineering matters everywhere – reflections on a journey from academe to industry, and back again

Based on these experiences, I am always keen to initiate and promote new relationships between industry and academia.

However, I am by no means alone in valuing the importance of such relationships.

Delegates who attended ChemEngDayUK2015 in Sheffield, UK last month, heard from a range of industry speakers.  The main conference sponsor was the German industrial conglomerate Siemens.

Sean McDonagh

Photo Credit | Siemens
Sean McDonagh

Sean McDonagh, who leads the chemicals team for Siemens Digital Factory Process Industries & Drives, gave a very insightful contribution during the opening session.  I caught up with him shortly afterwards and he told me about one of Siemens’ latest projects –  which focuses on strengthening those all important links between industry and academia.

Last year’s ChemEngDayUK, hosted by the University of Manchester, saw the official opening of a new pilot plant situated within the James Chadwick Building. The plant features Siemens’ distributed control system’. It is designed to help students learn about advanced process automation.

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Using podcasts to achieve educational excellence in South Africa (Day 337)

For an individual to excel at chemical engineering, both a good education and personal determination are needed.

Chemical engineering education must be built on a solid foundation in the fundamental principles of chemical engineering science. However, there is a need to constantly review and modernise not just our course content, but the way we deliver it as well.

Chemical engineering students

Photo Credit | UCT
Chemical engineering students

The Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa, has a research group dedicated to engineering education. This group contributes to a wider collaboration in the Centre for Research in Engineering and Science Education (CREE).

At UCT, there is a passion to provide the best possible foundation for young chemical engineers.

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Sneaky shape-shifting molecule mimics DNA to trick viruses (Day 333)

Very few discoveries truly revolutionise the way we look at the world.

However, the discovery of the structure of DNA is one of them. And it was on this day in 1953, that the structure of DNA was published in the journal Nature.

dnaThis discovery is often seen as controversial, not due to its scientific content, but the fact that the work was largely attributed to one team; Watson and Crick.

This work was published at the same time in a number of papers in Nature by three teams: Watson and Crick; Wilkins, Stokes, and Wilson; and Franklin and Gosling.

The key break through for Watson and Crick’s work came from Rosalind Franklin who studied DNA using X-ray crystallography, but this was largely unacknowledged at the time. In 1962 Crick and Watson, along with Wilkins, received a Nobel Prize for their discovery. Rosalind had died four years earlier so was not eligible for a Nobel Prize.

So to ensure that we celebrate all their work today, I thought I would bring to your attention a recent innovation, which would not have been possible without this major discovery.

A team of scientists and engineers from the University of Chicago (UChicago) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), US, have developed a new spectroscopy method that could prove useful in developing the next generation of anti-viral treatments.

The team used synthetically designed shape-shifting molecules which are able to resemble natural DNA bases, but can convert into a different molecular structure by repositioning their hydrogen atoms on nitrogen and oxygen atoms.

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Ten ways chemical engineering has changed science fiction into fact (Day 332)

I always enjoy reading stories and watching films that are set in the future – often in amazement at the mind-boggling ideas and inventions that are imagined by authors and scriptwriters.

fractal cityHowever, I think I’ve spotted a trend. Much of the contemporary science fiction on offer in films and books is decidedly dystopian in its outlook.

This means that it paints a dark vision of the future. Maybe this does science fiction a disservice? I want to be a little more positive and take a look at a few stories that explore the upside of the advances that science and engineering might bring.

A good science fiction story can be short hand for an excellent innovative idea. It might even inspire researchers to try something different.

Looking at this premise from a different angle, let’s examine some notable examples from the genre where science fiction has become science fact.

Here’s my top ten:

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Time to dust off and deliver (Day 330)

As you well know, I started this blog to highlight all the good things that chemical engineers do and how we can make a positive difference.

The stimulus for me to do this came from my experience of talking to the media (see my blog on ‘Chemical engineers and the media‘) and in particular, when asked to comment on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Process safety is embedded in our profession and is considered in everything we do. Because of this we are always striving towards improvements in process design, process delivery and also in research – something we definitely need to talk more about.

green dustSo I was pleased to learn that a group of researchers from Norway, Italy and Canada have investigated a dynamic approach to risk management.

Their particular focus is on metal dust explosions. Dust can present a significant hazard in mining, food processing (eg flour dust) and other industrial settings.

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The sweet stuff in the white stuff (Day 319)

milkLactose is a sugar found in milk. Typically, it makes up between 2 to 8 per cent of milk and is a significant byproduct of the dairy industry.

Lactose is a major export good. In 2012 the US exported 170,000 tonnes, the EU 142,000 tonnes and New Zealand 20,000 tonnes of lactose – making the lactose a billion dollar industry.

The world’s largest dairy product exporter, Fonterra, has worked in partnership with Aurecon to develop an innovative evaporation system – CrystalLac for which a patent is pending.

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Here’s why chemical engineers make a difference (Day 318)

shout outOne of the central messages in my presidential address was the resolute assertion that chemical engineers should stand up and speak out.  We need to tell the world about the difference that we make.

I’ve been repeating this mantra pretty much ever since. Indeed that’s the driving purpose behind this blog.

But there’s a key consideration in all of this that engineers of all types frequently overlook.  We have to talk to the public in a language that they understand. This sometimes proves challenging because let’s be honest, some of the stuff that we do is pretty complicated.

Thirty years ago we could get away with fobbing people off with the argument that “it’s over your head; don’t worry; leave it to us…” But that won’t wash today. We have a duty to explain what we do and we must be able to explain things simply and lucidly.

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Ten ways to maximise your impact at a conference (Day 316)

One of the most enjoyable aspects of life as a chemical engineer working in academic research is attending conferences and finding out more about the work of other groups.

Today and tomorrow; I’m in the north of England for ChemEngDayUK2015. It’s the UK’s national chemical engineering research event and this year it’s hosted by the chemical and biological engineering department at the University of Sheffield.  Postgraduate students from all corners of the UK are here to network and talk about their work. So today is a good opportunity to share some tips for getting the most out of a conference.

Here are ten ways to maximise your impact:

1. Talk to someone new

UndergraduatesThe biggest mistake that many people make at conferences is to only talk to people they came with. Attending the talks is not enough; if you really want to make an impression, you need to network and make new contacts.

2. Take one key message from every talk you attend

notebookEvery talk, seminar or workshop is different. But you need to remember what was said. After each session, ask yourself what struck you the most, what did you learn? Was there a conclusion that you could adapt or a piece of advice that really resonated? If you write anything down during a conference, make it the one key message from each session that is worth revisiting when you get back to the lab.

3. Share your details

people speech bubbleTo truly make an impact at a conference you need to participate. This can be through presenting, displaying a poster or running a session. However, not everyone attending can do this, so instead sign up for workshops or networking sessions. Make sure to take some business cards and use social media. While you’re there, you’ll be among hundreds of participants, so make sure you stand out from the crowd.

4. Ask questions

Always Seek KnowledgeYou’ll probably attend many conference sessions. There’s generally time for questions at the end.  So put your hand up and ask one – don’t forget so say who you are and where you are from.  Planning to ask a question will focus your listening during sessions. I find that it helps me to think about how the work presented can influence my own activity. It also allows you to interact directly with the presenter and offers a chance to continue the discussion after the session.

5. Put away your phone

no phonesIf you arrive at a conference planning to do work or make phone calls, you are in the wrong place. People attend conferences to have face-to-face interactions.  Electronic devices can be a barrier to making connections. You don’t have to disconnect completely but put your phone away when you’re waiting for a session to start or during the coffee breaks. This will give you a chance to start conversations with the people around you.

6. Try something new

lightbulbFrequently people attending conferences tend to go to sessions on their subject, or talks by someone they know. Try going to at least one session that is different or unusual. You may surprise yourself by learning something completely new and sow the seeds of a new collaboration when you least expect it.

7. Plan ahead

social speech bubbles (800x648)Look at the conference programme in advance and plan which talks and seminars you want to attend. Have a look at the delegate list and identify a few key people to talk to. Planning your time in advance means you won’t miss the crucial sessions and it gives you time to take a break and socialise with fellow delegates.

8. Go to the social events

buffet lunchThe social events surrounding a conference are just as important as the conference itself. They offer the opportunity to talk to people informally in a more relaxed setting. These are a lot of fun and really help to extend the energy of the conference. If you are shy, take a friend with you. Don’t be afraid to just relax, mingle and let the conversation flow.

9. Share what you learn

Cafe CultureIf you are one of only a few people from your department or research group attending a conference, it often helps to focus on what you can take back for others. Be an emissary for your group and share what you learn with your colleagues. Bring the conference highlights home by presenting to your department, hosting a debrief or sharing key messages.

10. Follow-up post conference

cropped-chemeng_masthead.jpgAt the conference, you’ll be collecting business cards and social media contacts.  Afterwards, it’s time to do something with them. This is the step people often forget, but if you don’t use this information you’ll lose the benefits of attending the conference. Reach out to your new contacts, blog about it, thank them for their ideas and look for new projects.

These are just a few ideas to get you started.  Everyone has their own way of working a room.  And bear this in mind, the easiest way to convince the boss that you should be attending  a conference is by reminding them about the positive outputs and valuable contacts that you made at the last one.

It you are reading this before ChemEngDayUK2015 finishes, come and say ‘Hello’.

All great networks start with that first ‘Hello’.

The world’s biggest oil refinery (Day 315)

CP logos 2014IChemE’s Corporate Partners make a major contribution to the chemical engineering profession and to the world around us. The list of Corporate Partners is growing and it’s worth highlighting some of their success stories in my blog.

Our three-tiered Corporate Partner scheme was launched in 2009 to build links with industry. Corporate Partnership recognises a company’s commitment to engineering excellence, employee professional development and inspiring the next generation.

Bechtel celebrate achieving IChemE gold corporate partner

Bechtel celebrate achieving IChemE Gold Corporate Partner status

Bechtel is a global leader in the design, procurement, construction, and project management of oil, chemical, and natural gas facilities.

They employ 500 chemical engineers worldwide and became a Gold Corporate Partner in 2013. They even baked us a cake to help celebrate!

Since 1898, Bechtel have completed more than 25,000 projects in 160 countries on all seven continents. That’s no mean feat. And recently, they constructed the biggest oil refinery in the world.

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Breakthrough in 3D printing inspired by the Terminator (Day 314)

3D printing is a misnomer; it is actually 2D printing over and over again.

Most 3D printing occurs by building up objects layer-by-layer. However, Carbon3D Inc has developed a new method that allows objects to rise continuously from a liquid media.

Joseph M. DeSimone, professor of chemical engineering at NC State University, US, and of chemistry at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, US, is currently CEO of Carbon3D.

Joe co-invented this new method with colleagues Alex Ermoshkin, chief technology officer at Carbon3D and Edward T. Samulski, also professor of chemistry at UNC.

chromeJoe says that this idea was inspired by the Hollywood film, Terminator 2: Judgement Day. In this film, the T-1000 robot rises from a liquid metal puddle to assume its form. This made Joe and his team think – why can’t we create objects in this way?

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Spinning a sustainable future – The Underwood Medal (Day 313)

Mention the word ‘spinning’ to most people, and they might be transported back to their childhood and fairy tales of princesses in towers. They might think about industrial Britain in the 19th century, and the revolution in textile manufacture. Or they might be reminded of the gym session that they look forward to and dread in equal measure every week.

Professor Neal Tai-Shung Chung

Photo Credit | National University of Singapore
Professor Neal Tai-Shung Chung

But for chemical engineers, spinning – of fibres into membranes for separation – can be a doorway to a sustainable future.

The winner of this year’s Underwood Medal for research in separations, Professor Neal Tai-Shung Chung, is a true master of the science and technology of hollow fibre membrane spinning.

Membranes offer several advantages in separation over alternatives such as distillation, sublimation or crystallisation. They permit the use both fractions (the permeate and the retentate) after separation and because no heating is involved, less energy is used.

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Fighting skin cancer with a bracelet (Day 311)

Skin cancer is amongst the most common forms of cancers in the world with its highest incidence in Australia, New Zealand, the US and Europe.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that between two to three million non-melanoma and 132,000 melanoma skin cancers are diagnosed each year.

Dr David Hazafy

Photo Credit | Queen’s University Belfast
Dr David Hazafy

So researchers from the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Queen’s University Belfast, UK, have developed an early warning sunburn indicator that could tell sunbathers when to take to the shade.

The team, led by Dr David Hazafy, have developed a strip of plastic – containing ‘smart’ ink – which turns colourless from an initial blue colour to indicate a high exposure of ultraviolet light from the sun. This should prompt the user to move into the shade before burning, reducing the risk of skin cancer.

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Catalysing a gold rush (Day 310)

We have been attracted to gold for millennia both for its beauty and its value.

Gold is considered so attractive because it does not corrode or tarnish. It’s also very ductile. These properties have led to gold being used in works of art and treasures of great historical and cultural significance.

Gold has inspired great art, but what about great chemistry and chemical engineering?

Professor Graham Hutchings

Photo Credit | Cardiff University
Professor Graham Hutchings

At the end of February I attended a dinner at the Royal Society hosted by the UK Catalysis Hub. There, I discussed catalysts with IChemE fellow Professor Graham Hutchings, director of the Cardiff Catalysis Institute at Cardiff University.

During the evening Graham shared many interesting insights into UK catalysis research. Catalysis is at the core of the UK economy and contributes over UK £50 billion annually. It is central to the wellbeing of society and is involved in some way in 80 per cent of all manufactured goods.

Graham then told me about his work with gold catalysts. With his team, he has discovered that gold has the potential to improve health, clean up the environment and save lives.

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‘Cross over’ engineer wins recognition with Geldart Medal (Day 309)

This year’s recipient of the Geldart Medal for a major contribution to research in particle technology has had such a long and distinguished career in chemical engineering, he hardly needs introduction.

colin thornton

Photo Credit | University of Birmingham Dr Colin Thornton

But perhaps not everyone knows that Dr Colin Thornton is actually a civil engineer.

Colin’s cross over to chemical engineering in 1984 was a great move. From that time he became a pioneer in the application of the Discrete Element Method (DEM) to problems in particle technology.

Colin soon realised that the crux of the matter lay in contact mechanics for particle interactions. At the time, there was little or no theoretical basis for describing elastoplastic and adhesive contact deformation.

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