10 steps to get Chartered

engineersAwarding Chartered Chemical Engineer status is just one of the ways we aim to be the organisation of choice for chemical engineers. We do it because we think hard-working, competent, professional chemical engineers should be recognised and provided with a mark of trust.

Yesterday we gave you ‘10 reasons to get Chartered’. So, now that you’re convinced, we have broken the process up into ten easy steps.

Okay so easy is the wrong word to describe it, because the hard-work you put in as a chemical engineer is what makes you eligible for Chartered status. It carries a lot of weight those letters after your name, they signify that you are an engineer who has the technical knowledge, practical experience, and training to be a trustworthy professional.

But trust us, the process to get there is actually pretty straight-forward. First, watch the below video, then read the 10 steps for a bit more detail – and let us know what you think in the comments.

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10 reasons to get Chartered

2017-goalsSo, how are those New Year’s Resolutions are going? Have you given into temptation yet? Skipped the gym for a takeaway? Accidentally finished the bottle of wine?

Hey, it’s ok – in many ways New Year’s Resolutions are almost made to be broken!

But what about if you could make yourself a promise that would make you a better chemical engineer? What if you could improve your job prospects? Earn more money? That would a pretty easy resolution to stick to, right?

In the lead-up to Christmas we asked members to make Getting Chartered their New Year’s Resolution. We’re committed to the continued professional development of our members, and one of the ways we do this is by awarding professional registrations.

We’re also the only organisation authorised to award Chartered Chemical Engineer and Professional Process Safety Engineer registrations.

So why apply to become a Chartered Chemical Engineer? There’s still time to set goals for 2017 and in today’s blog we give you ten reasons to make it top of your Resolution’s list.

Stay tuned too, because tomorrow we’ll give you our ’10 steps to Get Chartered’ – to make the whole process more manageable.

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Celebrating chemical engineering achievement in sustainability #ichemeawards

5j5a3287It’s time for another round -up of our IChemE Global Awards 2016 winners, and this time we’re focusing on sustainability.

In our modern world projects that deliver a sustainability benefit are usually successful. In fact, all our winners this year have demonstrated some kind of sustainable element in their work. Whether it’s taking on large projects, developing products for poor communities, or innovating to change lives.

But these winners have put sustainability at the heart of what they do. Pushing the limits to find the most environmentally-friendly way of doing things, some of them are also very young companies – and ones to watch in the future.

So please take a look at the following three winners videos, and as always thanks to Morgan Sindall for helping us to produce them.

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Tackling big chemical engineering projects #ichemeawards

We are now midway through our round up of this year’s IChemE Global Awards 2016 winners. Produced in association with Morgan Sindall, we have got a special interview video for every single winner.

awards-tables

So far we have seen some life-changing products that will make a difference all over the world, as well as chemical engineering projects designed to benefit resource-poor communities in developing countries.

Today we go to the big projects in chemical engineering that require strategy, innovation and teamwork. These winners are demonstrating great chemical engineering in its purest form. All of the projects below have demonstrated a key chemical engineering skill, systems thinking, and a drive for achieving the best results.

Take a look at their work below and don’t forget to leave a comment.

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Guest blog: Ten things that I experienced as an Ashok Kumar Fellow

In February 2016 Akshay Deshmukh, a postgraduate chemical engineering student at Yale University, Connecticut, US, was awarded the IChemE-NEPIC Ashok Kumar Fellowship for 2016.

The Ashok Kumar Fellowship provides an annual opportunity for a graduate chemical engineer to spend three months working at the UK Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology (POST). It is jointly funded by the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) and the North-East of England Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC).

Ashok Kumar, a Fellow of IChemE and Labour Member of Parliament (MP) for Middlesbrough South and Cleveland East, UK, died suddenly in 2010. He was the only Chartered Chemical Engineer in the UK House of Commons at the time.

If you are interested in being IChemE’s next Ashok Kumar Fellow apply by the 31 October 2016.

akshayName: Akshay Deshmukh
Education: Chemical Engineering (MEng), University of Cambridge, UK
Job Title: PhD Student, Yale University, US
Research interests: Energy efficient ways of processing contaminated water into clean drinking water

Fellowship winner Akshay is a chemical engineering graduate. He is currently undertaking a PhD in Chemical and Environmental Engineering. For his Ashok Kumar Fellowship he worked on a POSTnote on Nuclear Security. Here are his experiences from undertaking the Fellowship:

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IChemE Global Awards success stories that make you proud to be a chemical engineer

Awards Global logo_webRecently we announced the finalists for the IChemE Global Awards 2016. The ceremony takes place on 3 November in Manchester, UK – and we can’t quite believe how quickly Awards season has come round again!

Each year our Awards judges have the tough task of narrowing down the hundreds of excellent entries to a select group of exceptional finalists for each category. We have seen some fantastic projects over the years, and 2015 was really special. 16 well-deserved winners were handed trophies at the Global Awards evening, which took place on 5 November 2015 in Birmingham, UK.

Read on to find out what some of our 2015 finalists have been up to since the ceremony, and re-cap some of the best moments of the night.

1. Ohio State University congratulated by President Obama 

Photo credit: Ohio State University (mae.osu.edu/news)

Photo credit: Ohio State University (mae.osu.edu/news)

Bharat Bhushan and Philip Brown from Ohio State University, US were awarded the Water Management and Supply Award in 2015. To win the award they developed a special mesh which uses a unique coating and tiny holes to separate oil from water. The ground-breaking work, designed to help clean up oil spills, was even noticed by the President of US, Barack Obama, who sent the researchers a congratulatory note.

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Ten things to do after graduation

Graduation hats

This week’s heatwave has reminded us all in the UK that summer is finally here, and for many students this means one thing – final projects have been handed in, last exams have been sat, and the ceremonial end to University is in sight – graduation.

If you are a final year chemical engineering student you may have already had your graduation, if not it’s just around the corner. This is a time to celebrate all your hard work and thank those who have helped you make it this far.

It may be the end of an era, but don’t panic about what comes next. You are about to begin your journey to become a professional chemical engineer.

But where to start? Here’s our ten top things to do after graduation:

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Top 5 UK Women in Chemical Engineering #NWED2016

The Top 50 Women in UK Engineering was published today by the Daily Telegraph, in partnership with the Women’s Engineering Society (WES). It celebrates female engineers across a broad range of sectors and disciplines to mark National Women in Engineering Day – 23 June. Over 800 nominations were received, so to make the Top 50 is a huge achievement.

But which chemical engineers made the list?

1. Dame Judith Hackitt

IChemE AGM 20 05 13

The first chemical engineer to make the list (coming in at number 18), Dame Judith Hackitt, spent 23 years in industry before moving on to represent various professional institutions and boards. She was the Chair of the Health and Safety Executive for 8 years, and has recently become Chair of the EEF.

Judith was IChemE President 2013-2014, is an IChemE Fellow and an active member of the Institution. She is passionate about valuing diversity, and is strongly opposed to positive discrimination and tokenism. An interview we did with Judith for International Women’s Day is available here.

TOP QUOTE: “Teachers are ill-informed about engineering. They don’t know what it is and they have pre-conceived notions that it’s dirty, its greasy, it’s all these things which it’s not. And they say ‘No, that’s not for girls.’ You still find that even now, forty years later.”

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Five chemical engineering research stories from May 2016

Since the end of ChemEng365 our ChemEngBlog has become a little quiet. To make sure you stay up-to-date with the latest achievements from the chemical engineering research community we will be providing you with monthly updates on some of the latest stories.

So here are five stories of amazing chemical engineering research and innovation:

Seven chemical separations to change the world

Floating energyDavid Sholl and Ryan Lively, chemical and biomolecular engineers, from the Georgia Institute of Technology, US, highlighted seven chemical separation processes that, if improved, would reap great global benefits. The list they have drawn up is not exhaustive (we are sure there are more we could add!) but includes; hydrocarbons from crude oil, uranium from seawater, alkenes from alkanes, greenhouse gases from dilute emissions, rare-earth metals from ores, benzene derivatives from each other, and trace contaminants from water.

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Guest blog: #WorldWaterDay

IChemE’s Special Interest Groups (SIGs) are an essential way for our members to share knowledge and collaborate on initiatives, which are of significance to their sector.

drop on water

Today is World Water Day, and our Water SIG is a hugely important part of providing expert advice and consultation to the innovations that could change our world. Water is essential to life, it must be sustainable or we cannot survive. Chemical engineers are an important part of making sure water provision is sufficient, clean, economical, and environmentally-friendly.

Chris Short, Chair of the IChemE Water SIG, explores in more detail the current challenges for the water sector in today’s blog post. Read on to hear his thoughts, and feel free to join the conversation on Twitter using #WorldWaterDay or by leaving a comment below:


chris-short

Name: Chris Short
Job: Consultant and Chartered Chemical Engineer
Company: Chris Short Water Quality (previously Yorkshire Water)
Special Interest Group: Water, Chairman

Quote start
Today is World Water Day, and I’ll be attending a conference in Leeds, UK, on Innovations in Wastewater Treatment. The focus will be on the recovery of value from wastewater and I expect to hear how leading-edge technologies are performing and what new processes are being evaluated by researchers.

This is exciting stuff.

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“It’s about valuing diversity”, an interview with Dame Judith Hackitt for #InternationalWomensDay #IWD2016

Today is International Women’s Day, and to celebrate we decided to put a chemical engineering leading lady in the spotlight – Dame Judith Hackitt.

Judith Hackitt, who was IChemE’s second female president (2013-2014), has had an eventful 2016 so far. The Chair of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), was made Dame in the New Year Honours, and has recently announced her new appointment as Chair at the EEF, the manufacturers organisation.

We sat down with her to look back on her career so far, and get her perspective on the gender debate, and the future of chemical engineering.

IChemE AGM 20 05 13

Thanks for joining me today Judith. You have had quite an impressive career. I’m sure you’re a bit sick of this question but what was it like to be made a Dame in the New Year’s Honours List?

Well on a day-to-day basis it doesn’t make any difference, I’m not using the title anywhere and everywhere and insisting people call me Dame Judith! I was at home on the day the letter arrived, it was first of all a big surprise but also a massive honour. It’s hard to describe but you feel like it’s something special. I really am genuinely honoured to be offered this, and it was a delight to write back and say yes, of course I’d accept.

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Why join IChemE?

We hope you have been keeping up with our ChemEngProfiles video blogs. Over the last few weeks, we have shared the stories of twenty chemical engineers – at various stages in their careers, and working for some of the biggest companies in the world.

Last week we gave you ‘Five powerful reasons to be a chemical engineer at Shell’, following the success of our previous posts – ‘Five sweet reasons to be a chemical engineer at Mondelez’, ‘Five great reasons to be a chemical engineer at BP’, and ‘Five great reasons to be a chemical engineer at Syngenta’. So what’s next?

The thing that our interviewees had in common was that they are all IChemE members, and they view membership as an important addition to their CV.

IChemE_10mm_RGBIn today’s post we’ve turned the spotlight on ourselves – IChemE, the global professional membership organisation for chemical, biochemical and process engineers.

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Five powerful reasons to be a chemical engineer at Shell

Over the past few weeks we have been sharing real-life experiences of IChemE members, working at some of the world’s most innovative organisations. So far, our ChemEngProfiles video blogs have covered: ‘Five great reasons to be a chemical engineer at Syngenta‘, ‘Five great reasons to be a chemical engineer at BP‘, and most recently, ‘Five sweet reasons to be a chemical engineer at Mondelez’.Royal_Dutch_Shell

Today we turn our attention to Shell – one of the six oil and gas ‘supermajors’ and an IChemE Gold Corporate Partner. Through oil and gas exploration, production, refinement and distribution, Shell makes it possible for us to heat our homes, fuel our cars and cook our food.

But what is it like to be a chemical engineer at one of the world’s most valuable companies?

Exciting, diverse, challenging – maybe all of the above? Check out our latest ChemEngProfiles videos to find out.

(1) You work on meaningful projects that affect various stakeholders, right from the start.

Carlyn Greenhalgh, a process improvement practitioner at Shell, loves the complexity of chemical engineering. She explains how she went from University, to working on a production site with her own unit. Her pilot plant is now being manufactured and sold worldwide.

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Five sweet reasons to be a chemical engineer at Mondelez

If you’re an avid follower of this blog (and you really should be!), then by now you will be familiar with our series of ChemEngProfiles video blogs. We’ve had two so far: ‘Five great reasons to be a chemical engineer at Syngenta‘ and ‘Five great reasons to be a chemical engineer at BP‘.

From practical problem solving at BP to travelling the world with work for Syngenta, it’s clear to see that life as a chemical engineer brings great benefits and opens up a world of opportunities.

mondelez bannerToday it’s time to shine a spotlight on the lads and lasses at Mondelez International – one of the world’s largest confectionery, food and beverage companies. Their products and brands, including  Cadbury, Philadelphia and Oreo fill the shelves in shops and supermarkets all over the world.

So what’s it like to be a chemical engineer at Mondelez?

Are they the modern day Willy Wonkas? Check out the videos and find out for yourselves:

(1) Chemical engineers at Mondelez work out new and inventive ways to produce more with less

Benjamin Hodges, a graduate trainee at the Mondelez Bourneville factory in Birmingham, UK, talks about the demands on a chemical engineer in the food industry – from reducing waste  to increasing raw material yield:

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Five great reasons to be a chemical engineer at BP

Earlier this week, we launched the first in a new series of ChemEngProfiles video blogs.  Our good friends at Syngenta started the ball rolling and you can check out their stories in ‘Five great reasons to be a chemical engineer at Syngenta‘. But it’s not only chemical engineers at Syngenta who want to share their passion for the profession and we’ve got lots more in the pipeline.

BP logo - BP Hummingbird...Today we’re featuring a diverse group of chemical engineers from BP – an IChemE Gold Corporate Partner and one of the word’s six ‘supermajor’ energy companies.

We’re all familiar with the big energy challenges confronting humanity 21st century. Chemical engineers are on the front line in the battle to deliver affordable, secure and sustainable energy supplies and IChemE members at BP are no exception.

But don’t take our word for it, check out these video clips from the boys and girls at one of the world’s leading international oil and gas companies. 

(1) Protecting the planet by switching to biofuels

Aidan Hurley is a Chief process safety engineer at BP Alternative Energy. Here he’s talking about his work with biofuels and how, as a chemical engineer, he is developing solutions to the challenges associated with energy including climate change:

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Five great reasons to be a chemical engineer at Syngenta

You’ll probably know by now that IChemE exists to advance chemical engineering worldwide and the reason is a simple one – chemical engineering matters. As such, it’s important  to highlight some areas where the Institution and its 42,000 members make a difference.

Graduation hatsThe first is to inspire the next generation of chemical engineers, particularly young women. Because let’s face it, who else is going to solve the grand challenges of the 21st century and beyond?  And the more diverse the chemical engineering workforce, the better.

Next, we need to promote the wide variety of careers available within the broad spectrum of chemical engineering to improve graduate retention in the process industries.

Finally, we need to stress the importance of achieving chartership and continuing professional development (CPD) throughout a fruitful and rewarding chemical engineering career.

And what better way to do this than to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth? Through our ChemEngProfiles videos, you can listen to our members share their passion for chemical engineering.

syngenta bannerToday’s blog focusses on what it’s like to be a chemical engineer at Syngenta – one of the world’s leading agrochemical companies and also one of IChemE’s Bronze Corporate Partners.

So without further ado, here’s five reasons to be a chemical engineer at Syngenta:

(1) You can be responsible for making a process profitable

Dan Clarke, a process engineer at Syngenta, explains how chemical engineers are usually the ones who make a process profitable. Listen to him talk agitators, scale-up and scale down here:

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Five projects that raise the profile of chemical engineering (Day 361)

Day 361 – five days and counting.

During my year as novice blogger, I’ve been made aware of many excellent projects involving outreach that raise the profile of our profession to the public, and in particular, to school children.

This blog post highlights five initiatives that will inspire a new generation of chemical engineers, as well as promoting the value of engineering to a wider audience:

1. Pint of Science

pint of science beer mat

Pint of Science beer mats

The Pint of Science festival is an annual event, held over three days, that takes place in pubs across the world. During the festival, researchers and experts in their field discuss their latest scientific work over a drink. Pint of Science has grown year on year since its inception in 2012 by two research scientists, Michael Motskin and Praveen Paul, at Imperial College London, UK.

This year I was invited to take part – and in return I was promised a free pint!  Well how could I refuse?  I’m a big fan of science communication and public engagement – the free pint had nothing to do with it!

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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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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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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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Engaging the public through Really Small Science (Day 347)

Outreach is a really important part of being a chemical engineer. Inspiring the next generation of engineers should be a priority for all of us.

really small science 2Throughout my year as president, I have become more aware of the great outreach initiatives and campaigns run by companies, organisations and universities around the world.

I’m proud to see so many chemical engineers who are enthusiastic about shining a light on our profession.

I recently attended a presentation given by Dr Mark Haw, senior lecturer in chemical and process engineering at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, UK. He talked about a fantastic group of researchers who run nano-themed workshops to engage with schools and the public through ‘Really Small Science‘.

So I have asked Mark to tell us more about their nano-enterprise:


mark_haw
Name
Dr Mark Haw
Job:
Senior lecturer in chemical and process engineering
Course: PhD Colloidal Physics, University of Edinburgh, UK
Employer: University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK

 

Quote startWe started ‘Really Small Science‘ with funding from the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2013. The original project was to run a four day event at the Glasgow Science Centre.

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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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A teacher worthy of Frank Morton’s mantle (Day 334)

What does it take to be a good teacher?

FM medalChemical engineering professor Frank Morton had some very good ideas – perhaps because he left school aged 14 and worked his way through night school and then university to achieve global recognition for his dedication to future generations of chemical engineers.

Frank was also distinguished by his care for the sporting and social side of his students’ lives (see my blog ‘Work hard, play hard‘ for the 2015 Frank Morton sports day).

So, sharing this dual perspective, Professor Redhouane Henda of Laurentian University in Ontario, Canada, is a very worthy winner of the 2014 Frank Morton Medal for excellence in chemical engineering education.

I’m sure we all remember good teachers on our way to becoming chemical engineers.

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Shaping the evolution of chemical engineering – The Sargent Medal (Day 326)

Many people in the chemical engineering community have taken their inspiration from Professor Roger Sargent who served IChemE as its President in 1973. Roger is described by many as the “Father of process systems engineering”.

It was entirely fitting that IChemE should create a medal in his honour in 2014 to recognise research in computer-aided product and process engineering (CAPE).

Photo Credit | Carnegie Mellon University  Professor Ignacio E Grossmann

Professor Ignacio E Grossmann
Photo Credit | Carnegie Mellon University

The first recipient of the Sargent Medal is himself an undisputed leader in the field.

So it gives me real pleasure to congratulate Ignacio Grossmann, the Rudolph R. and Florence Dean University Professor of Chemical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, US on this great achievement.

Roger Sargent’s influence in the field of process systems engineering is massive – not just because of his ground-breaking research, but also because of the extraordinary scale of his academic ‘family tree’ of research students. By the beginning of the 21st century, the tree included seven ‘generations’, numbering over six hundred people in all.

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England’s North East – still a powerhouse of industry and innovation (Day 323)

For a long time now, my mantra has been “Chemical engineering matters.” If you’ve read anything by me, or listened to me speak, the message will have been loud and clear. And that’s why this principle is now embedded at the core of IChemE.

Playing table football at the North East annual dinner with Teesside Member Group Chair, Adrian Northey

Playing table football at the North East annual dinner with Teesside Member Group Chair, Adrian Northey

But sometimes even I am overwhelmed by just how strongly other people feel the same way. And my recent visit to Teesside, in England’s North East, was one of those times.

I had the privilege of addressing the North East IChemE annual dinner, as well as visiting several sites in the area where chemical engineers are creating sustainable solutions for a wide range of challenges. Time and again, I was impressed by the dedication and achievements of the people I met.

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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’.

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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‘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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