Celebrating the achievements of women, and various successes in gender parity, it provides us with the perfect opportunity to shine a light on the important issue of diversity in our profession.
The percentage of female undergraduates studying chemical engineering in UK is just above 25%. It’s higher than any other engineering discipline, but there’s still more to be done.
The theme for International Women’s Day 2017 is #BeBoldForChange. To celebrate, our member-led diversity network has shared ten inspiring quotes from their popular ‘Women in Engineering’ webinar series on changing attitudes, highlighting how the engineers featured #BeBoldForChange in their careers.
These women (and one man!) are all at different stages of their fulfilling careers. Their words should inspire you to be #BeBoldForChange too.
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.
Thanks for joining us for round two of our blog series, celebrating the very worthy winners of the IChemE Global Awards 2016. With help from our friends at Morgan Sindall we have produced a video for every category, and each one includes a special interview with the winners.
Yesterday we looked at some life-changing products, and the theme remains the same in today’s post. However today’s products have a little something extra – they have been specially designed to help tackle a problem in low-middle income countries.
This goes to show that chemical engineering really does matter, and that the work of chemical engineers doesn’t just make our lives easier – it is solving some of the world’s biggest poverty issues.
Enjoy the three videos below, and stay tuned the rest of the week when we reveal even more winning projects.
Last month the IChemE Global Awards 2016 were held in Manchester, UK, in one of the biggest celebrations of chemical engineering achievement worldwide. Our judges had a difficult task narrowing down 16 winners from 120 amazing finalists.
The ceremony was held at the Principal Hotel and welcomed over 400 guests from around the world to recognise and celebrate chemical engineering success stories.
For many, success doesn’t end after collecting a trophy, but marks the starting point on a journey to excellence. An IChemE Award can take you to some unexpected places, make commercialisation easier, help to develop your team or grow your portfolio. You could even get a letter from the US President.
So every day this week we’ll be dedicating special blog posts to the 2016 Award winners and their innovative, fascinating, problem-solving projects. With the fantastic support of Morgan Sindall we have produced a video for every one – enjoy!
IChemE member and Energy Centre Future Energy Leaders Vice-Chair Matthias Schnellmann was there to participate in the discussions. Here are his thoughts:
Name: Matthias Schnellmann Education: Chemical Engineering (MEng), University of Cambridge Job Title: PhD Student, University of Cambridge Special Interest Group:Clean Energy Research interests: Low carbon energy
The IChemE Energy Centre, along with the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) organised a Low Carbon Summit at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in London on Friday 9 September 2016. It was an opportunity to consider what the COP21 and 5th Carbon Budget targets mean for the UK and how existing and future low carbon technologies will help us to meet them.
To help you stay up-to-date with the latest achievements from the chemical engineering research community here is our monthly instalment with some of the latest stories.
September’s five stories of amazing chemical engineering research and innovation are:
The Popeye effect – powered by spinach
Popeye was right; we can be powered by spinach! Researchers from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have developed a bio-photo-electro-chemical (BPEC) cell that produces electricity and hydrogen from water using sunlight, using a simple membrane extract from spinach leaves. The article, publish in the journal Nature Communications, demonstrates the unique combination of a man-made BPEC cell and plant membranes, which absorb sunlight and convert it into a flow of electrons highly efficiently. The team hope that this paves the way for the development of new technologies for the creation of clean fuels from renewable sources. The raw material of the device is water, and its products are electric current, hydrogen and oxygen.
Recently 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
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.
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.”
On 24 May 2016 at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, Professor Jonathan Seville was inaugurated as IChemE President for 2016-17. The Executive Dean of Engineering at University of Surrey delivered his Presidential Address on the subject of relevance. Jonathan challenged us all to think: how will the Institution and the profession stay relevant in a world that is rapidly changing?
“You edit a magazine about chemical engineering?” repeated the man fixing my washing machine, “Blimey, that sounds really boring!”
It’s refreshing to meet someone so willing to wear their heart on their sleeve, and of course all the more pleasing to have spent the next half hour proving him completely wrong. The truth is that chemical engineering touches almost every aspect of our lives, it’s just that so few of us realise it.
The UCL Ramsay Society held its Annual Debate on the Friday 4 March. The topic – ‘Does oil have a future?‘ – explored areas such as energy policies, emissions, sustainability and the cyclic nature of the oil and gas industry.
It quickly became clear that this year’s UCL Ramsay Society Debate “Does Oil Have a Future” was somewhat of a forgone conclusion; its title mirroring alarmist traditions of media headlines which you could imagine exclaiming “Oil is Dead”.
While this would be great news for atmospheric CO2 concentrations, there was agreement between the speakers that yes, oil does have a future. But the question remains, for how long?
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.
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.
Two weeks ago, on 22 February 2016, IChemE invited chemical engineers to Stand Up and Speak Out for Chemical Engineering. Over 60 chemical engineers crowded in the basement room of The Albany pub on Great Portland Street, London, to discuss advocacy for the profession, how to get chemical engineering stories in the media, and discuss the challenges and opportunities that face us when doing so.
The event welcomed a plethora of talent to its expert panel – and saw Jonathan Webb, BBC, Jason Palmer, The Economist, Colin Smith, Imperial College London, Ellie Chambers, British Science Association and Yasmin Ali, E-ON. As well as giving a traditional panel discussion, answering questions from the floor, the experts also got on their soapboxes (literally) and were given four minutes to give their own experiences of engineering and the media.
The evening ended with attendees pledging to ‘Stand Up and Speak Out’. All who pledged will become involved with the IChemE Media Envoy programme, which helps members to tell their stories through the media and give expert comment on current issues.
Today, Yasmin Ali – one of the evening’s expert panelists – gives her feedback on the event, and looks forward to the next steps for chemical engineering and public engagement.
It took me four years of studying chemical engineering, then a few years of work, to realise the magnitude of our reliance on engineers. They beaver away quietly, meeting our daily living expectations and demands. Despite this, we moan and groan on the odd occasion that our train is late, if the internet connection slows down, or when the water from the washing machine in the apartment above decides to pour through the ceiling into the kitchen.
12 December 2015 will go down in history as the day the world agreed to do something about climate change. The impact of countries around the world reaching such an agreement cannot be ignored. However, for us to actually achieve the targets set in Paris we need to act now.
Chemical engineers have been working for some time to find and implement ways to combat climate change.
Here are just ten of the ways that chemical engineers can save the world from the impact of climate change:
Chemical engineering makes its professional contribution by understanding how whole systems work, and generating engineered system solutions to meet desired targets. The ideology and discussion behind climate change solutions is in place, but it needs a chemical engineering, systems thinking approach to apply the technical solutions.
2. Energy efficiency
Becoming more energy efficient is the obvious easy win (at least for chemical engineers). The 2012 Global Energy Assessment stated that 66 per cent of the energy produced today is wasted. The chemicals sector is the most energy intensive industry, but current internal rates of return stand at just 12-19 per cent. Chemical engineers can change this and make energy efficiency the number one priority
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.
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.
Today 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:
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.
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:
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.
The 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.
Now that my blogging days as IChemE President are over, I’d like to say a heart felt thank you and goodbye to all my ChemEng365 readers and followers. So I’ve recorded a farewell message for you to watch:
Thank you for shining a light on chemical engineering with me. Goodbye!
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.
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.
Day 362, four blogs to go. Four more opportunities to highlight chemical engineering in action.
In the Christian tradition, the four horsemen of the apocalypse are the harbingers of the end of the world.
Other faiths offer different views, but for the purposes of this blog post I’m taking a look at four big challenges that present a serious threat to life on earth: water scarcity; increasing energy demand; food security; and climate change. What are chemical engineers doing to tackle these issues and avert the apocalypse?
I have previously observed that we run the risk of sleep-walking towards climate catastrophe. But it’s more complicated than that. The water, energy, food and climate change challenges are interrelated.The former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government, Sir John Beddington, used the term Perfect Storm to describe this phenomenon arguing that climate change will intensify pressure on resources further, adding to the vulnerability of both ecosystems and people.
Chemical engineering can provide shelter from John’s ‘Perfect storm’. Here are some examples.
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
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!
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.
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:
Today is Day 359, and there are just seven days left to shine a light on chemical engineering. So I thought I would try something a little different by highlighting seven Harry Potter ‘spells’ that are all in a day’s work for chemical engineers.
Most people enjoy a little magic, whether that involves reading fantasy fiction, watching a magical movie or even practising a little magic at family gatherings with the words ‘pick a card, any card’.
One of the most popular fantasy offerings in a generation is Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, the epic tale of a boy wizard and his quest to defeat the evil Lord Voldemort.
Harry’s exploits along with his friends at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry have captured the imagination of millions of readers and film-goers around the world.
As a chemical engineer and covert Harry Potter admirer, I thought I would combine the two (with a little help from the mischievous blog elves) and highlight the science and engineering behind seven – the most powerful magical number – spells and potions from the wizarding world:
1. Essence of dittany
You may remember the use of this potion from the final instalment of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, as Ron Weasley ‘splinched’ his arm after ‘disapparating’ to escape the grips of a Death Eater (follower of Lord Voldemort). Essence of dittany, from a plant that produces a healing and restorative properties, and was applied to treat Ron’s injuries – instantly.
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
This 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.
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”.
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 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.
When 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.
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.
Pollsters 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.