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Alternative Lab Reports, Engineering Effective Communication

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Focus on Capstone Experiences in the Chemical Engineering Curriculum

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.157.1 - 22.157.8



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Paper Authors


Daniel Lepek The Cooper Union

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Daniel Lepek is an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. He received his Ph.D. from New Jersey Institute of Technology and B.E. from The Cooper Union. Since joining The Cooper Union in 2009, he has taught more than half the courses in the chemical engineering curriculum. Currently, he teaches the undergraduate laboratory course sequence and the graduate transport phenomena sequence. Recently, he has developed and introduced new elective courses on particle technology and pharmaceutical engineering. His research interests include particle technology, multiphase flow and fluidization, pharmaceutical engineering, modeling of transport and biotransport phenomena, and engineering education. Dr. Lepek is a member of AIChE, ASEE, and ISPE.

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Richard J. Stock Cooper Union

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Richard Stock has a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering (1987) from West Virginia University and is a Professor of Chemical Engineering at The Cooper Union. He is also the Director of the CONNECT Program, training students in effective communication skills. Prior to joining The Cooper Union in 1994 he worked in industry, notably British Petroleum and Price Waterhouse, and biomedical research, primarily at Carnegie Mellon University. His interests include process design and simulation, as well as biological and biomedical applications of chemical engineering.

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Alternative Lab Reports – Engineering Effective CommunicationFor many chemical engineering undergraduate programs, the laboratory sequence allowsstudents to experience the application of chemical engineering outside of the classroom.Typically, the results of these experiments are analyzed and written up in a classiclaboratory report format. Although writing laboratory reports is a valuable skill, today’sengineers are expected to report their results and express their findings in different formsof oral, written, and visual communication.We have introduced a new initiative at The Cooper Union in the senior chemicalengineering laboratory sequence that provides the students with a range of skill-sets thatprepares them to communicate successfully on a professional level in different contextsand environments. As a baseline, students were expected to submit 1-2 laboratory reportsa semester, written on the level of a scholarly journal article. To develop and stretch theircommunication skills, students used their laboratory experiences to submit executivememos to company CEOs, formulate grant proposals to government agencies and createposters that convey their results in a visual setting. Students also made oral presentationstailored to a variety of key audiences of different scientific and corporate backgrounds.Cooper Union’s CONNECT (Cooper’s Own No Nonsense Engineering CommunicationTraining) Program, also initiated as part of this laboratory sequence in 1996, partneredthis initiative, providing students with feedback and specialized training in both writtenand oral communication. Visual communication techniques, such as presentationformatting and graphics development, were also introduced.In this paper, we will illustrate student work using these report alternatives, indicate howwe assessed their effectiveness, present examples of the feedback and specialized trainingstimulated by the students’ work, and outline the lessons we learned as we introducedthese new alternative laboratory reports.

Lepek, D., & Stock, R. J. (2011, June), Alternative Lab Reports, Engineering Effective Communication Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17438

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