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Building An Active Environmental Chemical Engineering Research Program With Undergraduate Students

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.92.1 - 2.92.8

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Jeffrey G. Sczechowski

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2313

Building an Active Environmental-Chemical Engineering Research Program with Undergraduate Students

Jeffrey G. Sczechowski Civil and Environmental Engineering Department California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, CA 93407


With a University-wide theme of “learn by doing”, all Cal Poly undergraduates are required to complete a Senior Project. Environmental Engineering students are encouraged to conduct an experimental or an applied design project to fulfill this requirement. Students who select new faculty members as their advisors frequently find themselves in the midst of an on-going chemical engineering based environmental research project.

Since a student’s time allocated for Senior Project is limited to the equivalent of four quarter units spanning a two quarter sequence, I have developed several procedures to facilitate the assimilation of students under my direction into these on-going projects. These procedures represent a unique combination of bringing research into the classroom, developing applied research skills in both lecture and laboratory courses, interactions with collaborative research groups, and individual instruction.

The results have been promising with one student going on to win the national Air and Waste Management Association (AWMA) award for the best student paper. Several other students are either planning to or have gone on to pursue graduate engineering degrees in either chemical or environmental engineering.


Remember this scenario: A long, long time ago, in a graduate program far, far away, you were once baffled as how to start your M.S. or Ph.D. research. If you don’t, then either you were born with the silver spoon of omnipotence or you are subconsciously blocking this traumatic experience. Seriously, embarking on that first independent research project, whether in graduate school or on the job, is intimidating. In many instances, the “research experience” claimed on our undergraduate resumes amounted to “gopher” work for a Ph.D. student desperately finishing their dissertation before the funding dried up. It did not prepare us properly.

When undergraduates perform outstanding research, and some really do, it is usually in a classic academic research environment with a few fringe benefits. The advisor must be dedicated to his or her undergraduate assistants. In addition, there are a few post-docs and a horde of graduate students working in well-equipped labs on funded projects willing to help.

Sczechowski, J. G. (1997, June), Building An Active Environmental Chemical Engineering Research Program With Undergraduate Students Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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