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Examining Current and Historical Events in a Freshman Chemical Engineering Seminar

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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

Impact of the Gulf Coast Oil Spill on Chemical Engineering Education & Misc.

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.662.1 - 22.662.10



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Paper Authors


Rebecca K. Toghiani Mississippi State University

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Dr. Rebecca K. Toghiani is an Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at MSU. She received her B.S.ChE., M.S.ChE., and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She received the 1996 Dow Outstanding New Faculty Award and the 2005 Outstanding Teaching Award from the ASEE Southeastern Section. A John Grisham Master Teacher at MSU, she is an inaugural member of the Bagley College of Engineering Academy of
Distinguished Teachers. She has also been recognized at MSU with the 2001 Outstanding Faculty Woman Award, a 2001 Hearin Professor of Engineering award, and the 1999 College of Engineering Outstanding Engineering Educator Award.

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Bill B. Elmore Mississippi State University

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Bill B. Elmore, Ph.D., P.E. is the Interim Director and Hunter Henry Chair for the Dave C. Swalm School of Chemical Engineering, Mississippi State University. His teaching areas include integrated freshman engineering and chemical engineering courses through the curriculum including ChE Problem Analysis and Unit Operations laboratories. His current research interests include engineering education reform, enzyme-based catalytic reactions and bioengineering applied to renewable fuels and chemicals.

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Examining Current and Historical Events in a Freshman Chemical Engineering Seminar Freshmen entering the chemical engineering curriculum often have little or limitedknowledge of the historical events that have shaped the chemical engineering profession.Examples of such events include Love Canal, which led to the establishment of Superfund, andthe 1973 Oil Embargo, which resulted in the chemical industry critically examining their use ofenergy. However, the current freshman class was exposed to one such historical event this pastsummer as the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico became the focus of thenational news media. A second environmental event has just occurred in Europe - the release oftoxic red sludge into the Danube River basin in Hungary. The impact of an environmentalaccident is far reaching, and can devastate not only the pristine nature areas and wildlife, but alsothe social and economic realities of communities adjacent to the accident site. Many of thesestudents have visited the beaches on the Gulf of Mexico since they were children; this brings theharsh reality of this event and its devastation on the communities along the Gulf Coast into muchsharper focus. A team assignment was developed where each team investigated a recent or historicalenvironmental/chemical accident, with the assignment culminating in a poster presentation to therest of the class. Incorporation of this activity into the freshman seminar allowed the students togather information regarding an event and assess its impact with respect to society, economicsand the environment. The result is a valuable learning experience for the students as they beginto understand how engineering and engineering decisions not only determine profits and producemarketable items, but also impact society in many different ways.

Toghiani, R. K., & Elmore, B. B. (2011, June), Examining Current and Historical Events in a Freshman Chemical Engineering Seminar Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17943

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