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Ideas To Consider For New Chemical Engineering Educators: Senior Design

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Chemical Engineering Education: Upperclass Years

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.661.1 - 15.661.11



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Paper Authors


Lisa Bullard North Carolina State University

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Dr. Lisa G. Bullard is a Teaching Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at North Carolina State University. She served in engineering and management positions within Eastman Chemical Co. from 1991-2000. A faculty member at NCSU since 2000, Dr. Bullard was named an Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor at NCSU and was awarded the Outstanding New Teacher Award by the Southeastern Section of ASEE, the NCSU Alumni Outstanding Teaching Award, the COE George H. Blessis Outstanding Undergraduate Advisor Award, and the NCSU Faculty Advisor Award.

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

Ideas to Consider for New Chemical Engineering Educators: Senior Design Abstract

Teaching the senior or “capstone” design course can be intimidating to new faculty members since the course is typically more open ended and project-based compared to other traditional core courses. Faculty with backgrounds in chemistry or physics who join a chemical engineering department may have never taken such a course themselves. In many departments, the course was traditionally taught by a retired industrial practitioner who had a good idea of the types of deliverables that were representative of what students would encounter in the workplace, but this may not be the case today. In addition, the advent of process simulators in the 1970’s and 1980’s had a huge impact on the way that senior design is currently taught. This paper summarizes the author’s selection of the most effective, innovative approaches for the capstone design course reported recently in the literature or discussed at previous conferences. The challenges associated with teaching senior design, and approaches successfully applied to address these challenges, are also described.


The senior design course in chemical engineering typically includes both traditional lecture content as well as a capstone project. Academic content typically includes flowsheet synthesis and development, process simulation, process economics, and equipment design/heuristics. Depending on the background of the instructor and whether the course is one or two semesters, a laundry list of additional topics might include sustainability and “green design” concepts,1 process safety, 2 Good Manufacturing Practice, Six Sigma,3 optimization,4 selecting materials of construction, reading P&ID’s, heat exchanger network or reactor network synthesis, environmental regulations, engineering ethics, batch scheduling, and product design.5 Senior design is also the last opportunity to reinforce “soft skills” such as teamwork6,7 and communication.8, 9

Course Organization and Structure

Whether the course is one semester or two will significantly impact how the course is organized, the content that can be covered, and the scope of the design project. According to a recent survey conducted by John Wiley based on a response from 50 departments, US chemical engineering departments are split down the middle – half teach one design course, and half teach a two-semester design sequence.10

Instructors have several challenges related to the structure and organization of the course. Departments who teach one design course must be very selective and choose which content is most important for its graduates. Design projects for a one-semester offering might be best structured as multiple smaller problems that reinforce the course content being covered. Departments who teach two design courses have more flexibility to cover

Bullard, L. (2010, June), Ideas To Consider For New Chemical Engineering Educators: Senior Design Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15632

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