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Making The Connections: Facilitating Student Integration Of Chemical Engineering Concepts Into A Coherent Framework

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Novel Courses and Content for ChEs II

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.862.1 - 13.862.14



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Paper Authors


Rebecca Toghiani Mississippi State University

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Dr. Rebecca K. Toghiani is an Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at Mississippi State University. She received the 1996 Dow Outstanding New Faculty Award and the 2005 Outstanding Teaching Award from the ASEE Southeastern Section. A Grisham Master Teacher at Mississipi State, she is an inaugural member of the Bagley College of Engineering Academy of Distinguished Teachers. Her research activities focus on thermodynamics and separations.

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Adrienne Minerick Mississippi State University

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Dr. Adrienne R. Minerick is an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering
at Mississippi State University. She received her PhD and M.S. from
the University of Notre Dame and B.S. from Michigan Technological
University. Since joining MSU, Dr. Minerick has taught the graduate
Chemical Engineering Math, Process Controls, Introduction to Chemical
Engineering Freshman Seminar, and Heat Transfer Courses. In addition,
she is an NSF CAREER Awaredee, has served as co-PI on an NSF REU site,
PI on grants from NSF and DOE, and is the faculty advisor for MSU’s
chapter of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement
of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE). Her research is
in medical microdevice diagnostics & dielectrophoresis.

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Keisha Walters Mississippi State University

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Dr. Keisha Walters earned her PhD in Chemical Engineering in 2005 from Clemson University. She also holds an MS degree in Chemical Engineering and a BS degree in Biological Sciences from Clemson. Her work involves the surface modification of materials and the development of both stimuli-responsive and biomass-based polymeric materials. Central to her research in polymer and surface engineering is the design and synthesis of molecules with well-defined chemical functionality and molecular architecture. Fundamental research activities of her group include polymer synthesis, surface modification, grafting chemistries, and bulk and surface characterization. Current research includes pH- and temperature-responsive polymers, diagnostic sensor technologies, and the synthesis and surface modification of bioplastics.

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

Making the Connections: Facilitating Student Integration of Chemical Engineering Concepts into a Coherent Framework Abstract

One of the greatest challenges an instructor faces is helping his/her students to see the connections between material being covered in a particular class and that covered in previous courses or courses being taken concurrently. Opportunities exist within most engineering curricula to facilitate a student’s ability to integrate the bits and pieces of knowledge they gain in one class with their existing knowledge base. Helping students to connect subject matter in one course to familiar concepts from fluids, thermodynamics, heat transfer, mass transfer, kinetics, and process control as well as from the foundation courses in mathematics, physics and chemistry can aid students in establishing their operational framework and improving their problem solving skills [Haile, 2000]. Through connecters placed throughout the prerequisite courses, instructors can facilitate student integration of material from different courses and important underlying concepts into a coherent framework. The presentation of these underlying concepts in different courses may be of a nature that masks their true connection to one another, thereby inhibiting the ability of students to connect and integrate a seemingly new concept into their knowledge base. In this paper, opportunities are presented where concept integration may be especially beneficial.


In “The Thinker’s Guide to Analytic Thinking”, Elder and Paul [2007] define eight “Elements of Thought”: • Purpose • Point of View • Question at Issue • Information • Concepts • Assumptions • Interpretation and Inference • Implications and Consequences

These elements are utilized by practicing engineers in their daily endeavors and allow them to successfully navigate technological challenges. The engineer must be able to draw on his/her knowledge base to arrive at a solution. How effectively that individual’s ideas or concepts within that knowledge base are connected is essential to the engineer’s ability to take these, make assumptions and inferences specific to a particular problem, and then generate a solution along with potential implications. The engineering student does not necessarily enter an undergraduate program with this innate ability; rather, it must be developed, through acquisition of knowledge of their chosen field, and through establishment of the interconnections and relationships of elements in their developing knowledge base.

Efforts to improve the conceptual understanding and concept integration abilities of undergraduate students have been the focus of substantial research during past years. For

Toghiani, R., & Minerick, A., & Walters, K. (2008, June), Making The Connections: Facilitating Student Integration Of Chemical Engineering Concepts Into A Coherent Framework Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4210

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