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Seamless Integration Of Chemical & Biological Engineering In The Undergraduate Curriculum

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

The Biology Interface

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.1002.1 - 8.1002.9



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Paper Authors

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Maria Flytzani-Stephanopoulos

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Kyongbum Lee

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Howard Saltsburg

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Gregory Botsaris

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David Kaplan

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

Session 2613

Seamless Integration of Chemical and Biological Engineering In The Undergraduate Curriculum

Howard Saltsburg, Maria Flytzani-Stephanopoulos, David Kaplan, Gregory Botsaris, Kyongbum Lee

Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering Tufts University Medford MA


Chemical engineering has evolved over the past one hundred years from a combination of chemistry and mechanical engineering into a discipline that has developed its own unique and powerful paradigm. The essential features of the modern period began when Arthur D. Little, in 1915, developed the concept of “unit operations” 1. The basis of this approach was the analysis of existing chemical processes and the realization that it was possible to decompose the process into a set of “nearly independent units” with a limited number of inputs and outputs for each “unit”. Subsequently, by including equilibrium and rate processes in the analysis at all scales, ranging from the molecular to the industrial plant, the paradigm of chemical engineering evolved to its present state. It provides a powerful set of tools for such unit operation analyses. With this approach, it is then possible to synthesize a process by combining these units with proper attention to mass and energy balances for the entire system as well as for the individual units. Each unit can be well characterized individually and in detail. The foundation for this approach is a reasonably clear understanding of basic chemistry, transport processes, and their interaction within a unit. During the development of the chemical engineering paradigm, the interaction of traditional chemistry and chemical engineering proved to be of benefit to both disciplines. Like all engineers, chemical engineers apply a systems approach to problem solving and produce practical and timely designs in the absence of complete information. What distinguishes them from other engineers is that they are deeply rooted in the chemical sciences.

Curricula in chemical engineering departments reflect this unit operations approach. While drawing heavily from problems of the petrochemical industry, commodity chemicals, and polymers, the core courses were adequate to prepare chemical engineers for careers in emerging areas of energy and environmental engineering, semiconductor manufacturing, and the diverse requirements of the pharmaceutical industries. Elective courses in these technologies were straight forward applications of the paradigm, as they were based on the same chemical engineering core; namely, thermodynamics, reaction kinetics, and transport phenomena. More importantly, over the years, when chemical engineering departments brought into the curriculum advanced materials, combustion and fuel engineering, biotechnology, or environmental engineering, that step did not require revision of the core and it did not necessitate complex 'tracks'. The paradigm was powerful enough to integrate those new areas, without a change in the core curriculum as the Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003 American Society for Engineering Education

Flytzani-Stephanopoulos, M., & Lee, K., & Saltsburg, H., & Botsaris, G., & Kaplan, D. (2003, June), Seamless Integration Of Chemical & Biological Engineering In The Undergraduate Curriculum Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12645

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