Chemical engineers contribute to a remarkably wide array of industries, technologies, and other human enterprises. Our familiarity with processes on both molecular and macroscopic scales allows us to work among the most exciting technology areas of our time. The challenge to academics is to convey this excitement to students, to equip them to become versatile problem-solvers, to offer them a solid grounding in fundamentals and an integrated set of tools for engineering analysis and synthesis, illustrated by examples drawn from the breadth of industry and practice.

Although the discipline of chemical engineering has evolved dramatically over the past forty years, the core curriculum has undergone only minor changes. The engineering science paradigm that began in chemical engineering around 1960 still dominates the courses and major educational texts used throughout the field. That paradigm has served us well, providing the basis for the molecular understanding, analysis on multiple scales, and systems approach that characterizes chemical engineering. Even so, there are compelling reasons to examine whether the existing curriculum might be improved:

  • The broad applicability of chemical engineering fundamentals has become a defining feature of the discipline, and we are challenged to convey this breadth to our students. Hence a major driver for curriculum advancement is the need to connect students to these many applications. Inasmuch as engineering curricula depend heavily on example problems, this is a major undertaking if it is to be done well.
  • Biology is increasingly a molecular science. Our disciplinary focus on molecular interactions and transformations makes for a natural and exciting connection with molecular biology.
  • We find ourselves in an era of rapid educational reform, in which both methods of engaging students in classrooms and laboratories are being reexamined and methods of incorporating new technology for education are being explored.

A Workshop Series was organized under the auspices of the Council for Chemical Research, with funding support from the National Science Foundation. Representatives of universities and industries met three times between January and June in 2003 with the goal of defining the materials - texts, syllabi, examples, instructional modules - needed to support a new undergraduate curriculum in chemical engineering.

This work continues. We invite the chemical engineering community to participate - please review the materials collected on this website and tell us your ideas, criticism, and concerns.