News from Chemical Engineering

Changing Curriculum and Addressing Graduate Issues


...I believe that our efforts to recruit the best graduate students in the nation are successful only because of the strong participation of our current students in organizing prospective student visits."


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The fall semester started with the usual excitement associated with the beginning of a new academic year. We are very pleased to have 30 new graduate students join the department. This past year, 50 percent of the students admitted to the program accepted our offer. This is the highest acceptance rate in at least the last decade and speaks to the high quality of the research opportunities in the department. Prof. Balsara, Prof. Maboudian, and Ms. Aileen Harris led our graduate student recruitment effort, and they deserve kudos.

However, I believe that our efforts to recruit the best graduate students in the nation are successful only because of the strong participation of our current students in organizing prospective student visits. They play an invaluable role in conveying a sense of excitement about their work and encouraging prospective students to join our program.

Evolving curriculum
We are continuing efforts that were started last year to evolve our undergraduate curriculum so that our graduates continue to be attractive to a wide spectrum of corporate sectors. The core subjects that define our discipline are transport phenomena, thermodynamics, kinetics, and design. The Berkeley faculty has started a collaborative effort to create examples for courses in thecore subjects that will help illustrate the basic principles in application areas that include petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, microelectronics, biomedicine, polymeric materials, and electrochemistry. If we are successful in this effort, the resulting web-based instruction materials will be a resource not only for our students and faculty but also for the entire discipline. Other new features of our curriculum include the addition of a required course in biology, and integration of separation processes in our courses on thermodynamics, transport phenomena, unit operations, and design. Vice Chair David Graves, along with Dr. Wallman and Prof. Reimer, did much of the careful thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of the curriculum. David is currently on sabbatical in Paris, and Prof. Clay Radke is kindly filling in for him as vice chair.

This fall we started an effort to increase interactions outside the classroom between undergraduates and the faculty. Each faculty advisor has lunch several times a year with small groups of undergraduate advisees. We hope that these lunch meetings will provide greater opportunities for career counseling. The department is very grateful to ChevronTexaco for providing financial support for this program.

Product development course being studied
In my column last year, I mentioned that we were beginning to consider the possibility of adding a component to our graduate program that provides opportunities to learn how products are developed in corporate laboratories. We assembled an advisory board of corporate leaders to help us create such a program. The advisory board is extremely supportive of the idea, and we are moving forward with plans to add this new dimension to the Ph.D. program. I will keep you updated as our plans develop. We would benefit greatly from any input you may have in this regard, so please write to us with your thoughts.

Welcome to our newest faculty member
Our search for a junior faculty member last year was successful. We are delighted that Dr. Rachel Segalman has accepted our offer to join the faculty. Rachel works on hybrid semi-conductor/polymeric materials. Her addition to the faculty makes our department stronger both in the soft materials area as well as in electronic materials. Rachel was wooed by many universities this year and we are very fortunate to have attracted her to join our faculty. She is currently en route to France to start postdoctoral work after completing her doctoral degree at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and will join the faculty in January of 2004.

Faculty Honors and Awards

Our current faculty members continue to garner distinctions for teaching and research. Congratulations to Clay Radke for winning the ACS award in Colloid Chemistry; Henrik Wallman for winning the College Distinguished Teaching award; David Schaffer for being chosen as one of the Top 100 Young Innovators by Technology Review and receiving the Chemical Engineering Excellence Award for Academic Teaching from the Northern California AIChE; Elton Cairns, who presented an invited lecture at the International Society of Electrochemistry Meeting in Dusseldorf in September; John Newman for being appointed to the Lars Onsager Professorship for 2002 at the Norwegian University of Science & Technology in Trondheim, Norway; Alexis Bell for being the 2002 William G. Lowrie Lecturer at the Ohio State University; John Prausnitz for winning the Rossini Award of the Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC); and Enrique Iglesia for delivering the keynote lecture for the Symposium on Natural Gas Conversion held during the 2002 spring meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Please write to us or stop by if you are in the area. We would love to know about your careers and lives as well as hear your thoughts on how the department can continue to lead the discipline in teaching and research.

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