SciTech

Chemical Engineering Department celebrates 100 years of dynamic innovation

Alumni, faculty, and students gathered for a symposium to celebrate the department?s successes, reminisce about its history, and discuss the department?s current issues.
Since its inception, chemical engineering has transformed into a discipline that incorporates all technologies and sciences. Andrew Gellman, head of the chemical engineering department, said ?The field of chemical engineering itself started as an empirical discipline, but it has since evolved into a more scientifically and molecularly based discipline.?
This diversity helps today?s chemical engineers enter a variety of careers: supervising the operation of chemical plants, designing chemical processes for pollution prevention, and developing new products and processes. In his presentation during the celebratory event, alumnus Kears Pollock stated that he learned five lessons while at Carnegie Mellon: ?Respect wisdom, keep learning, observe, test, and don?t give up.? Pollock was able to apply these lessons to ?problem solving, managing a business, ethical leadership, and balancing life?s issues.?
Success stories such as Pollock?s come from Carnegie Mellon?s ?stability, out-of-the-box thinking, and strength in computer-aided design,? stated John Anderson, former dean of the College of Engineering.
In his presentation, ?Carnegie Mellon?s Chemical Engineering Department over the Past Two Decades,? Anderson reinforced Gellman?s thoughts on how chemical engineering has become a multidisciplinary endeavor.
More has changed in the chemical engineering department than its curriculum. Carol Dudley, vice-president at Dow Chemical, noticed the diversity of the people joining the department, particularly with respect to women. ?This diversity drives diversity of style which drives innovation,? said Dudley.
An audience member revealed that at one point in time, 25 percent of women engineers in the U.S. were studying at or had graduated from Carnegie Mellon.
Harvey Hinch, class of 1978, noticed that one of the greatest changes in the department has been its increase in size. Not only has the department itself grown, but it has expanded into several new buildings.
When asked what his favorite memory of the chemical engineering department was, Hinch recalled punching computer cards with only 80 characters for each card during late nights in the computer lab.
The first 100 years have successfully taken CMU?s chemical
engineering department through numerous changes in the discipline and the industry, and its graduates have initiated new changes and paradigm shifts in both. Gellman?s final presentation of the afternoon, ?The Next 100 Years,? assured us that the department will continue to grow and excel.