Definition and Understanding of Engineering Concepts

The official statement of this goal as one of the "six tools" is the ability to define and understand engineering components and phenomena in the context of systems that extend beyond the domain of traditional chemical engineering.

My Interpretation

I believe that this tool relates to using chemical engineering tools outside traditional chemical engineering settings. One mark of mastery of a subject is the ability to discern all the connections it has with other subjects.

By the time you complete your four-year program here, you will have a little exposure to many different engineering disciplines - we share the same analysis of static systems that civil engineers use; we consider the same health and safety rules and may even do some ecosystem modeling important to environmental engineers; our thermodynamics program is nearly the same as those of mechanical engineers (though we get a bit more into chemistry); we learn about control processes that are important to electrical engineers. These connections become clearer, the more you learn!

My Evidence

Research in Population Ecology and Epidemiology

My research under Dr. Mark Stadtherr includes numerical simulation of a variety of mathematical models, including chemical kinetics and biochemical control processes, but also work in ecology and epidemiology. While these areas may sound like they have little to do with chemical engineering, many of these population models arise from simple population balances. That's right, the same material balance equation we use over and over - accumulation is the sum of inputs, less outputs, plus generation, minus consumption - can be used to classify the biomass in an ecosystem! Inputs and outputs are migration, and generation and consumption are roughly birth and death. Depending on the model, we can also simulate growth in biomass of individuals using these same equations.

This research has resulted in a number of presentations and publications. For a complete list, please refer to my CV.

Explorations in Engineering Education

One goal of Notre Dame's First-Year Engineering program is to give exposure to the various disciplines of engineering. In the fall of 2010, I am conducting a lecture on nonreactive material balances that parallels the work done in their module on tower construction and force balances. I show how the systems of equations used to analyze a truss are the same equations that can track the mass flows of species through a unit operation, such as a separation process. I also take time to explain the way a coal-fired power plant works, then use physical separation of CO2 from flue gases as a simple example of a nonreactive material balance. The slides will be accessible here after the course has completed.

Assessment of Strengths and Weaknesses

My research and abilities to teach exemplify my strengths in understanding material balances, controls, and chemical kinetics. I believe that my understanding of these fields and their applications both within and beyond chemical engineering is quite strong.

However, I recognize that I sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture or of specific applications of my knowledge in these areas. I especially think that my "intuitive" understanding of some thermodynamic principles is still a little weak. I can make connections given enough time, but I strive to become faster when thinking about these ideas.

Goals and Plans

Short-term goal: Successfully complete instruction in courses related to chemical engineering concepts.

Medium-term goal: Do more individual reading on thermodynamics and instructional methods.

Medium-term goal: Complete a simulation in LabVIEW or MATLAB that uses these principles and "stands alone" to teach others about them.

Long-term goal: Obtain a teaching position at a college or university to further expand on my strengths.

Notes for CBE 20255 students:

Typically, you should include links to your artifacts directly. I don't have journal publications available as Google Documents, so I choose not to link them here.

Obviously, your contributions to date may be lacking in this or other areas. Do not be discouraged! If you believe you have little to no evidence of your proficiency at this or any other of the six tools, take more time to reflect on your current abilities and plans to improve in the future!