Connecting Curriculum and Careers
Connecting our undergraduate curriculum to students’ future careers, graduate studies, or research opportunities is an essential part of the Smith School experience. We’re continuously making improvements to curriculum and classroom instruction to prepare students for success in chemical engineering fields.
By design, our undergraduate curriculum supports career discovery, ethical decision-making, and building leadership and communication skills. It also teaches research and laboratory best practices, which are essential to new graduates entering the workforce or pursuing higher-level degrees.
For nearly 25 years the Smith School has continued and expanded its industrial practitioner program. Industrial practitioners (IPs) are chemical engineers with considerable practical experience in their field. They serve as lecturers or adjunct/visiting faculty and bring extensive industry knowledge into their classrooms and the undergraduate community. IPs also draw on their networks to introduce students to new people, companies, and ideas.
Our IPs not only teach in the classroom and mentor students, but they also play a role in developing curriculum that best reflects the state of the current chemical and biomolecular engineering industry. Over the years they have revised and improved classroom instruction, especially in the product/process design capstone courses, and created and defined areas of specialization. Recently, IPs at the Smith School helped develop the energy economics and data analytics specializations after realizing a gap between instruction and industry needs.
Because of the IP program, we’re thoughtfully and integrally connected to the chemical and biomolecular engineering workforce.
At the Smith School we’re diligent in updating our curriculum to reflect the changing industry and current career aspirations of our students. Educational experiences that help students prepare for their careers are essential—career discovery and soft skills round out our technical curriculum.
CHEME 3010 - Career Perspectives required course
In their junior year, CBE students are required to take CHEME 3010 - Career Perspectives. This one-credit, weekly courses features presentations by visiting chemical and biomolecular engineers. Speaker discuss their career paths and current jobs, from required skills to day-to-day details. Students are able to network and eat lunch with speakers.
Job searching for a technical, specialized fields like chemical engineering requires a focused approach. By sharing a variety of potential career paths in the classroom, students can begin clarifying what they would like to do once they graduate.
Here’s what students gain from Career Perspectives:
- Assistance with a specialized job search
- Seeing how specific chemical engineering fundamentals, such as process and product development, are applied in the workplace
- Understanding career trajectory and requirements: degrees needed, progression in the industry, managerial and technical ladder, career options, and the importance of teamwork
- Knowledge of safety and ethics in the field and particularly in the pharmaceutical industry
Short-term experiential courses led by IPs
Industrial practitioners have the opportunity to use their industry connections to bring students together with real companies for hands-on learning. Experiential courses are offered on an as-available basis, usually a week or so long, and typically worth two credits. These courses are a great way for students to see chemical and biomolecular engineering come to life in the field.
For example, industrial practitioner Frank Lomax led CHEME 5750 - Petroleum Separations Plant Operations Simulator Training, which was a week-long experience for students to operate an industrial-scale process simulator at Shell Robert Training Center Louisiana.
Capstone lab and design courses
During students’ senior year, two capstone courses (Chemical Engineering Laboratory and Chemical Process/Product Design), prepare them for impending careers and research. During these courses, students work on teams to design and conduct experiments and write technical reports.
The final design classes, specifically, introduce students to real chemical engineering challenges. They must work on project management, giving and receiving feedback, presenting, and communicating with industry representatives.