A Letter from the Department Chair

Dr. Muthanna Al-Dahhan

I am very pleased to report that our chemical and biochemical engineering department continues to progress well and to move forward with many advances that have been achieved during the academic year 2014/2015. In this message I would like to summarize some of these advances where some of their details you can find inside the newsletter.

  • Our graduate program ranking has improved significantly as its position at the National rankings became 74 from its previous ranking of 84, according to the US News and World Report. The challenge ahead of us is to further improve the ranking of our graduate program and this would continue to require the collective effort of our faculty members, the college of engineering and computing and the university leaderships, the alumni and friends support and the relevant contributions for obtaining the needed resources.
  • We competed within our college of engineering and computing and within our campus and won a new position of a Teaching Multidisciplinary Professor of Practice, which aims at establishing and teaching multidisciplinary design projects, undergraduate experiments, design projects with industry and open-ended design projects which start when the students enter the programs. We expect to establish for these tasks multidisciplinary teams from various departments related to the design projects and the experiments. We were fortunate to attract Dr. Peter Ryan who has extensive industrial experience, to start teaching in the Fall Semester 2016.
  • We have revisited and approved our newly redesigned undergraduate curriculum for both chemical engineering and chemical engineering with biochemical engineering emphasis degree programs and this newly redesigned undergraduate curriculum will be implemented in the Fall Semester 2016. The new curriculum reflects the changes in our discipline and provides enhanced learning and training to our undergraduate students to prepare them better for both industry and for graduate studies. In the Fall Semester 2016 and in the coming two academic years, both the new curriculum for the new students and the old curriculum for the current students are to be offered.
  • We have been progressing in achieving our Strategic Plan goals and actions. We revised our department mission and vision and we revisited accordingly our Strategic Plan so as to be more focused and along the levers and goals of the Strategic Plans of our newly formed college of engineering and computing and our university.
  • With the help of our Industrial Advisory Council (IAC) and Student Advisory Committee (SAC), we have conducted many successful professional mentoring sessions to our students offered by the members of IAC, our alumni and by some of our visitors from Industry and Academia. This program has benefited our students noticeably and we are looking forward for its continuation and towards to having a larger population of students benefiting from this program.
  • We established and implemented the “Global Cultural Exchange Program” where one of our students or faculty members presents their country’s culture, society, education, food, etc. which is followed by pizza, snacks and drinks. This program helps our students significantly, including our domestic students, to learn about the culture of others societies and ethnic groups of people and to enhance the acceptance of the diversity that is expanded in our department where we continue to have students from various parts of the world; Brazil, Malaysia, China, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, India, Libya, Jordan, Bangladesh, Korea, and other countries.
  • We established the Department Distinguished Dissertation Award for graduate students. This award was created to inspire out graduates to complete and publish at least three publications before his/her defense.
  • We are pleased to announce that Gail Hahn was awarded the Professional Distinction Award. Gail is a 1982 Chemical Engineering Graduate of Missouri S&T.
  • Our new Bertelsmeyer Hall provides a modern facilities to host state-of-the-art undergraduate teaching labs. Dr. Sitton made progress on establishing the Emerson/Mynah process control and virtual experiments, ConocoPhillips gas absorption and cleaning experiment, and Rosemount flow instrumentation and heat exchanging experiment in our Fran H. Conrad Unit Operations Laboratory, a gift of Linda and Bipin Doshi. Phillips 66 has donated and committed to $60,000 to develop a Phillips 66 experiment. I appeal and urge all members of our alumni and friends to outreach to their companies and industry for donating the needed funds to establish modernized experiments for our undergraduate teaching according to the plan outlined in the newsletter.
  • Also, our Bertelsmeyer Hall now accommodates state-of-the-art advanced research laboratories on a wide range of research topics and applications. These are among the most unique research laboratories in both the USA and in the world. External funding has been attracted from both government agencies and industry due to such unique research facilities.
  • We acquired and put to use high capacity computing of 120 processors to be expanded by adding an additional number of 120 processors during the coming year. This currently represents the largest computing facility on campus. This capability is complemented by a number of workstations that we have and which are currently accommodated in the server room and the research computing lab of Bertlesmeyer Hall.
  • Our teaching and research facilities in Bertelsmeyer Hall have been visited by many distinguished visitors and seminar speakers to our department and our college and campus. Among those is the Astronaut Dr. Sandra Magnus – Executive Director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
  • Our department has continued to grow in its number of faculty members. We have 10 new faculty members since 2009 which makes our total department faculty members of 16 faculty members in Fall Semester 2016 plus four faculty joint appointments and one adjunct faculty member. Three of them are non-tenure track faculty members; research assistant professor, teaching associate professor and teaching associate professor of practice. For the first time, we have a significant diversification among our faculty members and students. We have three women faculty members, one Hispanic and various cultural background faculty members. We continue to effectively mentor our young faculty members.
  • We continue to have large enrollments of both undergraduate (about 500) and graduate students (about 70) which creates challenges on us including the needed resources to maintain the quality of our teaching and research labs and to manage such large enrollment while we continue to offer the required courses each semester and to provide the needed Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) supported by external funding. This includes the funding provided by our Chemical Engineering Academy. However, we are still having one of the highest student to faculty ratio and facing shortage in our needed GTAs.
  • We successfully have implemented the restructuring of our MS and PhD degree programs including the qualifying exam which is based on achieving more scholarly productivities and strengthening the graduate students’ fundamental knowledge, adding graduate lecture series, offering advanced chemical engineering mathematic and having a plan for its future development as a required course, etc.
  • To enhance the quality of advising of our undergraduate students, we have established and conducted advising workshops to all our faculty members each academic year or each semester as is needed.
  • We expanded on providing experiential learning to our students and increased the number of undergraduate students participating in research, and, thus, most of our faculty members host in their labs many undergraduate students working on projects and assisting our graduate students. Many of them have won awards.
  • Our external research expenditure has increased by 532% from FY2012 to FY2015 and this provides a challenge with respect to being able to sustain it and further increase it.
  • Also, our scholarly activities have continued to be enhanced in terms of publications, presentations, plenary/keynote lectures, invited talks, and our faculty and students participation in national and international conferences.
  • We continue enhancing and encouraging our national and international collaboration and projects on both research and teaching
  • Our faculty members continue to serve effectively in our profession in various capacities.
  • Our ChemE car team moves to participate in the coming AIChE national meeting in San Francisco.
  • We have initiated the establishment of MS degree in chemical engineering via distance learning. For that, we established a program with Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC) to offer MS degree via distance learning to their qualified engineers. We plan to implement it in the Fall Semester 2016 or the Spring Semester 2017. We have initiated the appropriate conversion of our graduate courses to also be offered via distance learning.
  • Our introductory course on Material and Energy Balance has been converted by Dr. Luks into online – blending course in order to be offered in the summer semester to our transfer students without being tied to the minimum number of the students to offer the course. We plan to convert the other course of Thermodynamics I into the same way of blended learning.
  • Our Phonathon donations for FY 2016 totaled $141, 641, up 24% from FY15. I urge and encourage all our alumni and friends to participate and contribute to our Phonathon which is an important resource to advance our department.

Although our department has steadily continued to improve and advance by making each year noticeably progress, we are still facing many challenges for which we need the support and help of our college and university leadership and our alumni in particular. Among these challenges is the need for adequate operating funds, more graduate teaching assistants, outreaching to industry for undergraduate experiments support, research contracts, graduate students fellowships and the establishment of a consortium, reducing the large ratio of student to faculty ratio by hiring more faculty members on tenure track, more staff members including technician, enhancing our external research funds and expenditure and supporting more graduate students on research, among others.

We are fortunate that we have you as our alumni and you are the sources of pride and inspiration to all of us. Bertelsmeyer Hall has motivated all of us to continue our progress and for that, we continue to express our sincere thanks to all who participated financially to make such state-of-the-art facilities a reality and with our hard work for developing outstanding labs, Bertelsmeyer Hall has attained the status of being one of the icons of Missouri S&T.

For those who did not have the opportunity to donate to Bertelsmeyer Hall, I would like to emphasize to them and to all our alumni and friends in general, that the department still lacks endowed chairs, endowed professorships, curators’ professors, and endowed funds to maintain the labs which will have significant impacts on the department upon acquiring them. We are the only department in the college of engineering and computing college without endowed chairs and endowed professorships and to achieve that while we are entering our centennial anniversary. We need the help of our alumni, the college and university leadership and the development and advancement office.

 On behalf of our faculty members, staff and students, I thank you all and we all are looking forward to seeing you here and interacting with you.

Sincerely,

Muthanna Al-Dahhan
Professor and Chair