Kettering University will dedicate its new Chemical Engineering Laboratory and related facilities during ribbon-cutting ceremonies at 11 a.m. Wednesday, June 1, in Kettering’s Academic Building.

The new 3,200-square-foot Chemical Engineering center includes a state-of-the-art lab, a classroom and design center, a department studio and five faculty offices. The new laboratory, outfitted with all new instructional laboratory equipment, is the result of a $750,000 investment Kettering made in its latest engineering degree program offering. 

Stacy Seeley, program director of chemical engineering, said the lab is a major step forward for Kettering’s newest academic major.

“This state-of-the-art facility incorporates prototype systems of conventional industrial processes found within the discipline. Its opening is a huge milestone for us,” she said.

University President Stan Liberty said the development of a bachelor of science program in chemical engineering was the next logical augmentation of Kettering’s nationally ranked engineering programs.

“Chemical Engineering is a high-demand field, recently spurred on by growth in a number of areas of scientific application including, for example: biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, alternative energy, and battery technology,” Liberty said. “Kettering is very pleased to dedicate this new space and is very grateful to those who contributed to getting us to today’s ceremony, including the C.S. Mott Foundation which provided a portion of the funds used to purchase the new equipment.”

Steve Nartker was the first faculty member to work and teach in the chemical engineering program.

“The new laboratory allows students to experiment and analyze using distillation, absorption, adsorption, filtration, numerous types of chemical reactors, heat exchangers, viscosity, density, gas chromatography, surface area and porosity techniques,” he said. “The open-space design promotes teamwork and collaboration and allows students to get full access to the instruments. In that way, students will not only use equipment to obtain data, but will also understand how the instruments work.” 

Jonathan Wenzel, who also teaches in the chemical engineering program, said students work in small groups at Kettering, actually operating, characterizing and sizing the equipment that they will see in operation in chemical plants throughout industry.

“The lab serves the purpose of demonstrating practical chemical applications which not only educate, but build a student’s confidence in their innate abilities as engineers,” he noted.

Most modern conveniences would not be possible without the skills of a chemical engineer, Seeley said.

“Chemical engineers are involved in the production of food, materials, polymers, energy, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, consumer care products, microelectronics, automotive, aerospace and national security industries, to name a few,” she said.

Chemical engineering graduates are among the highest paid engineers in the country and can also use their degree as a spring board into medicine, research and development, and patent law.

Seeley said establishing chemical engineering at Kettering was definitely a group effort.

“Former Provost Dr. Michael Harris and Dr. Diana Phillips were responsible for initially creating the chemical engineering program and facilitating university buy-in,” she said. “Dr. Homayun Navaz was instrumental in the design of the new laboratory and incorporated new chemical engineering laboratories into the curriculum. President Liberty and Provost Robert Simpson provided the funding and support to establish the new lab and to purchase all of the instrumentation to outfit our lab. The chemical engineering program at Kettering builds on our tradition of experiential, hands-on learning through interactive laboratories and cooperative education. The laboratory and class sizes are small and always taught by a professor, not a teaching assistant. Our chemical engineering faculty members are young, energetic and have diverse research backgrounds. They are very supportive of their students and invest in the success of each and every one of them.”

Added Nartker: “The chemical engineering program contains a rigorous core background in math, chemistry, physics, and mechanical engineering. We also have created eight new chemical engineering courses. Five of them have in-depth laboratories that reinforce the lecture material and expose the students to different types of instrumentation and chemical applications.”

And Wenzel added, “Kettering’s program incorporates many of the traditional chemical engineering courses — from unit operations to reactor design – and exceptional learning laboratories. Lab courses provide hands-on, experiential learning in a broad area of applications and sequentially build upon themselves in complexity.”

Kettering will graduate its first class of chemical engineering graduates in December 2011. Kettering has about 80 chemical engineering majors.

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