Strategic Plan for the Educational Programs in Chemical Engineering

Educating our students is the cornerstone of our mission and a primary focal point in our Strategic Plan. This focus builds upon the historic strength of Michigan Tech as a college of engineering and a place where students earn a rigorous, practical, hands-on engineering degree. In order to enhance our educational efforts, the immediate goal is to establish an endowment to support the undergraduate Chemical Engineering Laboratories. Longer-term goals are to establish funds for marketing and recruiting to bring the best students to Michigan Tech, and to greatly expand and diversify our portfolio of scholarships available for both undergraduate and graduate students.

Primary Goal: Establish an endowment fund to support the Unit Operations Laboratory.

The single characteristic that differentiates the Michigan Tech Chemical Engineering program from all other chemical engineering programs world-wide is the experience our students gain in our Unit Operations Laboratory. A laboratory of this scope and quality is unique to the MTU experience, and our students’ exposure to these facilities helps each and every one to better prepare for a successful future in the chemical process industries. These laboratories are the flagship of our educational programs.

The student-centered goals of our Unit Operations Laboratory program are:

  • To provide a reality-based educational experience focused on the principles of chemical engineering and the theory and operations of chemical processing equipment;
  • To develop and maintain a constant awareness of health and safety so that it becomes a key element of our graduates' professional skill set;
  • To develop student ethics, teamwork, and leadership skills;
  • To develop our students' outstanding professional oral and written presentation skills;
  • To provide hands-on experiences similar to the assignments our students may see early in their professional careers.

In order to accomplish these goals we will continue to use pilot-scale equipment featuring current processing, instrumentation, and data collection technologies. These facilities need continuous attention—technology upgrades, preventative maintenance, and repairs.

In addition to the traditional experiments like heat exchange, drying, filtration, separations, and fluid flow, our students also learn about reaction kinetics, catalysis, biochemical processes, membranes, and polymer processing. Experiments featuring instrumentation, control valves, and process control fundamentals are also part of the curriculum. Throughout all these laboratory experiences our students develop skills in data interpretation, statistical process control, and design of experiments. Our laboratory facilities must meet these important curricular needs.

The Unit Operations Laboratory, Process Simulation and Control Center, Process Control Laboratory, and Fundamentals of Chemical Engineering Laboratory are the most costly part of our undergraduate program. Our students work in small groups and are taught by highly motivated, actively involved instructors. These facilities are expensive to equip and need constant attention. Graduate teaching assistants, skilled trades, and technical staff support are required. Operating expenses (less instructional costs) and modest annual improvements total nearly $150,000 per year.

Over the past fifteen years we have levied laboratory fees to partially cover the costs of maintaining our undergraduate laboratories. Until recently, several large one-time gifts from alumni, foundations, and corporate partners have allowed us to make headway on our continuous improvement plan, and so the health of our laboratories has been excellent. However, recent budget reductions threaten our ability to maintain and improve our facilities. Support staff salaries, maintenance costs, and new equipment have been targets of these cutbacks. It’s time to protect what we value most and secure the future of our Chemical Engineering undergraduate laboratories for future generations of students.

In order to ensure a healthy future for our laboratory facilities we must establish an endowment fund. An endowment of $2,500,000 at 5% return coupled with the current laboratory fee structure would provide the needed funds for upgrades, preventive maintenance, and repairs. Under this plan each student pays $970 throughout their undergraduate career to supplement the endowment returns in support of their Chemical Engineering laboratory experience. Endowment revenue plus laboratory fees would completely cover the annual operating expenses, and an additional $25,000 per year would be available for purposes such as financial assistance to our most needy students to ensure that they can take advantage of this unique facility.  Student support could take the form of direct financial assistance, or payments to student interns working on projects that utilize the UO laboratory facilities to solve industrial problems.

The endowment fund will be beneficial to all of our students in another respect, involving them in designing new experiments based on input from the Industrial Advisory Board and major donors. Students would then have the resources to design, develop, and construct new, unique equipment that would become part of the UO Laboratory.  This would give our students an unmatched opportunity to not only work with standard industrial equipment, but also with cutting edge technologies.

In order to establish the endowment fund, substantial contributions are needed.  We are therefore seeking multiple major sponsors for this fund. Companies and alumni who contribute to this fund will be recognized as follows:

  1. XXX Bronze Society for Unit Operations Laboratory: Single or multiple year donations totaling $5000 or greater. The name of the donor will be added to a plaque that will be prominently mounted in the Unit Operations Laboratory
  2. XXX Silver Society for Unit Operations Laboratory: Single or multiple year donations totaling $10,000 or greater. Each donor will have an individual plaque that will be prominently mounted in the Unit Operations Laboratory.
  3. XXX Gold Society for Unit Operations Laboratory: Single or multiple year donations totaling $25,000 or greater. Each donor will have an individual plaque that includes a picture of the donor.

Corporations giving more than $50,000 will have a plaque with the company logo, as desired.

(XXX will be replaced by names of persons such as M. W. Bredekamp, Ed Fisher, Davis Hubbard, or Anton Pintar. We are open to suggestions for more names.)

How to Make a Gift to the Chemical Engineering Department

A gift can be made to the Chemical Engineering Department or to one of its programs or scholarships by making a contribution online.

If you would prefer to send you support by U.S. mail rather than online. Please use the address below when making a contribution.

Michigan Tech Fund
Michigan Technological University
1400 Townsend Drive
Houghton, MI  49931-1295

You may contact us by e-mail or phone 906-487-3132 Phone / 906-487-3213 Fax as well.