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 Strong Chemical Engineering Program Continues Tradition



Bill Snellman and Rashid Hasan
Last winter, UMD chemical engineering senior, Bill Snellman, presented a paper at the American Geophysical Union Conference in San Francisco. His paper “Physics of Fluid Flow in Hierarchical Porous Media” dealt with contaminant dispersion in different types of soil, and it was well received. Snellman explained more about his research, “If there was a catastrophic chemical spill at one spot and you had 100 core samples from the surrounding area, you could use our model to determine the best way to contain and treat the spill.”

After his presentation at the conference, several other researchers talked with Snellman about his work. “They wanted to know where I was planning to do my post-doctoral research work,” he said. “They were surprised to find out I was doing this research in an undergraduate program.” Through the help of Tim Holst, associate dean of the College of Science and Engineering, Snellman attended the conference with his faculty advisor, Associate Professor Steve Sternberg.
UMD’s chemical engineering program prepared Snellman, not only to study and take tests, but to do groundbreaking research. The confidence that Snellman displays is a reflection of the Department of Chemical Engineering’s success. The program has been ranked in the top five among undergraduate programs for non-Ph.D. schools in the nation for the last five years, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Rashid Hasan, head of the Department of Chemical Engineering, said, “Doing something and reading about it are two different things. We emphasize real life experience and teamwork.” ChemE students are encouraged to work with each other, emulating a real-life industry teamwork situation. A “community design and study lab,” promotes collaboration of ideas and serves as a help center for students. In their classes, students receive a set of problems, and during the week they work together to solve them. When someone finishes the assignment, they share their approach and insights with others rather than keeping it to themselves. “One week you’ll get the answer first and the next week you become the student,” Snellman said. “It’s a great way to learn.”

Hasan said, “The hands-on approach is a crucial part of the program. Students plan, execute, analyze, and present research projects. Practicing all of these aspects sharpens skills beyond those that show through in a transcript.” The ChemE program encourages students to take internship in industry for a full semester and the summer. Students work at companies like Cargill, Atofina Chemical, Murphy Oil, at waste treatment facilities, and at many of the area paper industries including Domtar, Sappi, Blandin, and Storenzo.

Chemical Engineering graduates from UMD not only gain the knowledge and experience they need, but they learn the communication skills and the teamwork that industry demands. These are the factors that make up their success and lead to the national ranking UMD is so proud of..

Posted Nov 22, 2004


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