Students in the Chemical and Chemical and Biological Engineering degree program can focus a little more on Organic Chemistry and Thermodynamics this month, as Dr. David Marr, Department Head, assures students that no immediate changes are looming large.
“We are always thinking about what we might do differently or better,” Dr. David Marr stated in an interview on Friday, September 11th. According to Dr. Marr, visiting groups of outside experts come in regularly to analyze the program with the intention of leading instructors and the Department Head in order to evaluate the efficacy of the program itself. The last such visit was approximately two years ago, during which experts noted that “…our two degrees, the Chemical Engineering degree and the Chemical and Biological Chemical Engineering degree, are not that dissimilar.”
At this time, however, Dr. Marr explains that the department is still in the continuous process of considering whether or not a single degree would best serve the students of the department, as well as outside employers.
While Chemical Engineering has been on campus since 1952, the Chemical and Biochemical Engineering program is still relatively young. It remains in the process of building a larger recruiter base, as the department remains a little less widely known among recruiters than the prolific Chemical Engineering degree.
With a student base numbering over 600, the Chemical/Chemical and Biological Engineering Department has no short supply of undergraduate students.
At 134.5 credit hours apiece, each degree is indeed similar to the other. A Chemical and Biochemical Engineering major graduates with “additional skills related to microbiology and biochemistry,” in addition to graduating as a “full Chemical Engineer.” Recruiters, according to Dr. Marr, recognize that Chemical and Biochemical Engineers are fully capable of performing the same jobs as Chemical Engineers, but have the distinction of being able to perform more specialized tasks relating to Biological Engineering.
In the future, Dr. Marr hopes that both degrees will become more distinct and differentiated to better meet the needs of companies who return to Mines for Chemical and Chemical and Biochemical Engineers.
“You’d [the Department] like some distinction so that it’s clear both to the students and the recruiters that you provide either an extra value or a different value so that they’re [the students] marketable,” Dr. Marr asserts. He recognizes the importance of an evolving skillset needed by students and employers alike for an ever-growing industry.
Dr. Marr also questions, “Do we do what we’re doing now… or would that [the education] be better served in some other model?” Weighing the merits of the distinction between the Chemical and Biochemical and Chemical Engineering programs, Dr. Marr states, is a continuous discussion about whether or not a unique degree best reflects students’ learning interests and industry demands.
When asked about the possibility of a change in the future, Dr. Marr responded with an enthusiastic “Absolutely, yes.”
For the time being, however, no plans have been laid out to change the programs. Should they arise, the undergraduate student body can be assured that the department has the best interests of the students and industry under consideration, and will strive to return the investment and hard work put in by the department’s students.