Lafayette College ChBE Symposium Launches with Twin-Distillation Plant Unveiling

Submitted by Seth Gottlund As Stephen Pryor, Vice President of Exxon Mobil Corporation and President of Exxon Mobil Chemical, cut the ribbon for the twin-distillation plant at the inaugural Lafayette College ChBE Symposium, he inspired the crowd saying, "Learn all you can, because what you're learning here, what you do, the world needs. The world needs great engineers and great problem solvers."

On Thursday, March 27th and Friday, March 28th the Lafayette College Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (ChBE) and American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) teamed together to host the Lafayette ChBE Symposium "Engineering re-Connections: framing future networks." The two-day event gave students insight into the engineering professional community and enhanced the communication, connectivity, and participation among the faculty, students, and alumni of the ChBE Department. Over 150 students, faculty, administrators, and alumni were in attendance over the course of the event.

The ChBE Symposium featured several distinguished speakers and two panel discussions. A ribbon cutting ceremony for the new state-of-the-art Custom Separations Technologies twin-distillation plant in the major teaching laboratory was also highlighted. Stephen Pryor, President of Exxon Mobil Chemical, Vice President of Exxon Mobil Corporation, gave opening comments and christened the new distillation column. Pryor connected the new distillation plant with applications in his industry, noting that "this is a sophisticated piece of equipment that our students are going to be able to [use to]... actually experience the kind of operating situation you will have in the real world in a chemical plant or a refinery." Four distinguished keynote speakers and ten panelists shared their experiences during Thursday and Friday sessions at the Symposium. On Thursday evening, David Shriner-Cahn, Founder and President of TEND Strategic Partners, spoke about success from a position of a non-traditional career with a chemical engineering foundation. Paul Greene, Vice President at O'Brien & Gere and Director at American Biogas Council, gave a dynamic presentation that touched upon some of his personal career experiences and the value of interpersonal skills within engineering.

Friday's session highlighted Tony Fernandez, executive vice president and chief supply chain officer of Pinnacle Foods, who discussed how Pinnacle Foods (including subsidiary companies of Birds Eye, Duncan Hines, and Aunt Jemima) creates value and opportunities for chemical engineers within that structure. Finally, Dan Connolly, Project Leader at Dow Coating Materials, connected classroom knowledge to experience and skills that are crucial in the workplace. The event was well received by the industrial representatives in attendance. In a response email, Paul Greene wrote, "I was deeply touched by the overall commitment by the staff and students to make this event a success. One of Lafayette's greatest features is its ability to provide an intimate setting and to engage on a person-to-person level...I was blown away [with the] cutting-edge new ditillation plant in the lab." The panelists featured representatives from Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., AstraZeneca, BASF, Dow, Foster Wheeler Corp., Janssen Pharmaceuticals, and Wacker Polymers. The panelists spoke about their professions, the role their chemical engineering education has played in their career, their respective industries, and opportunities available to recent graduates in their fields. Both keynote lectures and panelist sessions garnered considerable interest from students, and gave them new ways to visualize their career path. One student, Michael Meshberg '16 realized that there are "various opportunities that chemical engineers have for career paths. I learned about how I can better become involved in the field."

The Friday morning session was followed by lab tours and a student experience poster session to highlight some of the research and laboratory work currently done at Lafayette.

The ChBE Symposium was the largest of the many events hosted by the Lafayette College AIChE each semester. Its executive board, including ChBE Department Head James K. Ferri, faculty advisor Michael Senra, chairs Christina Cucinotta '14 and Seth Gottlund '14, and co-chairs Ally Hill '15 and Bonnie Malhotra '15, were responsible for the coordination of the event. Connect with the Lafayette College Chapter of AIChE:


ehorahan's picture

What a great event! Congrats on the success!