Jan B. Talbot, University of California, San Diego: The Future of Chemical Engineering

As part of AIChE's 110th Year Celebration, this series provides perspectives on the future of chemical engineering from dozens of leaders in industry, academia, and at national laboratories.

We continue with Jan Talbot, Professor Emerita of Chemical Engineering and Materials Sciences at the University of California, San Diego. She is a past president of the Electrochemical Society.

During AIChE’s centennial year of 2008, AIChE interviewed chemical engineers to learn their perspectives on the profession’s future. In today’s blog post, Dr. Talbot presents her visions for chemical engineering post-2018.

Taking into account the ongoing evolution of the professions — including the need for new modes of education; high standards of performance and conduct; effective technical, business, and public communication; and desires for a more sustainable future — what do you think the chemical engineering profession will look like 25 years from now?

In 2008, Talbot wrote:

Although we at UCSD are developing a new curriculum for nanoengineering, I regard this curriculum development as the future of chemical engineering education for an industry based on nanoengineering.

Nanotechnology and nanoscience are producing a wide range of new ideas and concepts, and are likely to enable novel nanoelectronics, nanophotonics, nanomaterials, energy conversion processes, and a new generation of biomaterials, biosensors, and other biomedical devices.

This new educational curriculum and technology will address ways to carry out effective hierarchical assembly of diverse molecular and nanoscale components into higher-order structures that retain the desired electronic/photonic, structural, mechanical, or catalytic properties at the microscale or macroscale level.

This future will see chemical engineers using our successful approaches to problem solving with the promise of new discoveries and technological innovations in nanoengineering.

In 2018, Talbot says:

Overall, my views are largely unchanged.

The Nanoengineering Department, which is the administrative home of chemical engineering at UCSD, celebrated its tenth anniversary last year. (The Nanoengineering BS was ABET-accredited in 2017.) As the nanoengineering discipline and faculty have grown at UCSD, so has chemical engineering — with research to complement the departmental focus areas related to nanoengineering applications in medicine, materials, and energy.

As one of the founders of this new department, but also as director of the chemical engineering program, I feel like the plan developed over ten years ago has been mostly followed. However, the attractiveness and rapid growth of this new discipline for students has not yet matched the need in the job market. The chemical engineering students with this emphasis in their education do have more options for employment at this point in time.

AIChE's 110 Year Celebration

Celebrate AIChE's 110-year anniversary. Attend this Annual Meeting session, focusing on the future of chemical engineering through the eyes of thought leaders from industry, academia, and national laboratories.

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