President’s Message: Preparing for the Important Work Ahead

Welcome to 2021! I trust that this message finds you and your families well and looking forward to a good year ahead — both personally and professionally.

While COVID-19 has forced all of us to think differently about many parts of our lives, there remain some constants — and one of those is AIChE. As we start this new year, I would like to take a look back and a look ahead.

AIChE begins 2021 in a good position due to some insightful actions by our Executive Director, the AIChE staff, and your Board of Directors. Their quick response to the challenges of the virus has kept AIChE in a strong and healthy financial position for the important work ahead.

Institute for Learning and Innovation (ILI)

In 2020, AIChE launched the Institute for Learning and Innovation (ILI). The ILI provides a horizontally integrated platform connecting academic, industrial, and government sectors to address common problems quickly and efficiently. The ILI’s vision is to provide career services and career-long technical and personal development for all chemical engineers, including retirees. We will be focusing a large part of our effort this year on building out the ILI via targeted partnerships and offerings for practicing engineers, graduate students, and undergrads. Here are examples of projects currently underway:

Professional development

Are you having trouble deciding what you would like to do next in your career? Chemical engineers are equipped to do many things, and the ILI has a new Career Discovery process that is open to students and early- or mid-career professionals who are at a career inflection point and are interested in exploring future options. 

Are you looking for engineering interns to fill jobs, but do not have the resources or ability to get to campus? Or, are you looking for a summer internship, but do not know where the jobs are? The ILI is developing an internship process that will begin with a focus on chemical engineers who are interested in working in data analytics.

Are you part of a multiuniversity or multicompany project and need to provide education to your staff beyond your group’s current training capacity? The ILI is working with a cross-section of universities to provide training in process intensification, advanced distillation, project management, and ethics to graduate and undergraduate students. The ILI is also planning to work with those universities on internships, with an emphasis on light hydrocarbon processing.

AIChE Academy

The AIChE Academy staff is working to develop and reconfigure the Academy’s current offerings to support a micro-learning format targeted at busy professionals. Instead of one 60-minute training video, could the same message be delivered in a few ten-minute videos? The answer is yes, and this approach makes the learning process easier for both the adult learner and the instructor. The learner will receive a badge or credential from AIChE for demonstrating knowledge or competence in the subject matter to enhance the learner’s résumé or LinkedIn page.

Drop a note to if you want to learn more about Career Discovery, internships, or other projects of the ILI.

Volunteer recognition

In other areas, one of the most important actions that AIChE can take is to recognize its volunteers who serve our profession and to honor outstanding personal and professional accomplishments in our field. The Board has chartered a team that will look at how to improve the Institute-level awards for achievements in industry and enhance the honors program for teams and individuals from industry. At the same time, we have an important opportunity in front of us, as there are many chemical engineers who have been heavily involved in COVID-19 vaccine research, development, trials, manufacture, and supply chain efforts.

AIChE Minority Affairs Committee

This year we also hope to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the AIChE Minority Affairs Committee, which in 2020 postponed its 30-year celebration due to the virus. Also, AIChE will be partnering with the American Chemistry Council, Chemours, and the HBCU Week Foundation on the Future of STEM Scholars Initiative (FOSSI) — a program to significantly increase the representation of underserved communities in the STEM workforce. 

Looking forward

I expect that 2021 may bring challenges similar to those in 2020; however, I know that with a good plan, balanced thinking, and the benefit of a strong financial position, AIChE is prepared to meet most of the challenges that may come our way.

In closing, thank you for all that you have given and continue to give to AIChE. I am honored to be your 2021 President, and I am very interested in your insights and ideas. Please feel free to contact me on any topic by writing to I am looking forward to working with you toward our collective success.

— Deborah L. Grubbe

2021 AIChE President