Welcome to the latest in a series of AIChE blog posts profiling process engineers, a diverse group of professionals spanning multiple industries and regions. In this series, we profile process engineers who work in a wide range of fields, including petrochemicals, pharma, bulk chemicals, food, or any process-intensive industry.
Are you a member and process engineer interested in being profiled? We’d love to hear from you via this volunteer opportunity. Please also check out our online discussion group specifically for process engineers. You can find out about these initiatives and join our efforts by visiting https://www.aiche.org/processengineering.
This month, we introduce you to Jimoh Kayode Adewole, who works as an associate professor in the Process Engineering Program at International Maritime College, Oman. He discusses the path that led to his career in process engineering, overcoming challenges, and the importance of his work.
Tell us a bit about your work as a process engineer.
As an associate professor in the Process Engineering Program, my main tasks are teaching, research and admin. All these tasks are geared towards building qualified and competent process engineers. Over the years, I have been working on cutting-edge research that involves experimentation, modeling, and simulation.
As a young graduate assistant, I started working on process modeling of separation processes. I later moved into material development where I developed, characterized, and tested materials for application in membrane separation and enhanced oil recovery. Some of the projects done in this area were funded by Saudi Aramco, King AbdulAziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), College of Petroleum and Geosciences (CPG), National Science, Technology and Innovation Plan (NSTIP), and so on. My current research work is focused on process intensification using membrane engineering.
Sustainable industrial growth is one of the current global challenges. Process intensification (PI) has been found to be a design approach that offers a solution which substantially leads to shrinking process equipment size, energy saving, cost reduction, increased safety, and reduced environmental impact. Most of my present projects are focused on using membrane engineering to fulfill the goals of PI.
I have two ongoing projects that are funded by The Research Council of Oman (TRC) which are on energy integration in the industry using membrane distillation powered by a hybrid solar system and energy generated from ocean waves. I am also supervising a PhD thesis on process intensification in the petrochemical industry.
Regarding teaching, I teach process engineering related courses, including mass and energy balance, process modeling and simulation, chemical engineering thermodynamic, and process optimization, to name a few. On the admin side, I am currently head of the engineering department (Process Engineering Program).
My major tasks as head of the engineering department include developing short- and long-range visions for the department, implementation of plans, overseeing development, and coordinating and disseminating department policies and procedures. I also lead in developing the modules/courses & programs required for the department.
Additionally, I establish and maintain quality management systems for programs and courses offered by my department. I also oversee the development, management, and maintenance of the resources including laboratories, workshops, and training equipment under the department.
Why did you become a process engineer?
After graduating from secondary school at the top of my class, I became very choosey when it came to picking a university to attend and a major that interested me. It took me two years to reach a decision, but it was worth it in the end since I was able to study the course that I was most interested in.
During the course of seeking admission, one of my mentors, Engineer Oroge (who is an electrical engineer) recommended chemical engineering to me. I did some research about it and found that it was very much aligned with my aspirations. I also discovered that it was a major that could fit into many industries.
Engineer Oroge was instrumental in my admission into the Chemical Engineering department in Kaduna Polytechnic where I received my Diploma. Kaduna Polytechnic is in the northern part of Nigeria. Afterwards, I proceeded to Obafemi Awolowo University in the southern part of Nigeria for my bachelors. After that, I was offered a job as a graduate assistant in the same department that I graduated from. This where my career began as a chemical engineer.
I have worked in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and now in Oman. During my stay in those countries, I taught students from all over the world. Whenever I look back and think about the number of students I taught and trained, it makes me feel happy and accomplished.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in your role as a process engineer?
I have faced a lot of challenges but the most recent one has to do with the sudden switch to online classes due to Covid. As the head of the department, I was able to manage the switch with the cooperation of my wonderful staff, colleagues, and the school management. The challenge now is how to switch to a virtual lab to teach practical modules.
There is a lab that we use to teach about three different courses. Because the school was closed and students were not allowed to be on campus, I was faced with either cancelling the three courses or providing a solution to make our labs accessible to students as they study from home. I got my team together with our IT department and we were able to provide remote access to our students and the semester went smoothly.
How is your work as a process engineer critical to your particular job assignment or industry?
I have always longed to be an expert in my field. For that reason, I always wanted to work in a company where what I do is relevant to my expertise. In situations where I am faced with a problem, I always look at it from the process engineering point of view. As I mentioned earlier, my current research focuses on process intensification and membrane engineering. Research in such areas require deep understanding of all the process engineering courses that I completed in school, coupled with process engineering experience acquired over the years.
My previous research endeavors have been successful thanks to my process and chemical engineering background. In enhanced oil recovery (EOR), for example, you need to understand transport phenomenon, heat and mass transfer, reaction engineering, material and energy balance, chemical engineering thermodynamics, and engineering mathematics to be able to understand the flow of oil and gas, and its interaction in porous media.
My process engineering knowledge also helped me easily understand the interactions among crude oil, brine, and rock systems and how this can change the wettability of oil reservoirs and consequently lead to improved oil and gas recovery.
Furthermore, as an associate professor who teaches in the process engineering program, my process background qualified me to teach many of the courses within the program. My process engineering knowledge and skills have also allowed me to make a tremendous contribution in the development and review of our curriculum and program. For example, I am leading my department in preparing for accreditation for the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) and Oman Academic Accreditation Authority (OAAA).
What do you think has been most important about your work as a process engineer?
My contributions to human capacity development in many countries. I have worked in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and now in Oman. During my stay in those countries, I taught students from all over the world. Whenever I look back and think about the number of students I taught and trained, it makes me feel happy and accomplished. Many of my students are now in good positions. Some are already PhD holders in process engineering while others are doing great in various industries. One of them is currently working in my department.