Editorial: Engaged Students Make for a Bright Future | AIChE

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Editorial: Engaged Students Make for a Bright Future


Emily Petruzzelli, Editor-in-Chief

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending AIChE’s 2022 Annual Meeting, which took place Nov. 13–18 in Phoenix, AZ. This year’s technical program featured hundreds of sessions, covering a seemingly endless list of topics. The energy at the Annual Meeting is always one of excitement, and this year was no exception. In particular, three student-based competitions highlighted the breadth of chemical engineering and showcased some of the talented young engineers that will soon be joining our profession.

AIChE’s Chem-E-Car Competition took place on Nov. 13. Teams of undergraduates were tasked with designing and constructing a car powered by a chemical energy source that would run a given distance and then stop. This year, the winning team from the Univ. of Toledo came within 30.4 cm (<1 ft) of the target line. Chem-E-Car is always a hugely popular event and the meeting saw more than 30 teams competing, bringing together hundreds of students from all over the world.

The second annual ChemE Cube competition, presented by the RAPID Manufacturing Institute, was held on Nov. 14. This year, seven teams of undergraduate students competed; their goal was to build a one-cubic-foot device capable of water purification. Teams were also tasked with promoting their cube through a one-minute video ad, a poster, and a 20-min Shark-Tank-style pitch to a panel of mock investors. I was fortunate to be in the audience to watch several of these pitches and I was impressed with the quality of the presentations and eloquence of the students — most of whom did not seem nervous at all while speaking to a crowd of nearly 100 engineers on technical subject matter. The first-place prize was awarded to the Carnegie Mellon Univ. team, which had the highest combined score for its ad, pitch, poster, and cube performance.

Coordinated by the Young Professionals Committee (YPC), AIChE’s inaugural Three Minute Thesis competition — or 3MT, for short — took place on Nov. 15. In this competition, graduate-level chemical engineers are given an opportunity to present their thesis in just three minutes to meeting attendees. Not only do the presentations need to be succinct, they also need to be readily understandable by a broad audience. With that in mind, competitors are judged based on ease of comprehension, as well as how engaging they are. In the presentations I saw, the graduate students used pop culture references, humorous anecdotes, and clever metaphors to get across the gist of their research. As engineers, we often get bogged down in technical detail when presenting our ideas. What I loved about this competition is how the graduate students tapped into the fun side of science and engineering. The first-place award was given to Hanie Yousefi (Northwestern Univ.) for her presentation, “Reagentless and Direct Detection of SARS-CoV-2 in Saliva Samples.”

The Annual Meeting and associated Annual Student Conference offered a variety of other events and competitions targeted to students. These student events reflect how diverse our profession has become (in many different ways) and inspire hope for a bright future fueled by a robust chemical engineering workforce.

Emily Petruzzelli, Editor-in-Chief


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