The end of each year is an exciting time for AIChE as the Institute hosts several major events, including the Annual Meeting, Annual Student Conference, and the AIChE Foundation’s Gala. The 2023 Annual Meeting, in particular, held in early November in Orlando, FL, was a roaring success with nearly 5,500 attendees — many of whom were graduate student researchers presenting at their very first conference.
I had the pleasure of attending the Annual Meeting this year and took part in many interesting discussions. A common theme — echoed throughout academic-oriented sessions and operating council meetings — was the decline in undergraduate enrollment of chemical engineers at U.S. colleges and universities. Some professors in these sessions attributed the decline to the recession of 2008, while others attributed it to a “branding” problem: Very few students in elementary, middle, and even high school are aware of chemical engineering or understand what it is that chemical engineers do.
The demographics of the U.S. are shifting, and legacy fields like chemical engineering are seldom considered as hip or inclusive as others like the tech sector. To keep up with changing times, our industry will need to raise awareness and reposition chemical engineers as problem-solvers of major world challenges. The AIChE Foundation is working toward this goal with the launch of its Be a ChemE campaign, which will introduce middle school students, parents, and teachers to career possibilities in chemical engineering. This campaign, as well as other AIChE initiatives, will be a critical part of “shoring up” the pipeline of future chemical engineers.
The end of 2023 also marks a happy milestone for CEP — ten years of publishing the Catalyzing Commercialization column in partnership with the National Science Foundation (NSF). The column was originally conceived to fill a subject matter gap between the Update section of the magazine — which focuses on research in universities and national labs — and feature articles, which focus on more established technologies and processes. Catalyzing Commercialization instead highlights start-up companies (being supported by the NSF) that are translating research from the lab to the pilot- and commercial-scale — emphasizing the practical need for each innovation. The column is primarily coordinated by a team at the NSF that determines which companies to feature and sources each article. The four-person team includes: Rajesh Mehta (Program Director), Cecile Gonzalez (Communication Specialist), Kelly Monterroso (Communication Specialist), and Prakash Balan (Program Director).
Looking ahead to 2024, CEP has many compelling articles in the works. The January issue will feature articles on lithium-ion battery safety and distillation control using digital twins, among others. The March issue will preview the 2024 AIChE Spring Meeting, as well as the Global Congress on Process Safety (GCPS), which will be celebrating its 20th anniversary. Several articles in late 2024 will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Bhopal tragedy (to read more about how AIChE is preparing for this effort, read the article on pp. 22–24). Special sections in 2024 will deep dive into engineering biotherapeutics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and carbon footprint reduction.
Here’s hoping that you also have a lot to look forward to in 2024 — both professionally and personally. The CEP team and I wish you a happy and healthy New Year.
Emily Petruzzelli, Editor-in-Chief
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