Fall, 2001 ChemE Communiqué Vol. 11, Issue 1
W elcome to the Fall, 2001 issue of the Communiqué. A new school year has just
gotten well underway, so there‟s a lot to talk about. Let‟s jump right in and tell you about
what‟s going on in the UA Chemical Engineering Department!
Stephen Ritchie Joins UA/ChE Faculty
Dr. Stephen M. C. Ritchie is the newest faculty member to join the Chemical Engineering
program. Steve comes to Alabama by way of the University of Kentucky. There he
worked under the direction of Dr. D. B. Bhattacharyya and completed his dissertation on
“Development, Characterization, and Modeling of Polyamino Acid Functionalized
Steve is the fourth member of the faculty to be hired since 1998. Duane
Johnson (Florida), Tonya Klein (North Carolina State) and Christopher
Brazel (Purdue) are the other members. These latter three faculty were
recently named to a Reichhold-Shumaker Assistant Professorship for their
rapid contributions to our graduate research program. Current areas being
investigated are: Nanotech Applications to Produce New-Generation
Computer Hard Drives (Johnson), Advanced Electrical Materials For
Next-Generation Integrated Circuits (Klein), and Polymer Processing and
Drug Delivery (Brazel).
For more information about all of our faculty members, please see the departmental
website located at http://www.eng.ua.edu/~chedept.
New Staff Members Added
Mrs. Quinn Mrs. Kelley
Mrs. Cherry Quinn and Mrs. Rea Kelley joined us during the past year. Mrs. Quinn,
Office Associate II, replaced Mrs. Stephanie Freeman in January 2001, and assists with
all areas of the internal and external DOE/EPSCoR programs, as well as handling the
program and project budget accounts. Mrs. Kelley, also an Office Associate II, replaced
Mrs. Becky Viosca in June, 2001. She keeps the student records, helps set up the class
teaching schedule, and helps with advising, registration, scholarships, and awards. Please
see the departmental website for a complete listing of the staff and their duties.
Mr. James Hill Honored By UA
No matter what the problem is, if it‟s in the Chemical Engineering
Department, more than likely James Hill, the department‟s Mechanician,
is called upon to fix it. At the first student AIChE Chapter meeting of the
Fall semester, Dr. April presented him with The University of Alabama
Crimson Spirit Award, recognizing his hard work and dedication to this
department. The award is given monthly to one nominee per university division to
distinguish those who, in the true „crimson spirit,‟ dedicate long hours of hard work in
performing their job here at UA. In addition, last year James received his Department of
Transportation certification on transporting chemicals, and also his forklift certification.
We congratulate James for these accomplishments and for all his many years of service in
a job well done!
Dr. Leon Sadler Named Alabama’s Engineering Educator of the Year
Associate Professor Leon Y. Sadler III was chosen by the Alabama
Society of Professional Engineers as the 2001 Engineering Educator of the Year in the
Alabama Engineering Excellence Awards program. The award recognized Sadler‟s
personal commitment and dedication to professionalism and excellence in engineering
education in Alabama, and for promoting engineering licensure to Alabama‟s future
engineers. He has also received several teaching and research awards, including
Outstanding Chemical Engineering Faculty Member, COE 150th Anniversary
Outstanding Fellow Award, Reichhold-Shumaker Professorship in Chemical
Engineering, and the Tau Beta Pi Faculty Award.
2001 College Fellows Program Honors Hua-An Liu (MS ‘75 )
Hua-An Liu, a chemical engineer with Kellogg
Brown & Root, a unit of Halliburton Company, is the
latest UA/ChE graduate to be honored as a College of
Engineering Distinguished Fellow. At a ceremony
last spring, Hua-An joined 35 other UA/ChE
graduates and friends who have been selected since
the inaugural event in 1988.
L-R: Dean Greene, Mr. Liu, President Sorensen
Liu was selected a Chemical Engineering Fellow in 1997 and has recently moved to the
Houston area after living in California since he graduated. He is currently responsible for
promoting petrochemical engineering and technologies in the Asia Pacific region,
especially China. His work encompasses projects ranging from petroleum refinery
modernization, technology selection, and process design for the Kuwait National
Petroleum Corporation, to studying how to reduce energy consumption for Dow
Chemical, Fort Saskatchewan, Canada.
In addition, through a very generous Halliburton Matching Gifts Program, Hua-An has
established the Chemical Engineering Endowed Discretionary Fund. This endowed gift
is significant in that it focuses support on our graduate program and personnel. Initially,
interest from the endowment will be used to support a visiting lecture series as part of our
Graduate Seminar. Mr. Liu hopes that others will join him through this endowment to
raise the level of support needed to implement other projects in the graduate degree
program. This is a great way for our family of distinguished advanced-degree alumni to
support our many programs.
Hua-An and his wife, Ting-Wen (Stephanie) have three children all in college.
All of us congratulate Hua-An for a distinguished career and for the success he has had
with Halliburton. We would also like to express our sincerest appreciation for his
thoughtfulness and generosity in establishing the Endowment Gift.
Recognition of Department and Students
The University of Alabama has been listed among the top 15 universities receiving the
most federal support for chemical engineering research and development. The Oct. 29,
2001 issue of “Chemical and Engineering News” lists UA as number 15 in federal
expenditures for fiscal year 1999. Other institutions in the top 15 include Stanford, Johns
Hopkins, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Case Western Reserve, and California
Institute of Technology. The listing notes that expenditures from federal sources for UA
chemical engineering programs totaled $2,900,000 in FY 1999, and indicates an increase
of nearly 29 percent per year for the period 1989-1999.
Chemical engineering students Jason Jiang and Jared Simmons placed third in the
poster competition at the recent National American Institute for Chemical Engineers
conference. They presented a poster titled "Fluid Instabilities in a Double Coater,"
describing a research project performed over the summer with their advisor, Dr. Duane
Johnson, assistant professor in ChE.
Jeffrey Lynn White, a student in chemical engineering, received the Outstanding Junior
Award for the 2000-2001 school year from the Central Alabama Section of the American
Institute of Chemical Engineers. White was also selected by the University's Tau Beta Pi
Engineering Honor Society to receive its Outstanding Junior Award.
The 2000-2001 Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll included chemical
engineering senior Patrick Hollingsworth, center on the football team. Hollingsworth
was honored along with other Honor Roll members at the Student-Athlete Academic
Achievement Awards Reception in April, 2001, where they were also recognized as
members of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society.
Erica Lynn Hardy, a chemical engineering student from Wetumpka, was recently
tapped into XXXI, the UA women's honorary.
Chemical Engineering Continues to Hold the ACEs
The Chemical Engineering program doesn't rely on games of chance to insure quality
instruction and degrees. But if it needed to, it would be able to hold its own with its
ACEs to trump any challenge. These ACEs -- Ambassadors in the College of
Engineering -- serve the college and department as representatives for visiting parents
and students, dignitaries and returning alumni. “These young men and women embody
all that is good about the University and the College,” states Dean Timothy Greene when
he introduces them at functions.
Chemical Engineering has continued, from the very first group selected in 1996, to lead
all departments in the number of students chosen. “This is just one way that we get
feedback that our program is training students to be leaders and well balanced graduates
of our academic programs,” said Gary April, chair of Chemical Engineering. “Our
students are a constant source of pride to all of us. The fact that they are recognized for
their leadership, academics and good citizenship make them prime candidates for awards
and good jobs upon graduation. We feel that our students understand the importance of
developing good people skills to enhance their technical skills. This makes them
uniquely qualified for entry-level positions leading to bright and challenging careers in a
diverse set of industries. Since I first came here in 1969, employers who hire our
students have seemed very happy with what they can do and the rate with which they
advance,” April said. That feedback reinforces what we do and makes the job very
fulfilling for all of us.
Chemical Engineering ACEs for the 2001-2002 academic year are:
Since the last newsletter appeared in the Spring Semester of 2000, there have been 61 BS
degrees, 8 MS degrees, and 5 PhD degrees awarded to chemical engineering students.
This includes the graduations of May, August, and December, 2000 and May and August,
2001. As usual, most of these new alumni and alumna have gone to industry, with some
choosing graduate, medical or law school instead.
The whole list is too large to include here, but you can see the complete roster of
graduates on the department‟s web site at
http://www.eng.ua.edu~chedept/newsletter/recent-graduates.doc. This list includes
names, hometown, date graduated and (where known) the destination after graduation.
New Batch Still Constructed and Used in Summer Lab
In collaboration with Prof. Arnold, James Hill has
constructed a 1” diameter x 3‟ high glass tower to
give the students experience in operating a batch
process. Instrumentation allows monitoring of the
reflux rate; the heat duty to the still pot; pot, head, and
distillate temperatures; and the cooling water flow.
The column is operated using commercial Camile PC-
based data acquisition and control hardware and
software It was first run in Summer Lab 2001 to
separate varying compositions of methanol-ethanol-isopropanol using glass bead packing
and then a commercial packing, Goodloe 316 SS.
The students determined HETP using the ChemCAD Batch program, then experiments
were run to determine heat-transfer characteristics, to calibrate the reflux flowrate, and to
calculate packing efficiency. The Camile system is programmed using a Pascal-like
language and provides a very versatile control interface to the operator. Experiences with
the new equipment were very positive, and it is planned to continue use of the column in
future laboratory sessions.
Jobs/Salaries Remain High for Chemical Engineers
In the face of company mergers, take-overs, downsizing and reorganizing to improve
one‟s business position in the global marketplace, the demand for chemical engineering
graduates remains high. Likewise, starting salaries continue to be at the top among entry-
level placements. Recent figures released by the Manpower Commission show that the
national average for chemical engineering starting salaries in 2000 was $49,000 ($48,300
for males and $51,000 for females). At Alabama, for the same period, the average
starting salary was $51,500. This continues a trend that our program has enjoyed for the
More importantly, nearly 85% of our graduates find jobs at graduation compared with
65% nationally. Whereas this news is encouraging, it is not without some concern that
today's graduates are having to contact many more companies, often by electronic
processes, to get the same number of offers. Students graduating in the top quartile have
reported getting jobs that they wanted. This decreases slightly in the next lower quartile
and nearly disappears after that. “This is not to say that students cannot find jobs they
want if the GPAs are in the 2.7 to 3.0 range, they just have to work harder to find the
right combination,” said Ms. Angelia Knight in the college placement office.
This trend is also reported by other peer departments throughout the southeast. “As many
as 40-50 different companies hire one student each from a number of schools as opposed
to several from the same school,” April said. Many companies are doing „one stop
shopping‟ to offset growing recruitment costs. If they can't find schools that can provide
them with gender and ethnic diversity, business and engineering degree options and a
host of other factors (co-op, central placement, electronic prescreening, etc.) then they
often don't visit the campus. This places more importance on the electronic search
process where students can find company job listings and apply directly to them for
consideration. While companies say that they treat all students equally, the absence of a
face-to-face meeting resulting from an on-site interview places greater demands on the
electronic inquiry to insure that such contact is established.
The college placement office continues to offer helpful assistance to students through a
series of workshops and help sessions designed to make them more aware of the
marketplace and more visible to potential employers. So far, these industrial recruitment
changes have not had a major impact on the bottom line because our students are already
taking the necessary steps to contact companies they want. This speaks well for our
students and can't help but show companies that they are indeed ready to meet any
challenge. “Repackaging an improved and tested product is not a problem for us at
Alabama,” said one recent graduate. “Once you get the fancy, new wrapping torn off the
package you still have the same high quality, can-do graduate who is willing to tackle any
problem.” That, after all, is the most important attribute of a UA/ChE graduate.
Summer Lab 2001 -- A Continuing Tradition
For as long as the old faculty members (April, Arnold, Sadler, McKinley, Clements,
Hatcher) can remember there has always been a summer lab, that trial by fire that rolls
everything that a student has had in courses into one practical experience with nothing
else going on to distract the group from the task at hand. Fondly referred to by many
students as the "course from hell" this five week long, five days per week, eight hours per
day course has become a tradition and a source of accomplishment for our seniors. It is
unique to a UA/ChE degree.
“It‟s really a 24-7 kind of course, if you ask me,” said one recent survivor. You really
have to live the experience to understand that jobs have to get done on time and at a level
of quality that will be acceptable to the instructors. In addition, the ability to
communicate in oral and in written form is a critical element that must be addressed.
“It‟s really the course that all of us remember,” one five year alumnus said at a pregame
tent party. No matter who is standing around, if someone says “summer unit ops lab,”
there is an instant recognition and understanding that rises above the year of your
graduation. It is also the course that most of us recall as having the greatest impact on
our success. “My boss just happens to be a UA graduate and he remembers it, too,” said
another alumnus. If you think about UA/ChE you have to think about summer lab.
This year was no exception. In spite of a few changes in experiments and structure, the
lab is essentially the same. A recent gift by Ralph and Clara Lewis with a match from
Texaco provided a 15 stage glass distillation column. Other gift funds were used to
obtain two reactor systems and a batch distillation/control unit. Proposed plans call for
renovations in the MIB with designated areas identified for heat transfer, fluid flow,
separations and mass transfer and filtration/drying processes. The plan to purchase new
equipment and to refurbish current equipment will complete the project. Gift funds
targeted in the Millennium Program of Excellence will fund these programs.
The real value to students, aside from having one course that makes them integrate
everything that they have seen in titled courses, is working with equipment that penalizes
them for not knowing how to operate the processes efficiently and safely. Some pieces,
like the evaporator and the new column, have delayed response times of 10-20 minutes.
Changing things every 5 minutes really makes getting to steady state a difficult task. At
some point the students figure out that patience and confidence in their calculations pay
off in time-saving activities and in collecting good data. Good data improve the report
writing process making it much more easily supported by textbook or literature values.
Some take longer than others to figure this out, but they all do before the lab is over.
There is no such thing as a “C” report, only “A‟s.”.
Drs. Arnold, Sadler, Clark and Carlson, assisted by Mr. James Hill, taught the course this
past summer. You can visit Mr. Hill‟s web page at http://www.eng.ua.edu/~jphill to find
our file of past summer lab group pictures. In fact, we need your help in putting some
names with the faces to complete our alumni directory. Besides, it's fun to see how much
you have really changed after surviving the “unthinkable” challenge of summer lab.
Millennium Program of Excellence in Chemical Engineering -- An Update
The Millennium Program of Excellence in Chemical Engineering entered its 3rd academic
year at the beginning of the Fall 2001 semester. This program, designed to run from
2000 to 2005, identifies four categories for alumni and friends to consider when thinking
about financial support. These are Endowed Gifts, Multi-year Pledge Gifts, Annual Gifts
and Deferred/Estate Gifts.
In each category, goals have been established for scholarships, laboratory/equipment
development, faculty/staff development and a discretionary or unrestricted gifts area. We
have made good progress to date (see the following table); however, we would like to get
more alumni involved in giving us smaller gifts, which are lagging behind our
expectations, Large gifts are indeed appreciated, but we want and need all of our
alumni/alumna to get involved. Oftentimes in-kind gifts of time (becoming an e-Mentor,
a speaker or a panel participant) are just as important as a monetary gift. We believe that
there is something out there for everyone to champion. In this regard we have a long way
to go in the next 3 years. I hope some of the activities (reunions, football tent, etc.) we
have scheduled will help us bring this message to our graduates. In the new scheme of
things regarding our ABET accreditation processes, alumni play a big role as
stakeholders in our programs. It is critical that we increase our active alumni from the
current level of about 75 (or 5%) to more like 400 (or 25%). At that level there are no
small gifts, and there are no challenges that we can't address.
Chemical Engineering Millennium Program of Excellence
Status Report: 18 Months
September 2000 December 2000 July 2001
Gift Categories Target Funds Funds Funds
I. Endowed Giving Program a
Undergraduate Scholarships $250,000 $66,567 $67,367 $86,886
Laboratory/Equipment $250,000 $ 2,285 $ 2,545 $ 4,355
Discretionary $250,000 $10,000 $20,000 $55,600
II. Alumni Pledge Program
Undergraduate Scholarships $100,000 $24,282 $25,664 $25,664
Laboratory/Equipment $100,000 $ 500 $ 500 $ 500
Discretionary $100,000 $ 0 $ 2,000 $52,000
III. Alumni/Industrial Annual Gift Program
Undergraduate Scholarships $ 50,000 $13,500 $18,500 $23,550
Laboratory/Equipment $ 50,000 $ 2,192 $ 2,402 $ 2,500
Discretionary $ 50,000 $ 0 $ 0 $19,356
IV. Other (Deferred Giving Program)
$1,000,000 $250,000 $250,000 $875,000
A total of $20,000 is needed to establish an endowed scholarship, $25,000 to establish an endowed
equipment fund. Funds not reaching endowment level over the program period will be placed in
regular accounts for use to provide support in categories stipulated by the donor.
October 27-30, 2001 are the days when we find out if our program passes muster under
the ABET 2000 accreditation format. We are excited in anticipation that all of the hard
work put in by our faculty, students and staff will pay off in a positive visit. Preparation
for this visit began over 18 months ago (actually, in anticipation of the new criteria, the
plans were begun as early as 1996-97 when we began a critical review of our
undergraduate curriculum). Dr. David Arnold has been our lead representative in the
college and has done an outstanding job of getting information disseminated to all for
their input and review. He was assisted by two able students, Stacy Findley and Kam
Walker, who collected and collated data supporting our program. They deserve our
thanks for a job well done. Their work should pay off in big dividends as our visitor
seeks to collect as much knowledge about who we are in a very short time frame.
The help we received from our students and alumni, through surveys, through our
advisory board and through other informal means of contact, is critical to this
accreditation process. In addition to confirming those elements of our program that make
us unique and highly successful, this process also challenges us to be less complacent and
more attuned to our profession, how it is developing and where within its structure we
can contribute our talent and expertise. Improvement is an integral part to all things that
we do within our program. While it was hard work to identify all the things that we did,
and did not document adequately in years past, having gone through the preparation for
the visit has helped us organize around those characteristics that are defining elements of
our program. We, as a faculty, do lots of things each day that add up to the quality we
see in our courses, in student performance and in alumni success. Nothing has changed
in regard to our focus, our mission or our objectives. But we have improved how we do
things and when we do things to use our always limited resources more efficiently. The
whole process seems to have been worth the effort and the years of planning. Whether
others reach that same conclusion will be one of the desired outcomes of our ABET
meeting in October. We will let you know the results as soon as we get them.
Enrollment, Scholarships, and the Freshman Program
The Fall 2001 enrollment is slightly down for the second year. This has caused us to
reevaluate the way we recruit high school students and the way we offer scholarships
provided by our many friends and alumni. Events throughout the university and college
have impacted on some aspects of this downward trend. Better and earlier one-on-one
contact with high school students and the implementation of our four year, merit based,
progress toward degree scholarship program are two elements that have given us some
good feedback from parents and students throughout Alabama. We believe the personal
touch is one of the things that sets us apart from other peer programs. Another is our
commitment to provide whatever it takes for our students, especially those from
Alabama, to reach the highest level of their abilities in a very challenging and rewarding
professional degree program.
The new four-year scholarship program seems to have been received well. “It provides
some hope that if my son can maintain his grades he will continue to receive the award,”
one parent said. Another indicated that “… giving her daughter a target and a reward
after each year of study would help her see the value of her education a lot earlier. While
it is important to hear that in 4-5 years a student will be making $55,000 and have some
choice of who and where they will be employed, today's students are more into 'now' than
'tomorrow'.” Parents and students like the idea that if you work hard someone will
reward your efforts.
In addition to recruiting, the department has also introduced ChE 125, an Introduction to
Chemical Engineering, as a freshman class. This fall, emphasis on finding out what
students know and think engineering is all about, finding alumni contacts and offering
opportunities to see the work place through plant visits will be the focus. Of particular
interest to the students is the e-Mentor program in which over 70 alumni have
volunteered to serve as contacts for freshmen questions about chemical engineering. This
is another way that our alumni bring value and support to our program. Let those who
think that a monetary gift is our only concern consider the importance of retaining top
students in our program. This helps us maintain the high quality programs we have and
the state resources to carry out basic educational tasks. Being able to show college
freshmen the broad array of job opportunities that touch on literally ever business and
technological sector is important in keeping their interest and their effort moving toward
a chemical engineering degree. If you want to help with this program let us hear from
The college is also involved in assessing its recruitment programs and its instructional
programs for the freshman year. The TIDE program has been adopted as the official
starting point for entry into any engineering program. Being calculus ready is an
important part of that eligibility. In addition to being able to take chemistry and
engineering courses in small cohort groups, the students will also be enrolled in the
Introduction Courses in each discipline. Students who are not eligible for calculus will
be in a "pre-engineering" study plan until they qualify for calculus. This may occur in
the spring of the first year or the summer or following fall. We hope this approach will
allow students who need time to adjust to college environments do so with a set of
courses designed to help them succeed. We need to do something to reverse the trend of
losing over half of our freshmen students before they get into the first engineering course.
We believe if our students show some patience and apply themselves to the challenges
created by these time-tested programs, we will come out of the freshmen year with many
more good students capable of handling the course loads. The quality of our programs is
only as good as the quality of the students who enter them. That is the starting point for
any faculty member, any course and any project or laboratory. We will be watching to
see how these new ventures help us in meeting this important mission.
We want to hear from you! Let us know if you have recently received a promotion,
gotten a new job, had a baby, gotten married, or just had a change of address, phone
number, or email address. Probably the most painless way to do this is to use the online
http://www.eng.ua.edu/~chedept/alumni/index.shtml, which will send it right to us
immediately. If you‟d rather, just write us at Chemical Engineering Department, The
University of Alabama, P. O. Box 870203, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487, phone us at (205)
348-6450, or email Ms. Nancy Hamner at email@example.com.
We always welcome your input and thoughts about these current areas of our focus and
concern, or any others. Roll Tide!
Editor: William C. Clements, Jr.