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Educational Shortcomings in Chemical Engineering

By: , Posted on: April 20, 2015

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An Applied Guide to Process and Plant Design addresses the shortcomings of chemical engineering education in general, and design teaching in particular. To quote from chapter 1:

“There is now profound confusion in academia between science, engineering science and engineering, practice and research, engineers and scientists.”

What is the confusion? Firstly, let’s differentiate between pure and applied maths, science, engineering science and engineering:

Mathematics is a human construction, with no empirical foundation. It is made of ideas, and has nothing to do with reality. It is only “true” within its own conventions. There is no such thing in nature as a true circle, and even arithmetic (despite its great utility) is not empirically based.

Applied mathematics uses maths to address some real problem. This is the way engineers use mathematics, but many engineers use English too. Engineering is no more applied mathematics than it is applied English.

Natural science tries to understand natural phenomena. The activity is rather less rigid than philosophers of science would have us believe, but it is about explaining and perhaps predicting natural phenomena.

Applied science applies natural scientific principles to solve some real world problem. Engineers might do this, (though mostly they don’t) but that doesn’t make it engineering, more related to technology.

Engineering science is the application of scientific principles to the study of engineering artifacts. The classic example of this is thermodynamics, invented to explain the steam engine, which was developed empirically without supporting theory.

Science owes more to the steam engine than the steam engine owes to Science. – J. Henderson

This is the kind of science which engineers tend to apply. It is the product of the application of science to the things engineers work with, artificial constructions rather than nature. Engineering is completely different from all preceding categories. It is the profession of imagining and bringing into being a completely new artifact which safely, cost effectively and robustly achieves a specified aim.”


applied guide to process and plant designThis book is based on my professional engineering design practice, and that of many other process design engineers across all sectors and worldwide. It explains exactly how to design process plants like a professional for students and early career designers. It also includes real world design examples which can be used by other educators wishing to follow the example of my realistic design teaching.

An Applied Guide to Process and Plant Design is available for pre-order on the Elsevier Store. Use discount code “STC215” at checkout and save up to 30% on your very own copy!

About the Author

sean moranProfessor Moran is a Chartered Chemical Engineer with over twenty years’ experience in process design, commissioning and troubleshooting. He started his career with international process engineering contractors and worked worldwide on water treatment projects before setting up his own consultancy in 1996, specializing in process and hydraulic design, commissioning and troubleshooting of industrial effluent and water treatment plants.

In his role as Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham, he co-ordinates the design teaching program for chemical engineering students. Professor Moran’s university work focuses on increasing industrial relevance in teaching, with a particular emphasis on process design, safety and employability.

Connect with Sean on LinkedIn here, check out his Facebook page here and stay up-to-date on his thoughts, research and practice at his personal blog here.


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