History of the Department - Chemical and Process Engineering - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

History of the Department

departmental buildingInterest in applied chemistry at the University of Canterbury dates back to the second quarter of this century when H.G. Denham was Professor of Chemistry. In 1944, S.R. Siemon was appointed to the Department of Chemistry to establish teaching in industrial chemistry and chemical engineering and the first students in these subjects graduated in 1947. The staff increased to two in 1950 with the appointment of Dr T. Hagyard. The early degree course contained most of the elements of the B Sc in chemistry and the BE in mechanical engineering. Chemical engineering proper was not encountered by the student until the fourth year of the five-year course.

In 1957 Professor Siemon was appointed to the then newly established chair of chemical engineering and three years later the Department moved from its overcrowded quarters in the basement of the old chemistry building in the city to join the Engineering School in its new buildings at Ilam. At the same time major changes were instituted in the chemical engineering course. The original five-year course which led to the conjoint BE-BSc degree has now been reduced to a four-year course, with chemical engineering concepts being introduced in the second year and leading to a BE (Hons) degree.

Arthur Williamson, Brian Earl, Peter Gostomski, Miles Kennedy, Roger KeeyFollowing Professor Siemon's resignation in 1964 the chair was filled by one of the Department' s early graduates, Professor A .M . Kennedy. Under Professor Kennedy's leadership between 1965 and 1981, the Department grew from an annual intake of 18 students to one of 44 and the staff increased from 5 academics and 4 technicians to 13 academics, 11 technicians and two secretaries. About 1500 m2 of laboratories and well equipped mechanical and electrical/electronic workshops were added during this period.

In 1981 Professor Kennedy relinquished the permanent headship opening the way for a sequence of shorter term appointments to the headship. The first such appointment was Professor R.B. Keey who served from 1981 to 1985. Professor A.G. Williamson followed until February 1989 when he retired. Assoc Prof W.B. Earl was then appointed head, initially for a five year term but then reappointed in 1993 for a further term. Professor Laurence Weatherley joined the department in 1998 and took on the role of headship, serving in that role until 2004. Dr. Peter Gostomski was appointed Head of Department in 2005.

In 1983, the Department changed its name to include process engineering to emphasise the application of chemical engineering to industrial process activity in which bulk materials are transformed to other substances by chemical, physical or biological means. In May 1994 the Department staged a Jubilee honouring 50 years since Stan Siemon's appointment. 170 former graduates and friends attended.

In 2004, the Department became part of the College of Engineering as part of a major University restructuring. The College consists of the traditional engineering departments (Chemical, Civil, Electrical and Mechanical) but also Forestry Engineering, Mathematics & Statistics and Computer Science. This reorganisation moved the Department and Engineering into a more traditional administrative structure headed up by a Pro Vice Chancellor of Engineering. It opens the way for more collaboration and leveraging the Department's strengths in the future.

  • Department of Chemical
    and Process Engineering

    University of Canterbury
    Private Bag 4800 
    New Zealand
  • Phone: + 64 3 364 2543
    Fax: + 64 3 364 2063
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