Andrew Wankat - People - Chemical and Process Engineering - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

Professor Phil Wankat

Purdue University, Indiana

CAPE Prestige Seminar Series

Date: 12th July 2012
Time: 4pm
Location: NZi3 Foyer



"Progress in Reforming Engineering Education"


Three successful historical reforms of chemical engineering education in the United States were: 1) the triumph of chemical engineering over industrial chemistry, 2) the engineering science revolution and 3) the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET development of Engineering Criteria 2000 (EC2000). The first two of these reforms primarily changed the content covered. EC2000 partially changed both the teaching methods and the content covered.

Current calls for reform (for example, from the US National Academy of Engineering and the Carnegie Foundation) seek extensive change in both content and teaching methods. The current attempts to change teaching methods have relied heavily on dissemination of the results of engineering education research that show superior student learning with active learning methods. These results are expected to be so convincing that engineering professors will drastically change their teaching methods.

Unfortunately, change has been much slower than predicted. Some commentators have blamed the lack of progress in reform on slow dissemination of research results. Although slow dissemination of research results is probably a contributing cause to the slowness of reform, I hypothesize that two other causes are more significant. First, since teaching is the primary interest of only about ½ of engineering faculty, at best only ½ the faculty will pay attention to this research. Second, the vast majority of engineering faculty has no training in teaching. Yet, research clearly shows that trained professors, even those whose primary interest is research, are on average better teachers than untrained professors. In addition, professors trained in pedagogy will be better able to understand the engineering education research.

Thirty years experience in teaching engineering PhD students and professors how-to-teach proves that methods to train engineering teachers are well known. If the hypothesized reasons for slow progress are valid, significant progress in reform will occur if organizations with leverage – the US National Science Foundation through CAREER grants and the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET – use their leverage to require engineering faculty to be trained in pedagogy

Please register by the 5th July.

This event will be followed by a catered reception at 5pm


Phil Wankat

Research Interests

Professor Wankat is interested in separation processes and in improving engineering education. His current research in separation processes focuses on adsorption, large-scale chromatography and simulated moving bed systems and distillation.

Adsorption research has focused on improving processing with pressure swing adsorption (PSA). We are looking at new PSA processing techniques to develop more productive processes, reduce energy use, and better purify the most strongly adsorbed species. Methods to couple thermal regeneration with PSA are being developed.

Large-scale chromatography, particularly simulated moving bed (SMB) systems, are rapidly becoming standard separation systems. Although the SMB is an efficient chromatographic process it can suffer from low productivity and high solvent use. In addition, most applications have been for binary separations. We are using a commercial simulator to develop new binary SMB configurations to increase productivity and reduce solvent use, and new SMB configurations for various multicomponent separation problems. In addition, new chromatographic processes are being developed that in some multicomponent applications appear to be better than SMB cascades.

Distillation is considered to be a mature separation technique. However, because of the huge scale of distillation operations, even modest improvements can have a major impact. We have been exploring methods to reduce the diameter of distillation columns when the calculated diameters vary significantly. Capital cost reductions up to 50 % are predicted.

For a variety of reasons the engineering education system in the United States is currently in a state of flux. Because of this, there is an opportunity to improve the system. Professor Wankat is one of the national leaders in developing methods to teach graduate students and new professors how-to-teach and in developing methods to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of faculty.

  • 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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