The Chemical Engineering program at Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU) has come a long way since its inception in 2017. Starting out with a mere 5 students, the major now has 36 enrolled students, after only one and a half years of operation. Most recently in 2019, the Chemical Engineering Society (CES), founded alongside the major, has achieved a goal set out since its inception: joining the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) the world's leading organization for chemical engineering professionals, with over 60,000 members across 110 countries, and a premier resource for chemical engineers of all stripes. But what is Chemical Engineering? How does it differ from Chemistry? And what is so special about Chemical Engineering at NDU? Keep reading to find out.
Put simply, the main differences between Chemical Engineering and Chemistry are those of scale and aims. Chemistry is primarily concerned with synthesis and quantification of chemicals on a small scale, with the primary aim being that of discovery and confirmation. Chemical Engineering concerns itself with production, and, as such has a mind towards large scale synthesis. According to Dr. Elias Feghali, Assistant Professor Of Chemical Engineering at the Department of Mechanical Engineering – Faculty of Engineering, the goal of a Chemical Engineer is producing an economically viable product with insight on its environmental impact and security issues.
“The most important thing in Chemical Engineering is that it mixes technical abilities with economic abilities, and the human factor – the socio-economic surroundings,” says Dr. Feghali. “You don’t want to be harmful to your surroundings, and there are a lot of companies which implement measures just to help the environment adapt to their production.”
The Chemical Engineering program at NDU provides solid grounding in the subject itself, and ensures a broader, more well-rounded approach. As with all NDU courses, students are required to take 27 credits of liberal arts curriculum courses, which provide them with a solid grasp of socio-economics, and ethics. The potential for specialization within the degree itself is equally diverse, with technical elective courses divided into four tracks all of which were designed to both satisfy the needs of the Lebanese chemical industry and prepare students willing to continue their master’s studies in the field: Materials & Chemical Processing, Food Processing, Environmental Chemical Engineering and Petro-Chemical Engineering.
In the classroom, professors ensure that students have a solid practical understanding of the coursework by supplementing theoretical work with practical examples in the lab, and through field trips. Recalling a recent visit to Hawa Chicken, the main Lebanese chicken producer, Dr. Feghali says: “During the visit, students saw a lot of unit operations that they studied during the courses. They were really happy, because they’d already studied it, knew how it works, and it encouraged them to ask questions. This practical approach is very important to students and helps them take decisions about their fields, even before they reach their final year.”
To fully ensure Chemical Engineering students are well prepared for careers in the field, conferences are regularly organized, over the course of which students interact with professionals, taking contacts, applying for internships, or even securing interviews. By becoming part of the AIChE’s, the CES can now more easily establish connections with AIChE Student Chapters in the USA and around the word. In addition, student members now have access to the organization’s database, the ability to participate in AIChE conferences, career resources and services, along with other benefits, thereby easing the process for NDU Chemical Engineering students to join the job market on an international level.
“We operated for a year and two months and in the meantime we were applying to be part of the American Institute of Chemical Engineering, which has more or less the same objectives as the Chemical Engineering Society at NDU,” says Dr. Feghali. “We’re happy to be part of it and hope to someday be able to join the organizing committee.”