Our study will outline an ambitious vision for chemical engineering research, innovation, and education that will guide the profession for the next 30 years. First, we will survey the current state of chemical engineering in relation to society and the economy. Then, we will develop our vision for the future, considering:
- The shifting needs, challenges, and opportunities that the chemical engineering profession will face in the next 10 to 30 years
- Existing and new chemical engineering areas with promising intellectual and investment opportunities, as well as areas that have major scientific gaps
- Aspects of undergraduate and graduate education that should be changed to better prepare chemical engineering students for the future professional landscape and to diversify the profession
- Recommend steps to ensure the United States plays an international leadership role in the field and to enhance collaboration among related and sub-fields of chemical engineering
Chemical engineers do more than just convert materials into products. They blend together principles of molecular science, chemistry, mathematics, physics, materials science, biology, and data science and play key roles in healthcare, energy, waste management, food processing, and national security.
More than thirty years ago, the National Academies released Frontiers in Chemical Engineering: Research Needs and Opportunities, also known as the Amundson Report. The seminal 1988 work outlined a roadmap for turning promising chemical engineering research and educational efforts into reality.
The Amundson Report has driven many advances over the past 30 years. Now, considering major changes in the field and available technologies, it’s time to revisit the subject of where chemical engineering should be headed.
Over the last three decades, the profession has reached new heights. The breadth of chemical industries contributes nearly 26% of U.S. GDP ($4.6 trillion) and supports over six million jobs, according to a 2015 American Chemistry Council report. The profession is rapidly transforming due to tremendous advances in science and technology, including:
- The development of computer modelling of data and design manufacturing processes
- The rise of machine learning and artificial intelligence
- The fast-changing field of synthetic biology
- The advent of process scalability and modular designs
- The growing focus on sustainability and carbon emissions in manufacturing
- The boom in hydraulic fracturing and availability of natural gas
It’s time we develop a vision for the future of this transforming profession.
We want to hear from you.
As we build a vision for the future, we want to hear from those involved with the chemical engineering industry today.
Our study will provide scientific guidance to research funders, researchers, educators, and industry professionals. The chemical engineering community is broad and we plan to gather input from as many related and sub-fields as possible. Our activities will include (subject to change):
- Public webinars
- Six in-person committee meetings, in addition to virtual meetings and other deliberations as needed
- Townhalls held at national AIChE meetings and similar venues
- Open feedback channels via our audience questionnaire, official email, and social media channels
Reports from the Academies are unique, authoritative expert evaluations produced by a committee of experts. To ensure a balanced and neutral committee, each member serves without pay, is screened for conflict of interest, and deliberates free from outside influence. Learn more about the Academies study process here.
UPDATE: We will accept committee member nominations until Tuesday, October 1, 2019. Make a submission here.
Committee Chair: Eric Kaler
Eric W. Kaler is Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and President Emeritus at the University of Minnesota. He served on the faculty of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Washington before moving to the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Delaware as an Associate Professor in 1989, later becoming Dean of the College of Engineering in 2000. He served as Provost at Stony Brook University from 2007 to 2011. Dr. Kaler’s research interests focus on “complex fluids” containing surfactants, polymers, proteins or colloidal particles, either separately or in mixtures. Dr. Kaler received one of the first Presidential Young Investigator Awards from the National Science Foundation in 1984. He has received numerous other awards for his research and is a Fellow of several scientific societies. He has authored or co-authored over 200 peer-reviewed papers and holds ten U.S. patents. He was elected to the US National Academy of Engineering in 2010 and named a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2014. Dr. Kaler earned a B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology in 1978 and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Minnesota in 1982.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine provides independent, objective advice to improve government decision making and public policy and to increase public understanding in matters involving science, engineering, technology, and health.
The Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology (BCST) of the National Academies convenes experts in chemistry and chemical engineering to develop the highest quality scientific and technical advice to the Nation’s decision makers.
Dr. Maggie Walser, Senior Program Officer
Ms. Jessica Wolfman, Research Assistant
Ms. Sarah Harper, Program Assistant
Ms. Elise Zaidi, Communications and Media Associate
Full staff bios are available here.
Colorado School of Mines
Georgia Institute of Technology
Johns Hopkins University
Louisiana State University
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
North Carolina State University
The Pennsylvania State University
Texas A&M University
University of Arkansas
University at Buffalo
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Davis
University of California, Los Angeles
University of California, Merced
University of Delaware
University of Florida
University of Houston
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
University of Michigan
University of Notre Dame
University of Texas at Austin
University of Virginia
University of Wisconsin
West Virginia University
12 Private Sector Groups
The American Chemistry Council
Bristol-Myers Squibb Company
The Dow Chemical Company
DuPont de Nemours, Inc.
Eastman Chemical Company
Exxon Mobil Corporation
Honeywell International, Inc.
PPG Industries, Inc.
The Procter and Gamble Company
5 Federal Sponsors
Pending: Advanced Manufacturing Office, DOE
Biological and Environmental Research, DOE
Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Evironmental, and Transport Systems, NSF
Office of Fossil Energy, DOE
Pending: Material Measurement Labratory, NIST
2 Professional Societies
The American Chemical Society
The American Institute of Chemical Engineers