PITTSBURGH--Chemical and petroleum engineering students don't usually interact with industry until landing an internship or a job, and rarely in the classroom or lab.
Thanks to a new four-year, $1.2 million partnership between the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and The Lubrizol Corporation, promising Pitt engineering students will learn about industry needs and have a chance to develop ideas and products in the new Lubrizol Innovation Laboratory.
"Half of these funds will be dedicated to an extremely progressive educational initiative for our students, literally and physically enabling them to turn their ideas into reality," says Steven Little, associate professor, CNG faculty fellow, and chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering within Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering.
"Overall, this is the largest, broadest-reaching relationship between a company and the department in at least three decades," Little continues, "and it is the culmination of a commitment we made several years ago to develop such a strategic alliance."
Little, who was a lead player in cementing Pitt's relationship with Lubrizol, says that the National Academy of Engineering has long been recommending that engineering educators find a way to encourage entrepreneurship and risk taking among students. But, he says, that's a difficult tactic to integrate into the curriculum. Having a corporation aboard with a real need to innovate, to create new products in order to thrive, will allow students to discover "why they're learning all this," as Little explains.
"Now, instead of waiting until their senior year to work on developing a product for a customer, they'll do it in their sophomore year and follow it all the way through," he says.
Cliff Kowall, technical fellow of process development at Lubrizol and adjunct instructor at Pitt, led the alliance from Lubrizol's end. "For about a year I've invested a great deal of time at Pitt, getting to know the leadership, faculty, students and the curriculum," he says. "I've found that Pitt and Lubrizol have had direct alignment around this project from the very beginning. We share a similar vision for the alliance, which is to have a mutually beneficial relationship, which is fundamentally collaborative."
Gerald D. Holder, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering at Pitt, praised the cooperation between the University and Lubrizol and is excited about the opportunities being presented to University students. "As the engineering profession evolves and more employers are looking for more diverse skills from future engineers, it's partnerships with corporations like Lubrizol that will help to give our students a greater advantage in the job market," he says. "Of course, developing distinctive initiatives such as this also requires innovation on the part of academia and industry. Steve and Cliff, as well as the senior leadership at Lubrizol, are to be commended for shepherding this concept to fruition for the benefit of our students."
Commenting further on the alliance, Bob Graf, corporate vice president of research and development at Lubrizol, says, "As an organization focused on inspiring innovation, our new relationship with the University of Pittsburgh provides the capability for both of our entities to leverage each other's experience and expertise. We are extremely excited about the opportunities this partnership will provide, and we look forward to a strong alliance over the years."
According to Little, declared chemical and petroleum engineering majors will be able to access the program as sophomores. "Students will take a course to learn about chemically engineered products and processes, also learning about customer needs and how corporations respond to them," he says.
Pitt dignitaries and Lubrizol officials celebrated the new collaboration Aug. 12 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Lubrizol Innovation Lab in Benedum Hall.
The Lubrizol Corporation, a Berkshire Hathaway company, is an innovative specialty-chemical company that produces and supplies technologies to customers in the global transportation, industrial, and consumer markets. These technologies include lubricant additives for engine oils, other transportation-related fluids, and industrial lubricants, as well as fuel additives for gasoline and diesel fuel. In addition, Lubrizol makes ingredients and additives for personal care products and pharmaceuticals and manufactures specialty materials, including plastics technology and performance coatings in the form of specialty resins and additives. Lubrizol's industry-leading technologies in additives, ingredients, and compounds enhance the quality, performance, and value of customers' products while reducing their environmental impact.
With headquarters in Wickliffe, Ohio, The Lubrizol Corporation owns and operates manufacturing facilities in 17 countries as well as sales and technical offices around the world. Founded in 1928, Lubrizol has approximately 7,500 employees worldwide. Revenues for 2013 were $6.4 billion. For more information, visit http://www.
About the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering
The Swanson School's Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering serves undergraduate and graduate engineering students, the University and industry, through education, research, and participation in professional organizations and regional/national initiatives. The department maintains a tradition of excellence in education and research, evidenced by recent national awards including numerous NSF CAREER Awards, a Beckman Young Investigator Award, an NIH Director's New Innovator Award, and the DOE Hydrogen Program R&D Award, among others. Active areas of research in the department include Biological and Biomedical Systems, Energy and Sustainability, and Materials Modeling and Design.
The faculty holds a record of success in obtaining research funding such that the department ranks within the top 25 U.S. ChE departments for Federal R&D spending in recent years with annual research expenditures exceeding $7 million. The vibrant research culture within the department includes active collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the Center for Simulation and Modeling, the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, the Petersen Institute of NanoScience and Engineering, and the U.S. DOE-affiliated Institute for Advanced Energy Solutions.
Joe Miksch, University of Pittsburgh News Services
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Paul Kovach, Swanson School of Engineering
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