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September Letters

By Chemical Engineering |

Re: Education needs a reality check…

I would like to pass on a few comments on Jason Makansi’s letter titled “Education needs a reality check”, which appeared in the August 2012 edition (p. 6).

I too, like Jason, began my now 36-year career not knowing which way to turn a valve but being fully trained in transport phenomena. Did my university fail me? No. My university’s ChE program (B.S.Ch.E. 1976, University of Akron) provided a very essential engineering skill-set: discipline and problem solving. Sure, I would like to see new hires have more practical knowledge, but the engineering field is so broad that I think it is difficult for any university to meet the need of every industry.

In my field, power generation, we utilize engineers who excel at transport phenomena and finite element analysis (FEA), as well as engineers who excel in skills developed through the sweat of their brow, such as welding, machining or equipment repair. The common trait I observe is that successful engineers have the “knack”, a curiosity about how things work and how they can be improved. This is a teachable skill. I know. I was able to teach it to my son, a young electrical engineer. It constantly amazes me how his mind never stops working, investigating and inventing. This is the skill engineering programs need to focus on.

James S. Bloss, P.E., Sr. Principal Engineer

The Babcock and Wilcox Co., Barberton, Ohio


…internships should fill the gap

I read with great interest Mr. Makansi’s letter in the August 2012 Chemical Engineering periodical. It struck a chord with me when I recalled that as a newly graduated engineer from a respected university, I didn’t even know what a pipe flange was. However, I was fortunate enough to be hired by a world-class air-pollution control equipment manufacturer. There, I quickly learned and became an “expert” as I was sent out to start up newly installed systems. I’m not saying this is ideal, but it is reality. Many students cannot complete an engineering curriculum in four years. Adding any practical training courses would exacerbate that goal.

The solution may lie in summer intern jobs where students can gain practical insight into how their education can be applied, and learn about necessary topics not covered in the classroom, like how to turn a valve. In addition, it provides a company an opportunity to try out a potential employee and target those students that fit their organization at graduation. I believe that an engineering degree doesn’t provide everything a graduate needs to know to function in our industry, but it is an indicator to an employer that the individual has the capacity to learn. If we work together with educators and provide opportunities to supplement the academic curriculum with real-life experiences in summer positions, we can all win.


Roger E. Blanton, P.E., Business Development Manager

John Zink Co., LLC, Tulsa, Okla.

Postscripts, corrections*

July, Development Speeds Up In Catalysis, pp. 18–20: The name of Dow’s Cherie Wrenn was misspelled. Our apologies.

June, Draining Process Vessels, pp. 34–40, had two errors:

1. Equation (15) was not labeled

2. In Equation (32), the sign for the third term should be (–) not (+).


* The online versions of these article have been ammended and can be found at www.chemengonline.com/archives/extras/ps_and_corrections/

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