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Chemical engineering industry board serves its students

A group photo of nine men and one woman staggered on a staircase.

The Chemical Engineering Department’s Industrial Advisory Board visits MU twice a year. Members attending this year’s spring meeting, pictured, reviewed this semester’s senior design projects. Pictured are, front row, Bill Herring; second row: John Dean and Chris Dixon; third row: Bob Holtsmith, Art Orscheln and Barbara Todd; fourth row: IAB chairman Tom Guenther, Jerry Jost and Department Chairman Baolin Deng; back row: Dave Cockrill.

Members of the Chemical Engineering Department’s Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) visit the department twice annually for department updates and to determine how they can help the department and its students studying chemical engineering.

Tom Guenther, who has served on the IAB for 10 years — the last two as chairman — said meetings in the spring and fall semesters also include updates on the College of Engineering.

“We want to have a good understanding of what’s going on in the department and college,” he said.

Senior design presentations are a vital element of the spring meeting, Guenther said. In April IAB members listened to presentations from the senior design class teams and asked questions. Guenther said the exercise prepares them for the questions they would be asked in industry also.

“We’re trying to determine how well the students are prepared for industry,” he said, adding that the presentations are one of the best ways for the IAB to do that.

The board also helps the department maintain its ABET accreditation.

“At least once a year, we review one of the courses and talk with the faculty member who is teaching that course,” he said. The board makes recommendations from an industry viewpoint, knowing how the materials students learn will be used later on as they begin their careers.

In addition to helping students prepare for employment after graduation, Guenther said the IAB also gets involved with the students while in school through presentations, site tours and other glimpses at industry.

“Generally through the AICHE  [American Institute of Chemical Engineers] student chapter, we will attend at least one of their meetings and give a presentation,” he said. “The most recent one was on career development.”

However, Guenther added that the IAB wants to serve not only graduating seniors, but younger students, too.

“In the spring meeting, we met with juniors and seniors separately for a feedback session,” he said. With no specific speakers, faculty or staff present, he said this was a good way for the IAB to hear candid opinions from students about their department and degree program.

“Everyone thought it was beneficial,” he said. “The students were very thankful that we were listening to them.”