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Chemical engineering students at the University of Ottawa enjoy the best of all worlds.

Students have many degree options and two modes of studying including a successful co-op program

The planning of a chemical engineering department at the University of Ottawa was initiated in 1953, the same year as the School of Pure and Applied Sciences was established. Construction of the undergraduate teaching laboratory began in March 1954, the department of chemical engineering was officially inaugurated in October 1955, and the first class of chemical engineers was graduated in 1956. The department is currently a part of the faculty of engineering, which was created from the former faculty of science and engineering in 1986.

At the undergraduate level, the department offers two basic programs, namely a four-year regular chemical engineering program and a five-year combined biochemistry/chemical engineering program. In addition, two distinct options (i.e., environmental engineering and engineering management), and two modes of study (i.e., traditional and co-op), are offered. All programs and options lead to the BASc degree in chemical engineering. Bearing in mind the bilingual character of the University of Ottawa, the department of chemical engineering offers the first two years of its programs in both official languages and is currently endeavoring to expand these services to the last two years.

One of the department's most successful ventures has been the Combined Biochemistry/Chemical Engineering Program (introduced in 1983) which is offered jointly with the department of biochemistry and which is unique in Canada. Although this novel program requires five years of study, it leads to two degrees, i.e., a BSc (with either a major or honors) in biochemistry and a BASc in chemical engineering. Students fulfill the requirements of both departments by the judicious choice of electives, and by including a summer of full-time study between the fourth and fifth years for those students completing the BSc Honors. The combined program provides its graduates with a strong background for a career in either of these two disciplines or in the rapidly developing field of biotechnology.

Pollution control and environmental engineering have always been a significant part of the chemical engineering profession, although they have come increasingly to the fore in recent years. In recognition of this, the department of chemical engineering offers its students a structured undergraduate option in environmental engineering, which comprises courses from the departments of biology, civil engineering and chemical engineering.

For those students who are interested in management issues the department offers a structured option in engineering management, which commences at the second-year level.

Perhaps the department's most successful initiative during the last decade has been its Cooperative Education Program, which was introduced in 1981. Eligible students enter the co-op option at the end of their second year of study, following which they work for four terms in industry or government and four terms in the department, on an alternating basis.

Last year, 32% of all undergraduate students were registered in the co-op program. This program has been particularly successful in increasing the overall academic excellence of our students and improving our links with Canadian industry and government departments.

Although the co-op program is two terms longer than the regular program, the students are unanimous in their praise of the variety of practical experience available to them prior to their graduation. Moreover, they gain confidence and financial independence as well as a much clearer idea of their eventual career goals as a result of their co-op experiences.

The number of undergraduates students has increased steadily during the last decade, reaching a maximum of 232 full-time students in the 1992-1993 academic year. Of this number, 40% were women students. During the same year 48 students graduated with their Bachelors' degrees. The department is prepared to offer, and has offered in the past, upgrading courses for practising engineers. In addition to stimulating an interest in engineering and scientific work amongst high school students, faculty members and students of the department organize and participate annually in one-week chemical engineering and biotechnology mini-courses for such students.

In addition to providing an education for those BASc graduates who wish to commence a professional career immediately, the department also serves the needs of those students who desire to continue advanced graduate work in chemical engineering or in other fields, such as business administration, law or medicine.

Graduate programs

At the graduate level, the department offers a traditional chemical engineering graduate program. The program is divided into two streams, one leading to a professionally-oriented degree (MEng) and the other to research-oriented degrees (MASc and PhD).

The MEng degree requires a relatively larger number of courses than what is required for the corresponding MASc degree, with provision for an optional engineering project. In addition to the regular chemical engineering program, the department of chemical engineering, in conjunction with the department of civil engineering, offers a collaborative graduate program in environmental engineering leading also to the degrees listed above.

The aim of the graduate program is to develop fully the initiative, creativity and ability of the students. An attempt is made to keep a fair balance between mission-oriented research and that of a more fundamental nature.

At present, 40 graduate students are enrolled in the graduate programs in the department, with the majority coming from Canada, but with a sizable number from abroad. The diversity of the student body is more than a matter of geography, for there are representatives of many races and religious groups. The opportunity of spending a few years with students of diversified backgrounds and interests gives all students a chance to broaden their understanding of their own values and beliefs. This is even more relevant in view of the bilingual and bicultural nature of the University of Ottawa.

Research, staffing and facilities

The department occupies about 2,000 [m.sup.2] in Colonel By Hall, a 10-storey complex with a total working are of some 12,000 [m.sup.2], is well equipped for teaching and research. The main undergraduate teaching laboratory (400 [m.sup.2]) was specially designed and houses a wide range of pilot-plant scale equipment.

In 1992-1993, the department had 12 full-time professors (including one research chair), one professor cross-appointed with the civil engineering department, three emeritus professors, one honorary senior scientist, and a number of part-time and adjunct professors. They are very ably and actively supported by an administrative officer, three technologists and three secretaries.

The department's research is supported by a wide range of agencies, including the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), other government agencies, and private industry. The research in the department and in the constituent Industrial Membrane Research Institute (with its British (Consumers) Gas/NSERC Industrial Research Chair) covers a very wide range of topics, as do the activities of the affiliated Electrochemical Science and Technology Centre (ESTCO). In addition to a wide range of equipment and instrumentation, the department of chemical engineering has a well-equipped machine shop for the in-house fabrication of various pieces of precision equipment.

The department enjoys access to a wide range of computing facilities including two Amdhal mainframe computers with over 50 terminals, a VAX network comprised of a VAX Server 3500 and eight VAX stations 2000, an IBM 6000 RISC system, a Novell network with 38 PC-based workstations, and a variety of personal computers and workstations throughout the department. In addition to the University of Ottawa's facilities, our students are fortunate in being able to make use of the facilities of a large number of scientific institutions and libraries in Ottawa.

What makes Ottawa special?

It goes without saying that there must be several differences that set this department apart from the many other chemical engineering departments in Canada. For example, ours is the only officially bilingual chemical engineering department in the Province of Ontario. This requires that many of our professors be fluent in both official languages and that all of the others be at least passively bilingual. For our students, however, it has a much greater effect. They must pass a French course at a relatively high competence level if they are anglophone, and conversely, an English course if they are francophone. In consequence, for many students the course load is increased by having to take an advanced-level language course.

By the time our students graduate, however, almost all of them appreciate the benefits of not only some knowledge of the other language, but also of the other major culture and its social customs.

In analyzing why there is such a high rate of success in the research conducted in this department, there is a subtle but unmistakable reason. The relationships amongst the graduate students, teaching staff and support staff are very close, and all staff take a very genuine interest in the academic development of the students. We feel that this mutual support and co-operation between staff and students leads to a greater effort and to an increased probability for a successful conclusion in research.

It is also clear that the number and range of the undergraduate and graduate courses (including the additional co-op summer courses) which comprise the teaching load for the teaching staff is unusually large and somewhat daunting, resulting as it does in one of the highest student-staff ratios in Canada. This requires a good deal of planning and versatility. How do we do it? It's simple. Everyone, including the students, have to work very hard indeed!

There is one final unique feature at the University of Ottawa which sets us apart from all other Canadian universities. That concerns its location, which is not only in the nation's capital but also close to the Parliament buildings, and adjacent to the historic Colonel By canal (constructed in 1832) which, in the winter, becomes the longest skating rink in the world. The University of Ottawa is in the heart of the most beautiful city in central Canada.
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Author:Lu, B.C.-Y.; Hayduk, W.; Neale, G.H.
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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