Preparing Chemical Engineering Undergraduates for Food Production with an Elective Course
Vigeant, Margot

How to Cite

Vigeant M., 2023, Preparing Chemical Engineering Undergraduates for Food Production with an Elective Course, Chemical Engineering Transactions, 102, 127-132.


Chemical Engineering is the engineering discipline that focuses on chemical transformations of lower value raw materials to higher value products. As such, a significant number of graduates work in food process industries, the core of cooking is chemical transformation after all. While the typical Chemical Engineering undergraduate program addresses core concepts common in food processing such as heat transfer, fluid flow, and control systems, it does not necessarily show these concepts within food-related contexts. Further, it is important to introduce students to the regulatory, ethical, and above all cultural context for food processing which is very different from that of typical chemical production contexts. This poster will describe the content, format, and outcomes of a one-semester Applied Food Science and Engineering course for undergraduate engineers which seeks to address these lacks and provide industry-ready graduates who are prepared to produce food products at scale and with an eye to doing so with the health of the public and the environment in mind.
The course is a four-credit-hour course with a laboratory component, taught in a food-safe laboratory. The core audience of the course is senior-level students, although others are also welcome. By the senior year, students are familiar with fluid flow, heat and mass transfer, thermodynamics, reaction kinetics, and are also taking their controls and process design courses. The core food-science related course outcomes are for students to develop: 1) Their understanding of the chemical constituents of foods; 2) A familiarity with the most common reaction families in food production; 3) An understanding of the colloid and surface chemistry that occurs in many food systems; 4) An understanding of approaches to food preservation; 5) Conversant knowledge in the regulatory framework that oversees food and beverage production and finally 6) Their understanding of food processes within the lens of ethics, culture, and sustainability. This ambitious set of goals is undertaken through problem-based learning, wherein the entire course is broken into about six real-world problems. Student teams are challenged to assemble a report that addresses the problem, and spend two weeks researching, experimenting, and discussing aspects of the problem with faculty and each other. Each problem is carefully selected to hit a variety of outcomes from the above list.