Dean of Engineering David Lynch with William and Betty Magee, and Bill Pick, inaugural William G. Magee Chair in Process Design.
Edmonton—A new chair in process design at the Faculty of Engineering will focus on teaching, and research into educating tomorrow’s engineers.
The newly established William G. Magee Chair in Process Design will concentrate on teaching students about process design—a subject that lies at the heart of engineering.
“This is primarily a teaching chair, that will also research pedagogy, and this establishes, very firmly, that teaching and research go hand in hand,” said Dean of Engineering David Lynch, in announcing the new chair.
Process engineers are responsible for designing entire production plants, such as oil refineries. They are responsible for every detail, from safety and productivity to costs, down to the smallest detail—including the types of pressure gauges and valves that will be used in different parts of a plant.
This level of education in design is unique to engineering, said Lynch.
“When we think of what distinguishes engineering from other areas across campus, this is something that really does go to the heart of design, writ large, across all of our programs,” said Lynch. “And process design is really at the heart of engineering. It is at the heart of creative activities of engineers across all disciplines.”
In order to educate the next generation of process design engineers, the faculty needs to bring in seasoned professionals and it has done so in selecting Bill Pick as the inaugural chair holder. Pick graduated from the U of A with a degree in chemical engineering in 1979, his master’s degree in 1984, and spent 33 years in process design with Dow Chemical.
Pick helped design and expand Dow’s ethylene plant and led the expansion of its vinyl chloride plant—a project that received a prestigious Summit Award from the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta. In 2000, he was promoted to global process engineering technology leader for Dow’s light hydrocarbons business, essentially becoming the leader of an international group of process design engineers.
Pick, who will work in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, has a passion for teaching and experience in educating U of A engineers. In 1981, he became the inaugural Stollery Executive in Residence at the Faculty of Engineering, working with students on real-world design challenges.
He’s happy to bring his experiences to students on a full-time basis—he has even been planning different design problems for students.
“I have lots and lots of examples,” he said. “I’ve been writing down neat examples that might be good learning experiences. I have a folder full of problems,” he said.
“One of the things I’m looking forward to is the joy I get from what I call the ‘light bulb moment’ when you see someone learning something or understanding a new concept for the first time,” he added.
The chair is funded by William Magee, who graduated from the U of A with a degree in chemical engineering in 1960, and his wife Betty.
Citing the increasing demand for chemical engineers and the fact that many current professionals are approaching retirement, Magee says it’s vital to help educate young engineers.
Process design engineers lead the design of projects that add value to raw materials, generate jobs, create facilities that pay taxes and provide a return to investors, he said.
“All processing plants have one thing in common,” he said. “They create wealth.”
With the impact and responsibilities process design engineers have to safety, the environment, society and the economy, Magee recognizes the importance of ensuring the next generation is well educated and capable of devising inventive solutions to new challenges.
“As a young engineer I soon came to realize our U of A professors provided us with an excellent set of tools to get on with our jobs,” he said. “I know I would have benefitted greatly from courses that are offered now that we didn’t have, like the fourth-year design projects. And I know this new chair will help provide students with the best possible tools to take on future challenges.”
Lynch is excited about the impact the new chair will have on teaching.
“We know that an initiative of this magnitude will transform all of our programs,” he said. “We will see that transformative effect move across all of our programs—and beyond the university as well.”