What Chemical Engineers are Saying

We have received many e-mail messages from chemical engineers with their ideas and their suggestions about what they would like from the AIChE. A sampling of comments (with minor editing) organized by topic appears below.

This section will be updated on a regular basis as more responses are received.


Changes in Chemical Engineering

 Public Policy

 Local Sections

Alignment with Membership

AIChE Services

Changes in Chemical Engineering

“Keeping up with leading Chemical Engineering trends is the key to making AIChE viewed as a energetic organization. Whether we are talking bio-technology, nano-technology, etc., any partnerships that can be set up with organizations leading in this area will benefit AIChE long term.”

“I feel that AIChE has become a little too "introverted" for its own good. I would like to see more outreach into education at earlier levels, more awareness of what it means to be a chemical engineer beyond calculating equipment rating or higher order mathematics. There is so much diversity in what Chemical Engineers do! We need to tap into that and channel it towards some excitement about how important this field is in industry and society.”

“A major issue is the fragmentation of the fields within chemical engineering, which leads to allegiances to the sub-fields rather than the discipline as a whole, and causes the good and innovative work to be presented at specialized, non-ChE meetings, with the result that the papers at AIChE meetings, fragmented across many sub-fields, are often not much of a draw. One just cannot get as much in one's specialty from an AIChE meeting as from a specialized meeting. I think this is a reason for declining attendance at AIChE meetings and declining membership.”

“It is critical that the discipline of ChE become more in touch with the current business drivers and technology needs of the huge installed base of chemical process operators. AIChE needs to be a more practical facilitator of modern ChE practice and strategic planning. The current society is too focused on its own enterprise and not enough on the enterprises of its members. Bio/Nano does not replace the CPI; it supplements and evolves portions of it.”

Public Policy

“AIChE needs to seize leadership on two critical issues: a transition to alternative fuels and dealing with environmental issues. Our federal government has shown an unfortunate lack of foresight in dealing with these issues. The solution to these problems is critical for the United States and the world in the 21st century.”

“I was shocked at the press coverage of Sam Bodman's nomination for Secretary of Energy. Almost without exception, the coverage emphasized his lack of background in energy, and completely overlooked the connection of Chemical Engineering to energy. I would think the AIChE could better communicate Chemical Engineering's central role in energy and environmental issues. The public seems to be clueless.”

“The AIChE, in its lobbying and public communications role, should emphasize how important it is to the economic future of our nation to remain the magnet for the world's best engineers and scientists, and should take a formal position against arbitrarily restrictive visa policies. The press seems to have latched on to the importance of immigrants to fill low wage jobs Americans won't take, but seems to have largely missed the other end of the spectrum -- the science and technology professions Americans don't seem to be interested in.”

“We are in a crisis with respect to the lack of interest of students in engineering as a whole. We need to be focusing our efforts towards K-12 in an effort to promote engineering amongst America’s youth. If not we will soon find that all of the talent is offshore. That’s kind of scary!”

Local Sections

“The focus on local sections is appropriate and important. It would be good to highlight local sections in CEP; perhaps this is already being done. In my mind, one of the most vibrant local sections is the one around the phosphate industry in Central Florida.”

“The local section meetings would be much more interesting to me if there were more people in more relevant demographics to network with. Occasionally, the meeting topic hits a hot button and we get a doubling of attendance and we get a bunch of go-getters around that topic. The difference between OK programming and great programming is the difference between a so-so meeting and a really stimulating meeting and networking environment.”


“We must do a better job of communicating with recent graduates, particularly those in non-chemical industries. They need us more than those in academia and in traditional industries because of their professional isolation. This is a difficult challenge but should be one of our highest priorities.”

“I believe that CEP is an inadequate source of communication with recent graduates, who join but soon drop their membership. They look or should look to the AIChE for more than new processes or techniques of design. The same applies to programming at local sections. Perhaps what we need is an e-letter that prompts and solicits comments on issues of general concern.”

“I believe AIChE publications should highlight the contribution that Chemical Engineers are making beyond their technical careers, such as in business running organizations, outside of their careers, etc. Adding another dimension in the communication of chemicals engineers' careers will help attract people not only interested in chemical engineering but also business.”

“Unless you are in R&D or process operations the magazines and publications have little else to offer. I believe AIChE needs to become more relevant to chemical engineers who have decided to pursue other interests such as business careers or other technical fields.”

“AIChE should recognize that a large fraction of potential members are associated with small companies that don't employ many chemical engineers. AIChE needs to reach these people with appropriate services; e.g., topical conferences, publications, webcasts, etc.”

Alignment with Membership

“In all honesty, I have recently let my membership expire. Being an engineer who quickly transitioned into more of a management function early in my career, I found the benefits I get from AIChE membership limited. My career has included employment and consulting at companies such as ExxonMobil, Shell, and Dow. I never had the sense that these companies value membership in AIChE very much, nor really reward employees for their contributions to AIChE. I feel one element to the successful growth of AIChE is providing more credibility to the organization through more visible support from industry leaders.”

“The AIChE is very out of touch with its membership. For starters - why do we need an office in Manhattan? Why are the meetings held in such expensive cities? The society should take a more regional approach to meetings like the ISA. The ISA offers low cost or no-cost continuing education at their regional meetings.”

“Hold the national meeting in easy places to get to like Chicago or Denver or Atlanta (not Reno or Indianapolis) and hold it only once per year. Schedule the meeting at a time that doesn't interfere with teaching classes such as September rather than in November when everyone is so busy?”

“It is extremely important that the Institute make it one of its goals to find ways to utilize the background and experience of retired engineers and entrepreneurs.”

“Move the AIChE offices out of NYC to a location with lower costs. The organization can operate electronically from anywhere just as effectively as they do from NYC.”

“Jobs, benefits, and job security are perhaps now the main issues with members of all ages. We have an opportunity to make them look to the AIChE for information on job opportunities whenever they seek re-employment and benefits such as pensions and medical insurance that are not subject to sudden termination.”

“To revitalize AIChE, it needs to strengthen its value proposition to its members. A typical member pays over $200 per year for membership. In return they get an annual subscription to Chemical Engineering Progress. For most of us in industry, attending the meetings is not possible: there are competing demands on our time, the content of the meetings are more geared towards academia, the cost of travel and hotel is high, etc. The CEP magazine is good at providing an overview of what’s happening in the field but at $200 per year is quite expensive.”

“AIChE needs more turn-over on its committees. Committee chairs need to seek new members. As an example, I have been a member of two national committees for more than 20 years.”

AIChE Services

“AIChE’s life insurance is about the best I’ve ever seen: plenty of choices, great pricing and good provider companies. The disability program as currently structured is dysfunctional as there is about a 60-80% reject rate due to minor health issues. After being declined over an issue my doctor said was negligible, I spoke with the insurer and they said that AIChE does not let them charge enough of a premium over base rates to take on any significant risk. Therefore their only option is to turn a lot of people down. I don’t see how this serves the need of the members. The medical insurance seems to be of comprehensive scope but it’s the most expensive insurance on the market.”

“AIChE needs to become more relevant to the daily life of chemical engineers. For example, the introduction of the group insurance program has been something that has really kept me interested in remaining. The insurance is really good value for money. We need to find more products of interest to chemical engineers to keep them tuned to AIChE. Unless you are in R&D or process operations the magazines and publications have little else to offer. AIChE also needs to become more relevant to chemical engineers who have decided to pursue other interests such as business careers or other technical fields.”