ChemEngDay UK 2016 - Highlights

6th April 2016

ChemEngDay UK, the UK's annual chemical engineering conference for the research community, came to a successful close last week. Hosted this year by the University of Bath, it welcomed over 250 delegates to Bath from across the UK and beyond.

ChemEngDay UK was begun to facilitate networking between chemical engineers across UK universities. Attended predominantly by PhD students, post-doctoral researchers and academics, together with delegates from industry, it is the only chemical engineering conference in the UK for the academic community.

Check out some event highlights below:

Day 1 - Thursday 31 March 2016

This year the conference was held in a fantastic venue - The Chancellor's Building at University of Bath - which boasts state-of-the-art facilities spread across five floors. Delegates entered at ground level to a sea of fantastic poster entries - 135 in total.

Professor Hugh Stitt, Johnson Matthey

The conference was opened by Bath's deputy vice-chancellor, Professor Bernie Morley, who commented on the rising uptake of chemical engineering at degree level, saying “chemical engineering is booming." IChemE reported on this at the start of the year, revealing that there was a 16% increase in applications to study chemical engineering at degree level in the UK.

The first plenary speaker at the meeting was IChemE Fellow, Professor Hugh Stitt, a consultant chemical engineer at Johnson Matthey. His talk, Just because the results are in colour - it doesn't mean they're right, was a fascinating take on modelling processes and encouraged academics to interrogate a model as much as possible.

Education parallel session with Professor Jarka Glassey

The talk was followed by parallel sessions in Education (chaired by Professor Jarka Glassey, Newcastle University); Advanced Separations (chaired by Dr Darrell Patterson, University of Bath); and Reactions and Catalysis (chaired by Professor Marc-Olivier Coppens, UCL).

Throughout the conference delegates had the opportunity to visit the exhibition hall, and speak to the meetings sponsors about the work they do. Exhibitors included ABB, Armfield, Bronkhorst, Cole-Parmer, Gunt Technology, Hiden Isochema, International Space School Educational Trust, Malvern, Meritics, and Siemens.

IChemE also joined the exhibitors and encouraging students to 'Stand Up & Speak Out'.

Professor Geoff Maitland encourages students to 'Stand Up & Speak Out.'

The new initiative follows on from a successful event we held in London in February, which focuses on providing chemical engineers with the tools to be more engaged with the public and the media. This was supported by a workshop at the event - chaired by Dr Alexandra Howe, Energy and Research Policy Manager at IChemE. Invited speakers included IChemE past president and founder of this very blog Professor Geoff Maitland, Media and PR Officer at University of Bath, Robert Breckon, and PR and Communications Manager at IChemE, Tara Wilson.

Delegates were asked to think about their work using three simple questions:

Then they had to sum up how they made a difference in a simple tweet:

And say it all on film!

Finally the day came to a close with the highly-anticipated Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition. Chaired by Dr Nuno Bimbo, Lancaster University, it saw 14 brave academics sum up an 80,000 word thesis - in three minutes.

Jemma Rowlandson gives her 3MT - Sustainable Activated Carbons for Water Filtration Applications

Bath's Jemma Rowlandson was crowned 3MT champion at the conference dinner, held that evening at the beautiful Roman Baths. The setting was perfect for celebrating bath's rich history, and uniting conference delegates to give them a chance to network and discuss ideas.

Jemma had previously been crowned winner of the University’s 3MT competition and is due to compete at the national semi-finals in July. Commenting on winning the ChemEngDay 3MT, Jemma said:

Roman Baths

"All competitors did a brilliant job of presenting their PhD in under three minutes, and it was absolutely fantastic to see the breadth of research being done in chemical engineering.”

Other prizes given at the dinner included the IChemE Nicklin medal, awarded to Dr Colin Hare for his outstanding work in particle technology.

Day 2 - Friday 1 April 2016

The second leg of ChemEngDay kicked off with plenary speaker Professor Barry Crittenden, University of Bath, who's talk, Innovation to Impact: The Long Journey with Structured Absorbents, focused on taking research above and beyond academia to make a real impact in the world. Relating the talk to his own experience he said: "I'm looking backwards, and that's an easy thing to do. But most of you guys here are looking forward."

Chemical Process Modelling and Simulations session

Further parallel sessions followed, this time covering Chemical Process Modelling and Simulation (chaired by Professor Stephen Wilkinson, University of Chester); Bioprocessing (chaired by Dr Alex Kiparissides, UCL); and Water Technology (chaired by Professor Jan Hofman, University of Bath)

IChemE's incoming president Professor Jonathan Seville gave the closing plenary talk - What is chemical engineering for? Looking at how chemical engineering can affect everything we do - from washing our clothes to cooking dinner, Jonathan said: "We have to keep emphasising that chemical engineering principles are applicable much more widely than just the oil industry."

Professor Tim Mays and Professor Jonathan Seville

Jonathan also presented the prize for best 'Stand Up & Speak Out' video. The winner received a GoPro camera to make more of their own videos.

Posters were judged throughout the conference, and it was Professor Tim Mays, Head of Chemical Engineering at Bath, who announced that the 1st prize winner was Richard Maltby, University of Bath, for his poster; Multiphase CFD Modelling of Mixing in a Cubic Single-Use-Technology Bioreactor.

After the closing speeches delegates also had the opportunity to attend break-out sessions. The Athena Swan session, chaired by professor Eva Sorenson, UCL, focused on diversity in the profession, and looked at the challenges departments faced to address gender inequality.

The second break-out session, EPRSC Support for People: Leadership and Fellowships, was highly-relevant to delegates. It looked at funding opportunities, and focused on helping academics receive more support for their research.

Poster Winner - Richard Maltby

Tim Mays concluded the meeting with a few words of thanks, and said: “We were excited and proud to host ChemEngDay UK 2016 at the University. The whole event was buzzing with enthusiasm for chemical engineering research and even the weather was kind for the meeting. I am particularly pleased with the close collaboration and partnership amongst the local organisers at Bath and at IChemE in Rugby which made the event such a success.”

The next ChemEngDay UK will be held at University of Birmingham in 2017. See you there!