Every profession needs their champions (Day 23)

Every profession needs their champions (Day 23)

19th June 2014

Science icon - Albert Einstein (Bokic Bojan - Shutterstock.com)

Patrons, envoys, role models, ambassadors, champions. Call them what you want, but symbolic leaders are valuable in all walks of life. Should professions be any different? And have you ever considered who are the champions for the chemical engineering profession?

A few years ago tce magazine wrote a fantastic series of articles about chemical engineers who changed the world. Starting with pioneers like Johann Glauber in the 1600s, tce gradually worked their way through people like George E Davis, Fritz Haber & Carl Bosch, Victor Mills, Trevor Kletz and Yoshio Nishi.

Despite the stature of these people, and others, within the chemical engineering profession, very few (if any) are household names - even in their home countries.

And when you look at typical lists of the greatest scientists of all time, or the top ten of remarkable engineers, it is not easy to categorise any of them as 'chemical engineers'.

As a relatively new profession this is not wholly unexpected, but it does make it difficult to promote and explain our profession.

The good news is that our profession underpins modern life and contributes more, everyday, to more people, in more ways, than virtually any other profession I can think of. In fact, I can't think of one.

What we all need to do is tell people about it.

Which is why I was encouraged by a recent event sponsored by Sellafield Ltd in the UK - the company responsible for safely delivering decommissioning, reprocessing and nuclear waste management activities on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

Professor Brian Cox

Sellafield enlisted the support of UK celebrity scientist Professor Brian Cox, who officially unveiled the Sellafield Story at the The Beacon Museum in Whitehaven.

The Museum houses a whole floor dedicated to taking visitors through the last 60 years of nuclear energy in west Cumbria.

Professor Cox said: “Nuclear is the best sustainable form of energy... Countries with innovative power supplies tend to have lower mortality rates; this is because people are making advances in science which helps in other aspects of their life.

“It is really brilliant [the museum] in taking visitors from the very beginning of the nuclear industry and not hiding the history, which was used in the production of weaponry."

He continued: “Science is the candle in the dark, illuminating the way with knowledge. West Cumbria is a pioneer for nuclear excellence for fellow industries worldwide, and there is 50 to 60 years’ of knowledge and experience of nuclear expertise at Sellafield, showcased in this exhibit.”

Chemical engineering has great stories to tell. Nuclear is just one of those and Professor Cox is a great champion. But he also highlights the problem - he is best known for being a physicist.

It would be great to hear your views on champions and what more we could do to raise the profile of our profession. Thanks for reading my blog.