Presidential blog: Futureproofing the profession

Presidential blog: Futureproofing the profession

31st August 2023

As the new academic year approaches in the northern hemisphere, IChemE President Nigel Hirst talks about waiving student membership fees to ensure more students can access our knowledge, networking and career resources, and motivating future chemical and process engineers through a new campaign, ‘DiscoverChemEng’.

Name: Nigel Hirst

Role: IChemE President 2023-2024

Maintaining a vibrant and thriving profession is a critical part of our mission and I appreciate that I am stating the obvious when I say that we must continually bring in new chemical engineers to essentially futureproof our profession. Supporting future chemical, biochemical and process engineers to develop their knowledge and skills is a key role for IChemE. To encourage more students to take advantage of the resources available and join the Institution, I am delighted to announce that, for a trial period from 1 September 2023, we have waived the joining fee and so student membership is now FREE! So, if you are a student, head over to to find out how to join – or please encourage students you teach or work with to do the same. Student membership gives access to a fantastic range of resources including The Chemical Engineer, networking events, technical webinars, career advice and a multitude of knowledge tools such as Knovel, our journals and the Knowledge Hub.

My education culminated with gaining a chemical engineering degree from the University of Cambridge, following my school years at a state school in Manchester. It is extremely important to me to ensure students from all schools have the same opportunities as I did to follow a chemical engineering pathway. Earlier this month I met with the University of Cambridge’s Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology department to discuss how we can help widen participation in the Davidson Inventors Challenge, a competition run by Cambridge for year 11/12 students in honour of former IChemE President, John Davidson. To increase participation in the challenge from a wide range of schools across the UK, the IChemE team will be working with the university to offer mentors to schools to assist with their entries. If you would like to volunteer as a mentor for this interesting and innovative challenge, please do let us know. More information is available here.

While on the subject of inspiring our next generations of engineers, last month I was invited by IMechE to join them at Silverstone to watch Formula Student, a competition amongst universities to build their own racing car. One of the teams had 150 students working on their car while another team had had to do all their work outside their normal course work. I was struck by the fact that this team didn’t enter the competition because their arms were twisted but because they WANTED to do it. I celebrated their eagerness and commitment to their own professional learning (plus their desire to have a load of fun I’d like to think). Along the same lines, I want all our students to WANT to be an IChemE member because they see the benefits and opportunities it opens up to them, and it is up to us to fuel their enthusiasm so that they are knocking our doors down.


I mentioned last month that we were busy refreshing our education outreach programme to encourage more young people into chemical engineering from all backgrounds, something which I don't have to tell you is close to my heart. Some of you may recall a campaign we ran in previous years known as ‘WhyNotChem Eng’. I can now share with you that our new campaign will be known as ’DiscoverChemEng’, so look out for more information on this very soon - please keep an eye on the website for the latest updates. I’m aware that many of you have great experience and contacts in this area, so please do get in touch with the team at to share your thoughts and ideas.

Celebrating excellence

As a previous member of the IChemE Medals and Prizes committee, I can’t pass up the chance to encourage you all to nominate your friends, colleagues or peers for one of the medals this year. Nominations open on 1 September and I would love it to be a bumper year for the number of nominations received. With so much important and inspiring work taking place across our profession, from within the research facilities at universities, to the innovative projects in the workplace and the volunteers who give up their time to support fellow members, there is so much to be celebrated. Some of the medals are awarded for individual success, and some are awarded to teams, but all provide international recognition for the individuals involved. Following on from what I said above about futureproofing our profession, I particularly like the fact that some of the medals specifically celebrate those early in their careers. There really is something for everyone. Please do take a look and nominate those who are doing great work and deserve recognition. Alternatively, if you think your work deserves recognition, ask someone you know to nominate you!

New look website home page

With the breadth of services and resources that IChemE provides, there is an awful lot of information to make available for all our stakeholders, whether they are current members, volunteers, potential members, future chemical engineers, corporate partners, education providers, policy makers, other institutions or even journalists. As you would expect, much of the information can be found on our website but that means it’s vital that the website is easy to navigate so everyone can find the information they need. I’m therefore pleased that we have now improved the home page to showcase more of our resources via new ‘Latest from IChemE’ and ‘What’s on’ sections. As well as the new home page, we have improved the menu structure to help users find what they are looking for more easily and have added a brand new section called ‘Sustainable World’ which brings together content which highlights how chemical and process engineers contribute to society. Take a look and let me know what you think. This is work in progress and these changes are just the start of wider project to improve more areas of the website.

If you have any questions you would like to put to me, or have any feedback on the above, I always welcome your thoughts - please send me an email to I look forward to hearing from you.

Previous presidential blogs

July 2023 - The hard work starts now!