Last month, Dr. Adam Nolte was named Head of the Chemical Engineering department, an office that takes effect July 1. Dr. Nolte, who has been an assistant professor of chemical engineering since 2009, decided to apply for the position after serving as the interim department head and directly experiencing the responsibilities, strategic leadership, and interaction with “great faculty, staff, and students” that comes with the job. According to him, he enjoyed the job so much that he wanted to stay there.
“If I had to pick one quality that best qualifies me for this job, I would have to say it is my passion for what I do here,” Dr. Nolte said. “Like no other place, Rose-Hulman puts its money where its mouth is in terms of commitment to engineering education and service to the student, and that sense of dedication and purpose makes this both a meaningful and fun place to work.”According to Dr. Nolte, the strong performance of students in the department and positive career feedback from alumni prove that the chemical engineering department and its degree programs are as successful as ever.“Chemical engineering degrees continue to be extremely versatile, and as long as our students are performing well and our alumni are telling us that they remain prepared to face the latest challenges, I don’t foresee any major changes to the foundations of our curriculum,” he said.However, Dr. Nolte pointed out that the department is always trying to improve itself through new electives, concentration areas, or material and course re-evaluation. “We spend a considerable amount of time as a department discussing our course content and asking how we might best teach the most relevant material,” he said.That discussion may lead to “merging courses, rearranging material, or offering specialized electives” or looking into the future and integrating emerging fields like energy and sustainability into the curriculum. Whatever that may be, it’s for the good of the students’ education.“My goal is to ensure that the department continues to graduate well-trained engineers who are competitive in their chosen fields because they understand and can engage the challenges facing our discipline in the future,” Dr. Nolte said.Dr. Nolte also mentioned the department’s new Master of Chemical Engineering degree that is designed to “to deepen (students’) knowledge in the field and increase their competitiveness in the employment market.” In that sense of looking ahead, Dr. Nolte also mentioned that multidisciplinary education will be important as engineers will have to cooperate more and more with people not only from different lines of work, but also different parts of the world.“A certain global competency—the ability to collaborate with and learn from individuals from other cultures—will also only grow in importance as the world becomes more interconnected and the global balance of economic power continues to tip towards the east,” Nolte said.On chemical engineering more specifically, Dr. Nolte believes that “by and large the industrial picture will look similar in a decade or so to how it does now,” but also that more emphasis will fall on meeting regulatory specifications and emissions guidelines. Chemical engineers will be called for their knowledge in “behind the scenes” fields like sustainable process and product development, energy conservation for industrial design, life cycle analysis, and green product manufacture, according to Dr. Nolte.However, the big question for Dr. Nolte is exactly how the department can more effectively teach the skills and knowledge a chemical engineer needs for the future. His answer: relationships between faculty and students.“I feel that the key is getting more students to take ownership of their education, in the sense that they make the most of their time at Rose-Hulman through active engagement of their coursework and good communication and contact with their professors,” he said. “I feel that if a student isn’t taking advantage of the extremely low barrier for collaboration between faculty and students, then he or she is missing something vitally important that we have to offer.”On the other hand, professors also have a responsibility to motivate, inspire, and challenge willing students to perform their best in order to be prepared for whatever lies beyond graduation, Dr. Nolte said. Essentially, the road to better education is a two-way street.Overall, Dr. Nolte believes that the school is “taking many positive steps in this regard” with its new strategic vision and plans on doing what he can in the chemical engineering department to fulfill that vision.“In the chemical engineering department, I want to do what I can to help faculty secure resources to provide new educational opportunities for our students, and to support student programs that encourage team-building, multidisciplinary work and research, and other such professional development opportunities to help them achieve their fullest potential.”