Beckley, W.Va. – West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVU Tech) and Cornerstone/Belle Chemical Company have partnered to bring real-world experiences and applications to Tech students. This year, the partnership has allowed students to collaborate with engineers and employees from Cornerstone/Belle Chemical for design and capstone projects.
Dr. Nathan Galinsky, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at WVU Tech, says, “The partnership between Cornerstone/Belle Chemical and the WVU Tech chemical engineering department offers students a chance to gain valuable experience working on projects that real companies face. Students also appreciate being able to work on something tangible by understanding a company’s goal and how the project can impact the company side.”
Katy Jackson, a Senior Sustainability Engineer at Cornerstone Chemical Company, is looking into the potential of pursuing a biodiesel process for two of Cornerstone’s manufacturing facilities to increase its use of renewable energy and reduce its overall carbon footprint. This process can be added onsite to either the Belle Chemical Company location in Belle, West Virginia or the Cornerstone Chemical Company location in Waggaman, Louisiana. Both facilities are looking to incorporate sustainability projects for its sites. One junior WVU Tech chemical engineering student is designing this biodiesel process.
Three other WVU Tech students in their senior year are designing a process to produce dimethylethanolamine (DEMA) to help meet the expected growth in the demand for this chemical for their senior capstone project. They are working with Dr. Vinay Medhekar, Principal Research and Development Lead at Cornerstone Chemical Company.
Emily Henry Santamaria, a senior chemical engineering student from Caracas, Venezuela, says this experience has prepared her for her industry job when she graduates.
“The project gives us an opportunity to understand how everything is managed and designed to meet business needs while maintaining a high safety standard. It has allowed me to have critical thinking and think outside of the box when things get complicated. It’s setting me up for success since I will be starting a position as a Process Leader at Procter & Gamble this upcoming summer. This experience, along with the skills I have gained from WVU Tech, will help me tremendously as I head into the industry. It’s been an incredible experience,” she says.
Dr. Gifty Osei-Prempeh, Professor and Chair of the Chemical Engineering department at WVU Tech, says, “The partnership between WVU Tech chemical engineering and Cornerstone/Belle Chemical company provides a great opportunity for our juniors and seniors as they work on design projects that are relevant to industry. The questions and suggestions they get from our industrial partners lay open some of the process conditions we take for granted in academia. The experience is helping the students think more broadly about what will work in industry before making a particular choice for a process. This partnership is providing experience needed to be ready their first day on the job after they graduate.”
Students are also gaining more than just research experience from this partnership.
“Besides the project, Belle Chemical offered to bring students on a tour of their site. Getting student exposure to what a chemical engineer does is important for the development, motivation and retention of students. Additionally, part of the senior capstone experience is to involve industry in the course to demonstrate different aspects such as sustainability, process safety, expectations of new engineers and process design in industry. ABET accreditation really encourages this type of collaborative experience between the capstone courses and industry. This partnership has long term involvement because you can have industrial impact through guest lectures from the company, plant tours, potential internships and other employment opportunities, mentorship, and as guests for presentations in the future to give students industrial insight,” Dr. Galinsky explains.
For more information on WVU Tech’s ABET-accredited chemical engineering program, visit admissions.wvutech.edu.
About Cornerstone Chemical Company
Headquartered in Metairie, Louisiana with more than 500 employees, Cornerstone Chemical Company is an industry-leading manufacturer of high-quality intermediate chemicals, including acrylonitrile, melamine, sulfuric acid, and other products used for a variety of end-market applications. Cornerstone demonstrates their commitment to the community through education. For more information about Cornerstone, visit www.cornerstonechemco.com or read about Cornerstone’s involvement in the New Orleans and Louisiana communities.
About Belle Chemical Company
Belle Chemical Company is an affiliate of Cornerstone located in Belle, West Virginia. Belle Chemical is a methylamines and derivatives producer, and its products are used in a wide array of industries. For more information about Belle Chemical, visit www.bellechemco.com.