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Friday, March 22, 2019

Faculty & Staff

Playing musical chairs


The chemical engineering department chair is being promoted to special assistant to the president/chancellor for UH Energy and will be replaced by a former department chair.

Ramanan Krishnamoorti’s new position is a part of a larger effort spearheaded by UH’s administration to make the University more competitive in the field of energy development.

“What we’re hoping to do with this position is to coalesce and find a unique way to present UH’s position in terms of educational programs (…) and aligning that with what the industry needs across the country and globally,” he said.

“There is a huge workforce need that I think UH can address if we can get well-defined and well-established programs in both degree and nondegree programs that we can package well together and have a signature for the University.”

Education is not matching the degree of technological advancement in industry, keeping companies from finding qualified employees. One of the major untapped fields that students need to be involved with is sustainable or “green” energy.

“Texas is one of the leading producers for wind energy across the country. We sit right there in the heart of it, and we need to be able to be the place to go for local industry,” Krishnamoorti said.

“The field has moved; the field has changed what people need to be trained on. You need a lot more interdisciplinary training. For instance, getting people to be able to look at sustainability, looking at life-cycle analysis, not just be able to go make energy, but can you get it done in a sustainable way? What is your environmental footprint?”

Additionally, students need to learn how to interact in a practical “real world.”

“Traditional ways of doing STEM education — science, technology, engineering and math — the education there has not really connected to the real world in the sense that we don’t teach them things about business, we don’t teach them more finance, we don’t teach them more entrepreneurship,” he said.

“All of those are increasingly almost as important as technical skills.”

While Krishnamoorti moves up, Michael Harold will move back to the position he previously held for eight years. Despite this, Krishnamoorti said that nothing in chemical engineering will change.

“Things will be virtually the same,” Krishnamoorti said. “We have a highly collaborative and collegial department where decisions are made in consultation and consensus rather than having a leader dictate everything.”

Krishnamoorti said that the department has seen much success in the past decade, which will allow it to retake its place in the list of the top 10 chemical engineering programs in the nation.

“In the 80s, we were a top 10 department,” Krishnamoorti said. “Right now we are a top 15 department.”

“I think in the coming two to three years, because of the all the things that have been done over the last 10 years to last five years, we are on our way to being back in the top-10 programs for chemical engineering programs nationwide. I’m truly excited for everyone here.”

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