Thanks to a new four-year, $1.2 million partnership between the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and The Lubrizol Corporation, promising Pitt engineering students will have a chance to learn about industry needs and have a chance to develop ideas and products in the new Lubrizol Innovation Laboratory.
“Half of these funds will be dedicated to an extremely progressive educational initiative for our students, literally and physically enabling them to turn their ideas into reality,” says McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member Steven Little, PhD, Chairman of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering in the Swanson School of Engineering and Associate Professor and CNG Faculty Fellow in the Departments of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, Bioengineering, Immunology, and Ophthalmology, and a lead player in cementing the relationship with Lubrizol.
“Overall, this is the largest, broadest reaching relationship between a company and the department in at least three decades,” Dr. Little continues, “and it is the culmination of a commitment we made several years ago to develop such a strategic alliance.”
Dr. Little says that the National Academy of Engineering has long been recommending that engineering educators find a way to encourage entrepreneurship and risk-taking among students. But, he says, that’s a difficult tactic to integrate into the curriculum. Having Lubrizol as a corporate partner will enable students to focus on innovating and creating new products, allowing them to explore real-world applications through their work,” Dr. Little explains.
“Now, instead of waiting until their senior year to work on developing a product for a customer, they’ll do it in their sophomore year and follow it all the way through,” he says.
Cliff Kowall, MS, MBA, technical fellow of process development at Lubrizol and adjunct instructor at Pitt, led the alliance from Lubrizol’s end. “For about a year I’ve invested a great deal of time at Pitt, getting to know the leadership, faculty, students, and the curriculum,” he says. “I’ve found that Pitt and Lubrizol have had direct alignment around this project from the very beginning. We share a similar vision for the alliance, which is to have a mutually beneficial relationship which is fundamentally collaborative.”
Gerald D. Holder, PhD, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering at Pitt, praised the cooperation between the University and Lubrizol and is excited about the opportunities being presented to University students. “As the engineering profession evolves and more employers are looking for more diverse skills from future engineers, it’s partnerships with corporations like Lubrizol that will help to give our students a greater advantage in the job market,” he says. “Of course, developing distinctive initiatives such as this also requires innovation on the part of academia and industry. Steve and Cliff, as well as the senior leadership at Lubrizol, are to be commended for shepherding this concept to fruition for the benefit of our students.”
Commenting further on the alliance, Bob Graf, PhD, corporate vice president of research and development at Lubrizol said, “As an organization focused on inspiring innovation, our new relationship with the University of Pittsburgh provides the capability for both of our entities to leverage each other’s experience and expertise. We are extremely excited about the opportunities this partnership will provide and we look forward to a strong alliance over the years.”
According to Dr. Little, students will be able to access the program as a sophomore-declared chemical and petroleum engineering major. “Students will take a course to learn about chemical engineered products and processes, also learning about customer needs and how corporations respond to them,” he says.
Illustration: University of Pittsburgh and The Lubrizol Corporation.