The Senior Statesman of Process Engineering
When it comes to teaching process design, Penn Engineering’s Warren D. Seider literally wrote the book. Seider, Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, has written three editions of his text, Product and Process Design Principles: Synthesis, Analysis, and Evaluation. The current text is highly regarded and widely used in engineering schools and industry around the world.
The evolution of the third edition speaks volumes about Seider, his dedication to his field, his respect for his students, and his passion for new knowledge. The modest professor might consider it all in a day’s work.
“Penn has been very good to me,” says Seider. “Much of my work has followed the opportunities that have been created through interactions with faculty here plus the ability of my students to find interesting new areas that are related to the things I do.”
Clearly, Seider knows how to make things happen. He has been called “the pathfinder for the computer-aided process design community” and is lauded for his contributions to new computing architectures for process simulation.
He played a leading role in such landmark design projects as ASPEN, Advanced Simulator for Process Engineering, and introduced a new generation of students to computer-aided process design through his teaching, research and early textbooks. He has helped found and has led such organizations as the Computing and Systems Technology (CAST) Division of the American Institute for Chemical Engineers and the CACHE Corporation, a not-for-profit which supports collaborative projects in computer-aided design for chemical engineering education.
The good fortune for Penn Engineering students is to have Warren Seider at the helm of their process design education. For nearly 40 years, he has taught the capstone senior process design course in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, hailed by one colleague as “the jewel of our undergraduate program.”
Part of the genius of the course is that seniors work in small groups led by Penn Engineering faculty and are advised by engineers currently working in industry. This collective braintrust makes the senior design course at Penn Engineering unique and sought-after. Through his myriad connections in industry, Seider each year assembles a high-level group of industrial consultants to meet weekly with the students in small groups. Together, they develop real-world design problems and devise original solutions to them. Many of the industrial consultants have been with the program for a decade or more.
The extraordinary academic opportunities Seider offers are a draw for the nation’s top students. And his quiet enthusiasm for his work is infectious: Seider has been witness to sea changes in engineering broadly and in process design specifically. He has no intention of merely standing by or bringing his students to anything less than the vanguard of the field.
For Seider, there is still much to be done, and Penn Engineering is precisely where he wants to do it. With an engineer’s twist on the axiom “getting there is half the fun,” Seider takes great pleasure in the process. And, as he calls to mind his colleagues, his students, and his work, he knows the product too is a lovely one. He says simply,
“It’s a good life.”
Credit: Penn Engineering Magazine, “The Senior Statesman of Process Engineering,” by Jennifer Baldino Bonnett.
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