Be Our Guest: College set to host three major conference in the spring

120151, campus photos, shot 01-23-11

The University of Alabama will make good use of its new engineering buildings this spring semester with a series of conferences hosted on campus that should bring about 1,600 students, professors and engineering professionals.

Elizabeth Cook and other students and faculty members have been preparing to host the regional American Institute of Chemical Engineers, AIChE, conference since the UA chapter won the hosting bid in 2014. As conference chair, Cook is in charge of garnering faculty support, enlisting local corporate sponsors and, of course, touring facilities on campus to find the perfect spaces to host conference events. Luckily, she has a lot of places to choose from.

“I think UA is the perfect place to host this conference,” she said. “Our chemical engineering department is booming. We’ve just gotten brand-new buildings and they’re all finished, so we’ve got a beautiful engineering campus.”

The conference will take place March 31–April 2, 2016, and is expected to have about 500 attendees. There will be a research paper and poster competitions, professional development, a tour of Mercedes and Nucor Steel and the ChemE Car contest, in which students build a small-scale car fueled by various chemical reactions.

“The University of Alabama College of Engineering is one to be on the lookout for because we’re growing exponentially, and so is the quality of our students,” Cook said. “The department has more than doubled in size over the past few years.”

Cook isn’t the only one preparing for a conference. Over in civil engineering, Dr. Derek Williamson and students are preparing to host the American Society of Civil Engineers Southeast I Student Conference. This will be the University’s first time hosting the conference since 2005, said Williamson, who serves as director of undergraduate programs for civil, construction and environmental engineering.

With at least 800 students and close to 200 other attendees from 26 schools expected to be in attendance, the Southeastern conference is the largest of the 18 ASCE regional conferences held each spring. The conference will be held March 10-12 and will include a business meeting, professional and technical presentations, social activities, an awards banquet and competitions in surveying and technical paper presentations. Additionally, the conference will include competitions for concrete canoe and steel bridge teams.

“The University of Alabama College of Engineering is one to be on the lookout for because we’re growing exponentially, and so is the quality of our students.”

– Elizabeth Cook, chemical engineering

“In the Southeast we typically have about 12 small competitions plus the technical paper and the two big national steel bridge and concrete canoe competitions,” Williamson said. “We have reserved Lake Lurleen for the canoe races.”

As with the ASCE regional conference, the UA College of Engineering also tends to host an American Society of Engineering Education Southeast section meeting every 10 years. The University chapter will be hosting again on March 13-15, 2016, for the first time since 2006.

Dr. Beth Todd, associate professor and undergraduate program coordinator of mechanical engineering, serves as sponsor for the local chapter. She hopes to have around 150 students in attendance. With the theme for this year’s meeting being “engineering for sustainability,” the meeting’s workshops will focus on curricula, courses and other engineering preparation that are necessary to practice engineering in a changing world.

“We would like attendees to see our growth, expansion and new facilities and to think of this as an exciting place for graduate students to do research on a variety of topics,” Todd said.

In 1837, The University of Alabama became one of the first five universities in the nation to offer engineering classes. Today, UA’s College of Engineering has more than 5,800 students and more than 130 faculty. In recent years, students in the College have been named USA Today All-USA College Academic Team members, Goldwater, Hollings, Portz, Boren, Mitchell and Truman scholars.