What's in a Name? Two Engineering Schools Make a Change

Two schools within the College of Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology have made the case that a name change would better align their curriculum and research initiatives with advances in the fields and in the departments.

After receiving a green light from the Board of Regents, the School of Chemical Engineering is now the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (ChBE), and the School of Textile and Fiber Engineering is now the School of Polymer, Textile and Fiber Engineering (PTFE).

"Our new name, the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, more accurately reflects the school's current activities in important growth areas in the discipline of chemical engineering," said Professor and School Chair Ronald Rousseau. "Over time, and with increasing speed, the discipline has evolved so that biological sciences and chemistry now fill the position once uniquely held by chemistry."

Anselm Griffin, professor and chair of the newly-named School of Polymer, Textile and Fiber Engineering, said the name reflects the increased focus on polymers within the school. He also expects that new faculty appointments within the school will be in the polymer area.

"Our faculty view the addition of 'Polymer' to the school name as simply the next logical step into the future and in the unit's evolution after 106 years of existence in the College of Engineering," Griffin said. "We intend to maintain our traditional textile and fiber interests while becoming more deeply involved with engineered polymers."

School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (ChBE)
The renaming marks the first name change since the School of Chemical Engineering was established in 1901. Rousseau and Georgia Tech alumnus Robert Armstrong (ChE 1970), who now heads MIT's Chemical Engineering Department, received a grant from the National Science Foundation in 2002 to study how university chemical engineering programs should modernize their curricula, especially with respect to the increasing biological applications of their discipline. Rousseau said that the conclusions from their work, which was undertaken in conjunction with academics from all over the United States, , were among the key factors that prompted him to request the name change.

"Even though chemical engineering has always been about manipulating molecules, chemical engineers now work with biological mechanisms in addition to strictly chemical mechanisms," Rousseau said. "For example, biological catalysts are used in the creation of new chemicals for medicinal drugs."

He said, in recent years, the scientific concerns with the molecular transformation of matter have evolved to include strong participation from biological and life sciences. Students in the school will now complete a course of study in biology in addition to the already rigorous requirements of the chemical engineering curriculum.

School of Polymer, Textile and Fiber Engineering (PTFE)
The renaming marks the second change since the original School of Textile Engineering was established at Georgia Tech in the fall of 1897 - the third academic unit established at Tech. It kept that name for almost a century, until it became the School of Textile and Fiber Engineering in 1989, a move to more accurately describe the research and educational activities in the school.

Today the polymer, textile and fiber engineering program at Georgia Tech is one of only two such programs accredited by ABET in the United States. After a recent assessment and restructuring of its undergraduate programs, the school now offers a bachelor's degree in Polymer and Fiber Engineering with a polymer track and a fiber track. The school also offers masters and doctoral degrees.

"With the new name, the school will be more accurately described and better positioned to take advantage of the extraordinary technological and entrepreneurial opportunities in the polymer field," Griffin said.

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