Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
University of Wisconsin - Madison

Summer Laboratory Operations and Sustainability

The problem: CBE 424 – Operations and Process Laboratory is under conflicting stresses. The UW and CoE Summer Course budgets are facing declines in the current budget cutbacks. The department undergraduate enrollment is having a strong recovery from the mid-2000s dip and is now at the program upper limit. The Summer Lab is the required capstone laboratory that is a key component of our curriculum. Ensuring that future years’ CBE students continue to receive this signature experience will require extraordinary efforts to operate the course efficiently and effectively.

The course: The Operations and Process Laboratory is the capstone laboratory course that students take in their final summer in the program. As a result, few CBE students graduate in May; large cohorts graduate in August and in December. It is an intense 5-week course that meets 40 hours/week. Students conduct 5 Formal experiments, 4 Informal experiments, and compose individual reports on each. With 9 written reports, 1 rewrite, and 1 oral report, this course also satisfies the Communication B component of the UW General Education requirement. Each summer, we offer this course in two 5-week sessions in Madison. The Madison course is staffed with a combination of UW faculty and experienced visiting instructors. For typical enrollment levels of 32-40 students the instructional staff is set at 5 faculty.

Overseas option: We also have overseas sections as options for highly qualified students – Oviedo, Spain (14 students, along with Iowa State U), and Vienna, Austria (12 students, along with Clemson U). The overseas sections are staffed by local instructors in addition to one faculty member from each of the participating universities. This course is funded from a 136 account and operates entirely on student program fees ($6100 and $6500 for the two sites).


Recent study documents:

Department Capacity Study (Word file, fall 2010)

Summer Lab Sustainability Plan (Word file, Jan. 2011)

Curricula for peer programs: Minnesota, Delaware, UT-Austin, Purdue, UIUC, UC-Santa Barbara, Ohio State)
and summary grid of features of interest (and generating spreadsheet)

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Date Created: October 12, 2004
Last Modified: November 15, 2004
Content By: Thatcher Root
Markup By: Thatcher Root