Kitchin to receive Award for Innovation in Chemical Engineering Education

Lauren Smith

Jul 10, 2023

John Kitchin typing on his laptop at his desk.

John Kitchin, professor of chemical engineering, will receive the Award for Innovation in Chemical Engineering Education from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).

The award recognizes pedagogical innovation that has made a significant and documented positive impact on teaching effectiveness and student learning. It will be presented at the AIChE annual meeting, November 5-10, 2023.

The citation for Kitchin's award reads: "For contributions in computing education in chemical engineering through the creation of open-source Python libraries and course materials, social media, and scientific publishing tools."

Kitchin's nominators noted the novelty and innovation that characterize his work and its impact on both modern chemical engineering pedagogy and computational research.

When the Department of Chemical Engineering envisioned a new Master of Science program with its own value-added curriculum, Kitchin was the primary developer of four core courses. Previously, MS students simply took Ph.D. level courses. Now, they learn to be expert users of software and programming platforms, including Python, for the simulation of chemical engineering phenomena like fluid flow and transport kinetics. The courses developed by Kitchin provide MS students with the tools to solve much more complex problems than they could with the standard set of math tools and methods learned in a chemical engineering bachelor's degree program.

For the past 15 years, Kitchin has been a leader in the move toward open access to software and data. Among the open-source software projects he has developed is scimax, a program package that enables the conduct and publication of reproducible computational research. With scimax, a user can integrate code, data, figures, equations, tables, and citations with narrative text into executable documents that can be used to completely reproduce the original work. Hundreds of research groups use scimax to write publications.

Kitchin has also published an open-source book that provides a comprehensive overview of how to use Python in scientific and engineering problem solving.

On his research blog, Kitchin experiments with implementing features in org-mode and Emacs, using Python to solve engineering problems, and publishing reproducible technical documents. "This blog is notable to me," says Kitchin, "because it illustrates how I learn by doing, and how I document my learning for use by others and myself in the future."

The blog has an international following, as does his library of technical and educational videos on YouTube. Kitchin is also recognized as a leader in the use of social media for the advancement and dissemination of science.

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