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Chemical Engineering

Design Project: Proposing a Topic

I completed my design project half a year ago, so I thought I’d be a lovely senior and share my experience alongside some tips on it. I remember searching the internet for some blog or advice on completing a design project and came back empty-handed. So maybe I shall start one. By the way, you should keep in mind that this is based on my experience in Manchester when I did my design project – your situation might be different.

University of Manchester students, sorry to say this, but apparently no one else in the UK need to propose a topic for their undergraduate design project. I went to a design project workshop at UCL to present and found out that everyone else was given a topic to work on. I know, right?! But don’t fear, I have written this post specifically for you lot and hope it helps.

The greatest fear at the moment is: What if we screw ourselves up by proposing a bad project? Yes, it can happen. But there are things which I thought should reduce the risk of that happening.

Make sure the project is justifiable

At the very least, it should indicate profitability and be somewhat sustainable. Not being able to justify your project could make life difficult at the future time during presentation/oral examination.

Do you have enough data?

I remember last year having this question and responded like, “what do you mean by data?” “What type of data do I need?” Well, it’s kinetic data. So do you have rate constants available?

Yes, maybe you want to be adventurous and propose a novel project, but remember the time constraints of a design project. I had 5 weeks to design a reactor, and there is no way I would have finished it on time if I had a hard time finding my rate constants. I knew someone who was still searching for rate constant information in the week of submission. Yes. For real Please save yourself or your groupmates from the dread of searching rate constants and kinetic information when it’s not available.

Do you have enough equipment?

Maybe you are passionate about hydrogen and want to propose electrolysis as a design project. Don’t. It has only 1 unit operation – it’s too simple for your design project. It won’t get approved either. So choose wisely – does everyone in the group have a unit operation they can design? If not, can you add carbon capture or an extra separation step to make it happen?

Don’t be too worried to propose a novel project

If you have a process that is not commercialised, but you have enough data to design it, go for it. You don’t need to stick to the traditional method to pass design project. I didn’t, and my group did pretty well.

 

Project Management is the key

Time management, teamwork, planning and hard work, in my opinion, the absolute key in the whole design project process. So please read the entirety of the handbook you have. Plan early. Stick to deadlines. Don’t let your groupmates down. Don’t leave 2 hours to format, it’s not going to happen.

Talk to your supervisor

I was lucky to get a really nice supervisor and she was a great help for the entire time. She was the one encouraging us to go for the project we did even though we were a bit unsure because it wasn’t commercialised and other technical issues. Yes, it was hard, but yes it was also viable.

Good luck, lots. Give me a shout if you want me to cover something else about the design project. Shout out any questions you have, maybe I can help. See you soon.

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