Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering
Dr. Laura Ford likes for her students to get their hands on equipment – in lecture classes, in labs, and in extra-curricular projects.
In Fluid Mechanics, a water pump from a car and disassembled pressure gauges are passed around the class. The semester starts with Water Day, where the students experience the class’s material with the everyday garden hose.
Labs are hands-on by nature, but Dr. Ford makes sure every student on every team can run the equipment. Each student must show he knows the correct position of all 16 valves on the double pipe and plate heat exchanger and can successfully start up the tricky packed column, for example.
In extra-curricular projects, Dr. Ford has supported teams working on the Chem-E-Car Competition sponsored by the American Institute for Chemical Engineers. She is now a co-advisor for the TU chapter of Engineers Without Borders – USA. These students have worked on eco-latrines for Bolivia and water filtration in general.
Dr. Ford takes these extra-curricular activities outside the university, too. With Dr. Christi Patton, she hosts a high school version of the Chem-E-Car Competition. They also host the Chemical Switch Competition for middle school and high school students at the Tulsa Engineering Challenge (TECh).
Hands-on experience in chemical engineering classes is not easy to do, and even the labs could degenerate to simply running the process controls system. But Dr. Ford pushes to get her students the practical experience of manipulating equipment.