Diagram of a chemical plant process

Volunteer for our senior capstone design program

Our senior capstone design projects are a bit different than the other Penn State College of Engineering capstone design projects done via the Learning Factory. Like those projects, ours involve cross-functional teams and working with industry/industrial contacts. However, Learning Factory projects do not involve designing processes nor using economics to drive their decisions, like ours do.

The CHE 470 Capstone Design Project focuses on using economics to drive the design of a process at a chemical plant. Students apply what they have learned in the chemical engineering core curriculum to create a model of their plant and calculate the economic feasibility of it. Each semester a new project is proposed, and the best design is awarded the “Lee and Mary Eagleton Award for Excellence in Design.”

How You Can Help

We are looking for industry volunteers to serve as mentors and gatekeepers for the design process. The teams meet with mentors each week to receive guidance and feedback.

Also, we are always looking for new projects. The only limitation is that the required information to create the model and determine cost is either available within the Aspen+ Suite of programs (i.e. Icarus Process Economic Analyzer, Aspen+, HYSYS) or can be provided to the students (i.e. a quote that they can adjust for time and capacity).

Want to get involved? Contact Prof. Rui Shi at rms6987@psu.edu.

Why Be a Mentor?

We asked previous mentors why they became a mentor and what their experience was like, and this is what they told us:

  • “I enjoy giving back to the university that educated me as well as being able to give the students a perspective from industry that is difficult to get in the classroom.”
  • “I get to stay in contact with ChE students at Penn State. As an alum, I feel this gives me a level of connectivity to Penn State I wouldn’t not have otherwise.”
  • “Most importantly to me, I feel good regarding my ability to give back to future generations of Penn State ChEs and my alma mater in a meaningful way, much more than just a monetary donation.”
  • “When I was a senior at Penn State, there was a one credit course where Penn State alumni came in and provided some lectures about their job in the real world. As an undergraduate I found these lectures/stories very helpful in providing perspective. So the mentors provide some perspective to the students…a little like that course.”
  • “Exercise my engineering skills while learning new techniques.”
  • “Contact with the students helps me see things from their point of view, which is very different from mine, and I gain more perspective from the difference.”
  • “Experienced engineers mentoring me was, and still is, a significant part of my development into a well-rounded individual. I'm not sure I would be where I am without it.”
  • “I think helping the students understand some of the real world applications of what they’re doing is great. I know when I was in this class, I never understood how important a lot of the concepts truly are or how some these applications apply.”


The Penn State Department of Chemical Engineering, established in 1948, is recognized as one of the largest and most influential chemical engineering departments in the nation.

The department is built upon the fundamentals of academic integrity, innovation in research, and commitment to the advancement of industry.

Department of Chemical Engineering

121 Chemical and Biomedical Engineering Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-2574