Published: June 2, 2021 By

Professor Emeritus John Falconer earned the Thomas and Donna Edgar CACHE Award for Excellence in Chemical Engineering Education for 2021, a recognition for leading the development of online interactive simulations for LearnChemE. These simulations are freely available for chemical engineering educators and students around the world.

“We started making interactive simulations after Dr. Garret Nicodemus found simulations on the Wolfram Demonstrations Project website,” Falconer said. “We realized they would be valuable for chemical engineering, so Garret and I worked with some undergraduates to start programming simulations.”

John Falconer in a black shirt
John Falconer

Currently, 210 interactive simulations are available on LearnChemE, a nationally recognized online platform dedicated to free and open chemical engineering education resources. Rachael Baumann and Neil Hendren—first as students, then as alumni working on behalf of the project—programmed the majority of those simulations.

Professor Will Medlin, chair of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and one of the platform’s founders, sees Falconer as a pioneer in open and interactive chemical engineering education.

“Professor Falconer has had a dramatic impact on chemical engineering education by developing numerous tools for education best practices,” Medlin said. “These tools—screencasts, conceptual tests, interactive modules and more—have been widely disseminated to and used by chemical engineering teachers and students via the LearnChemE website. While Professor Falconer has received numerous awards for his earlier work, this particular award recognizes his recent successes in developing interactive computer simulations which have been especially important in helping students learn during the remote teaching period over the past year.”

Although Falconer is a retired faculty member, he continues to develop new resources for LearnChemE and ensures that they are accessible. He frequently receives positive feedback and messages from students and educators who praise the interactivity and ease of use of the simulations.

“Faculty can use the simulations in class and as part of homework assignments,” Falconer said. “Students are pretty computer savvy, so they readily use simulations.”