Help CU Boulder Chemical and Biological Engineering students tackle a real-life industrial problem.

The capstone design course in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering is a one-semester course for seniors held each spring. Under the guidance of an industry liaison, small teams of students work on true technical problems of interest to the liaison. Students analyze the problem, develop ideas and data, provide oral presentations and prepare a final technical report.

There is no fee to the liaison: industry partners are central to the course, and our student teams value the opportunity to work for an industry professional.

Working with energetic engineering students can be its own reward, but there are others:

  • Progress on a problem of interest to you that might otherwise go untouched
  • Identifying future talent for your organization to recruit
  • Connecting with other liaisons participating in the course

Over the past 20 years, the capstone design course has supported over 250 projects from more than 75 different organizations.

Before the semester starts in early January, liaisons provide a brief statement that describes the problem, gives context for the problem and outlines goals for the project. The student team that selects your project will arrange a kickoff meeting in mid-January to discuss the project in greater depth and to set up a regular meeting schedule to assess progress. Meetings may be held in person or by phone/computer using GoToMeeting. Through the 16-week semester, liaisons give informal feedback and guidance to the team.

Students provide a series of deliverables: a project plan, oral reports, possibly biweekly letter reports and a final oral presentation to the assembled class and liaisons. The presentation can also be at the liaison's site, if local, or via GoToMeeting. Students also provide a final technical report. We encourage liaisons to offer feedback to the instructor concerning the final reports, but the course instructor is responsible for all grading of student work.

On average, liaisons can expect to devote 15 to 20 hours over the 16-week semester to the project and student team.

Capstone design projects can cover a wide range of topics, and any technical problems that can be tackled by people trained in chemical engineering or chemical and biological engineering can fit. The common denominator of good problems is that they can be addressed through a "paper" analysis: searching the published literature available at CU to assemble ideas and data, then analyzing those ideas through computer models and other abstract methods.

For chemical process design problems, student teams will typically:

  1. Develop a process flow diagram
  2. Carry out a process simulation, which may include heat integration
  3. Use simulation results to design key pieces of process equipment, and
  4. Carry out an economic analysis

In addition, teams will address safety, environmental and health issues and discuss the larger benefits of the project to society.

The course does not have a laboratory per se, although special arrangements for laboratory studies are sometimes possible.

Many clients submit topics that would not otherwise get their attention given other workplace priorities. Some clients offer projects unconnected to their current work that they find personally interesting. Accordingly, we sometimes receive "blue-sky," exploratory-type projects, while other projects have a strong tie-in to the client's current business.

Example problem statements include:

  • Develop a design concept for industrial hemp processing, including identifying new potential products.

  • Develop a photocurable adhesive to bond components of a prosthetic leg together, including a method of application and a cost analysis. (This project included lab work at the liaison's site.)

  • Complete a preliminary design of a phenol production unit and analyze the profitability, operability and safety/environmental aspects of the process.

  • Using process models, compare batch vs. continuous processing for the production of monoclonal antibodies as human therapeutics.

  • Design a natural gas processing facility or a gas-to-liquids process for recovering flare gas.

  • Design a gas phase polymerization process for manufacturing a polymer.

  • Develop alternatives to freezing bulk solutions of protein therapeutics in bags or plastic bottles for stability during shipping and storage.

Problem statements set forth the goals and deliverables you want done by a student team. We can assist you in preparing your problem statement and can provide examples.

After you have heard from instructors Tom Belval or Alan Weimer about your project idea, we will ask you to download and complete the Problem Statement Form below.

When you finish your problem statement, email it to either Tom Belval (thomas.belval@colorado.edu) or Alan Weimer (alan.weimer@colorado.edu). We will email you back to confirm we received it.

If the form does not download successfully, email Tom Belval.

Download the Form

For more information about the projects or to get involved, contact senior instructor Tom Belval.