IChemE 100

Article by John McGagh

John McGagh talks about his new role as Chair of the IChemE100 Steering Committee

MANY members will know me from my previous roles as an IChemE Trustee, as IChemE’s President from 2017–2018, and Past President from 2018–2019.

Having now served my time as a Trustee, in both Australia and on the IChemE Board of Trustees, not one to rest on my laurels, I’ve got stuck straight into a new role as Chair of the IChemE100 Steering Committee.

IChemE100 is the name of our centenary project. The name was chosen from a poll of members in 2019.

IChemE celebrates its 100th birthday in 2022. This is a once-in-a-century opportunity to reflect upon and honour the work of chemical engineers, past and present, working within the profession in their mission to advance the contribution of chemical engineering worldwide for the benefit of society. It’s also an opportunity to identify the vital role that chemical engineers will play in helping to meet a range of significant global challenges for society in the future.

Chemical engineers have much to contribute to the welfare of society as the planet approaches 11.5bn people!

When I was asked by the Board of Trustees to commit to chairing the IChemE100 Steering Committee, and steering this centenary project towards a successful conclusion in 2022, I knew that this would be a significant volunteer commitment, but it’s one that I have given to the Institution and profession that I personally owe so much. 

This project will be led by members. We are now in the process of setting up five member-led working parties, so that members can get involved in the planning and preparation for our centenary. The first three working parties will focus on  developing content (what we are going to say), looking at the past, present and future of chemical engineering.

There will also be a working party for identifying services (how we are going to say it), and a working party for developing  platforms (where we are going to say it), plus exploring fundraising opportunities.

Hopefully, by now, most members will have seen the communications asking for members to volunteer for these working parties, provided they have the necessary time and the necessary skills. If not, more information about this can be found on IChemE’s website at www.icheme.org/icheme100

When I’m not working on IChemE100, I’m either at home with my family or working on one of my numerous business ventures. One of my main passions is artificial intelligence (AI) and its impact on the role of the chemical engineer in the future.

AI is not a specific technology, it’s a collection of computational methods and techniques. There is no single AI and there is a lack of consensus among both AI researchers and wider society on a universal definition. AI means different things to different people. I define AI as a collection of interrelated technologies used to solve problems and perform tasks that, when humans do them, requires thinking. As part of the IChemE100 project, we will be looking at how the future role of the chemical engineer might be impacted by AI among other things.

The seminal work of Chemical Engineering Matters framed a range of challenges and associated vistas that chemical  engineers contribute to, in order to secure wellbeing for all. This work provides a foundation to our thinking around the 100-year celebration. Chemical engineers have much to contribute to the welfare of society as the planet approaches 11.5bn people before this century end – we will all be very busy!

If you would like to get more involved in helping me with the IChemE100 centenary project or if you would like to suggest  centenary ideas please email icheme100@icheme.org

Article by John McGagh

IChemE President 2017–2018, Chair of the IChemE100 Steering Committee

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