Skip to content ↓

Landau Chair to Support Practical Chemical Engineering Study

Cambridge, MA--MIT announced the establishment of a new chair, the Ralph Landau Professor of Chemical Engineering Practice and Director of the Practice School, Friday, at the meeting of the MIT Corporation (its board of trustees.)

At the announcement, Paul Gray, chairman of the Corporation, commented that Landau has long been committed to ensuring that the educational mission of the Practice School would flourish at MIT.

"Dr. Landau's generous gift of this professorship will be held by the faculty member who is serving as the Director of the David H. Koch School of Chemical Engineering Practice, starting some time next year," said Robert Brown, Warren K. Lewis Professor and head of the Department of Chemical Engineering. The Landau Professorship brings much added distinction to this position, as well as supplying financial support for the academic year salary and scholarly activities of the director."

"...MIT's Chemical Engineering department is unique in the United States for having the Practice School through which a large majority (80%) of the Masters students pass," said Ralph Landau, MIT ScD '41 donor of the chair.

Landau believes this type of masters education, where students spend a term working in their field is the type of education which will most benefit today's students.

MIT's School of Chemical Engineering Practice was established in 1916 to assist students in making the transition from their life in academia to one in industry. It is the oldest professional master's program in engineering in the country, said Brown. In this one-year masters program, students spend one semester off-campus at two different industrial sites, working on actual problems and projects that the company has identified. The program currently has 32 students: 8 women, 24 men.

Different from the cooperative programs that several schools now offer, MIT's program has full-time faculty on-site at the industrial Practice School Stations. Additional faculty from Cambridge periodically visit the stations to provide technical advice and monitor the student's work.

Warren "Doc" Lewis, one of the program's founders, spoke words that still ring true today for practical engineering education: "Three things are essential for the technical person in industry. First, a recognition of the relevance of theory which he has learned in classroom and laboratory to the solution of practical problems, and he must master the methods of using theory in handling such problems. Second, he must appreciate the complexity of the economic factors that play such a predominant part in the problems of industry. Finally, he must understand the character, complexity and importance of human relationships involved in industry and know how to handle them."

MIT's program address all of those elements. Students present about 16 oral and 4 written reports during the semester they spend in the field, tuning their communication skills. According to the program, because of their broad training, graduates of the Practice School are more efficient and confident in approaching their work.

Ralph Landau, received a doctorate from MIT's Chemical Engineering Practice School in 1941. He then worked for M. Kellogg Company and was a principal in founding Scientific Design Company. When Scientific Design became part of Halcon International, Landau was named president, then in 1975 was subsequently elected chairman and CEO. He currently is associated with Listowel, Inc., a charter airplane firm in New York City and is a consulting professor of economics at Stanford.

Landau has been a generous supporter of MIT's chemical engineering program with the chemical engineering building bearing his name and a number of efforts benefiting from his support.

Related Topics

More MIT News

The book cover has bright yellow lights like fireflies, and says, “The Transcendent Brain: Spirituality in the Age of Science; Alan Lightman, best-selling author of Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine.” On the right is a portrait of Alan Lightman.

Minds wide open

Alan Lightman’s new book asks how a sense of transcendence can exist in brains made of atoms, molecules, and neurons.

Read full story