The Greener Solutions course emphasizes sector-wide challenges in manufacturing and that includes a wide range of possible products and applications. Topics are chosen by a combination of factors: companies that are aware of us and have an interest in improving their products often approach us, or we might become aware of a particular pressing issue at a company and reach out to them. After that we have a discussion about expectations of each party, explaining the academic requirements we have and learning of their needs and limitations. From there, we may draft an agreement with the company and then program the course of study and consultation by the students.
If a company has an interest in participating in our course they can send me an email to start the discussion:
Program Director, BCGC
The Greener Solutions course is scalable to a shorter timeframe, but there are some challenges to replicating a 15 week course as a half day event. Chief among them are: the time it takes to frame the problem as a team, the research needed to understand some possible solutions and their relative merits (cost/benefit), and the time needed to make a judgement or brainstorm an innovation. Also, and very importantly, this is an interdisciplinary course and students come from a variety of backgrounds. That means that they have different levels of knowledge in different fields, and it takes time to "ramp" everyone up to a certain level of awareness of say, toxicology or hazard assessment. One of the great things about the course is that students teach each other what they know best in the course of working as a team, and that takes time and trust.
One method of condensing the course would be to have pre-prepared research "cheat sheets" on chemical options that the students could review and use as the basis for their problem-solving.
That is a great suggestion and we will look into how we can "export" this course as a template or as a viewable resource.
Yes, that is definitely one of the positive impacts of this course. We have placed several students into working positions at companies as a direct extension of this course, and we have surveyed students about this and gotten responses that they do feel more aware of industry practices, although it is hard to quantify if their ability to get hired has been improved.
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For Method projects that are of interest are both sustainable solutions and ones that are needed by the business. so for example, ideas around safer preservation solutions, higher performance cleaners that are safer are a good fit for us.
One of the major barriers in getting new, safer chemicals onto the market has been the historic lack of transparency about chemical hazard traits, and the absence of regulatory requirements for this information. In essence, it means that --for people who want to use safety as a criterion for chemical selection-- there's very little information on which to base their selection. Likewise, for those who want to market safer chemicals, there's no level playing field.
It's as if cars were not generally tested for safety or marketed on that basis-- you'd have a hard time shopping for the safest car, and if you were a manufacturer who prided yourself on safety, you'd have a hard time differentiating yourself in a market where no one else was providing safety information about their cars.
This is something that should change with chemicals policy reform and is why forward-looking businesses often support such reform (see, for example: BizNGO — a unique collaboration of businesses and environmental groups working together for safer ch...).
I agree it would be great to have more sharing of the green chemistry programs that are really working well. Clearly the UCB program is awesome and so other ways in which what's working can be shared out would be helpful too. i think sharing of case examples in the future might be a good way to share best practices that might help too.
i loved the interdisciplinary team approach. it was not only fun to watch the interaction but everyone was able to bring a totally different perspective to new ideas so that you get to much better solutions in an efficient way. i also think this is a lot like the business world where you have a lot of different expertise brought into the puzzle.
in terms of sustainability vs technical solutions, i believe they go together. some times a good answer is better sustainability. other times it's more technical. the best is when both viewpoints are taken together to simultaneous address both. That is what i think is great about the UCB approach.