Revealing the Decision-Making Processes of Chemical Engineering Students in Process Safety Contexts


  • Cheryl Bodnar Rowan University
  • Emily Dringenberg Ohio State University
  • Brittany Butler Rowan University
  • Daniel Burkey University of Connecticut
  • Daniel Anastasio Rose Hulman Institute of Technology
  • Matthew Cooper North Carolina State University


decision-making, process safety, reasoning, Undergraduate Students


Chemical engineering students need to be prepared to make process safety decisions in industry. Through analysis of the decision-making process of senior chemical engineering students, we found students would rather be “better safe than sorry” and did not often acknowledge complexities associated with their decisions.  Their decisions were mostly justified by rationalization.  This work reaffirms the need to contextualize process safety decision making as part of the design process to better prepare students for industry.

Author Biographies

Cheryl Bodnar, Rowan University

Cheryl A. Bodnar, Ph.D., CTDP is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Experiential Engineering Education at Rowan University. Dr. Bodnar’s research interests relate to the incorporation of active learning techniques in undergraduate classes as well as integration of innovation and entrepreneurship into the engineering curriculum. In particular, she is interested in the impact that these tools can have on student perception of the classroom environment, motivation and learning outcomes.

Emily Dringenberg, Ohio State University

Dr. Dringenberg is an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Ohio State University. She holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering (Kansas State ’08), a MS in Industrial Engineering (Purdue ’14) and a Ph.D. in Engineering Education (Purdue ’15). Her research is focused on decision-making within the context of engineering design. She is working to leverage engineering education research to shift the culture of engineering to be more inclusive of diverse individuals and more in alignment with current research on decision-making. With a focus on qualitative research methods, she is working to better understand the ways in which undergraduate engineering students experience design and ill-structured problem solving.

Brittany Butler, Rowan University

Brittany Butler just recently completed her MSc. in Engineering at Rowan University.  Her thesis was entitled “The Creation, Validation, and Implementation of the Engineering Process Safety Research Instrument.”  Brittany also received a BSc. in Chemical Engineering from Rowan University in 2017.   

Daniel Burkey, University of Connecticut

Daniel Burkey is the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs and Professor-in-Residence in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Connecticut. He received his B.S. in chemical engineering from Lehigh University in 1998, and his M.S.C.E.P and Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2000 and 2003, respectively. His primary areas of interest are chemical vapor deposition and engineering pedagogy.

Daniel Anastasio, Rose Hulman Institute of Technology

Daniel Anastasio is an assistant professor at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. He received a B.S. and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Connecticut in 2009 and 2015, respectively. His primary areas of research are game-based learning in engineering courses and membrane separations for desalination and water purification.

Matthew Cooper, North Carolina State University

Dr. Matthew Cooper is an Associate Professor (Teaching Track) in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at North Carolina State University. He teaches Material and Energy Balances, Unit Operations, Transport Phenomena, Professional Development / Ethics and Mathematical / Computational Methods. He is the recipient of various teaching and educational research awards, including the 2015 Raymond W. Fahien Award from the ASEE Chemical Engineering Division. Dr. Cooper’s research interests include effective teaching and assessment, conceptual and inductive learning, integrating writing and speaking into the curriculum and professional ethics.