Teaching PDE-Based Modeling to ChE Undergraduates: Overcoming Conceptual and Computational Barriers


  • Karsten E. Thompson Louisiana State University


While PDEs are of great importance for chemical engineering modeling, the topic is difficult to address at the undergraduate level. Reasons for the problem include the difficulty of solution methods and that the chemical engineering curriculum contains no spot for extensive mathematical groundwork. When the opportunity does arise for a more in-depth treatment (e.g., a modeling course), details of the complicated solution techniques can overwhelm important general concepts that are important for a good understanding. In this paper we discuss the effective use of modern numerical software to remove computational barriers, thus enabling more classroom time to be devoted to general behavior and overcoming conceptual barriers. The approach has twofold intent: first to provide a better foundation for the students, and second, to encourage the use of more realistic engineering problems in homework and/or class examples. Three example problems are given at the end of the paper that illustrate ways to simultaneously address computational and conceptual issues.

Author Biography

Karsten E. Thompson, Louisiana State University

Karsten E. Thompson is an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Louisiana State University, where he has been since 1996. He received his BS degree from the University of Colorado and his PhD from the University of Michigan. He teaches courses in numerical methods, math modeling, and transport phenomena. His research interests include flow in porous media, numerical methods, and fluid mechanics.