Mines News

Release Date Tuesday, July 13, 2021

South Dakota Mines International Collaboration with German Institutions Thrives Despite Spring Travel Restrictions

Mines students at work at 2 a.m. on campus on a Zoom call during the spring 2021 semester with a multidisciplinary team of German students of industrial chemistry and engineering from the Technical University of Darmstadt and Provadis School of International Management in Frankfurt.

Megan Snyder developed a unique routine during the Spring 2021 semester. She woke up at midnight every evening for two weeks and traveled to the South Dakota Mines campus to join an eight hour Zoom call with a team industrial chemistry and chemical engineering students in Germany. 

Snyder was on one of seven collaborative teams engaged in a hands-on chemical process design project as part of a longstanding relationship between the Technical University of Darmstadt, Provadis School of International Management and Technology, and South Dakota Mines. 

In a normal year, Mines students like Snyder would have an opportunity to travel to Germany to take part in hands-on learning inside a German university and manufacturing plant. In future years in-person learning will continue.  But for Snyder the opportunity to work virtually is still very rewarding. 

“Even though we could not travel, I still wanted to interact with an international team of engineers,” says Snyder. “I was very impressed with the German students and engineers who could switch to English mid-sentence when I entered the room and continue to communicate complex engineering concepts in a second language.”

Snyder has now graduated and is working for Kimberly-Clark. The company has multiple ongoing international projects, and this experience gave her insight into working as an engineer in the global marketplace. “When working on an international team in real life you won’t be able to jump on a plane for every issue, very often you will be collaborating on Zoom, and this class gave me tools to overcome challenges.”

This international experience is a capstone senior design course for chemical engineering students at Mines. “These students have gone above and beyond, getting up in the middle of the night, to take part in this very intensive program,” says Travis Walker, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Mines. “They believe so much in this international experience they chose to do this even though they did not get a chance to travel this year.”

This year students helped design part of a nitric acid plant in collaboration with the German industrial firm, Thyssenkrupp, which works closely with the German course organizers, Professor Dr.-Ing Alfons Drochner and Professor Bastian Etzold. Nitric acid is an important component in things like fertilizer. “The corporate sponsor is hoping the student teams will come up with new innovative solutions that can increase efficiency to a few areas in the plant. Students sometimes bring a unique or creative perspective to the table that can benefit industry,” says David Dixon, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Mines.

Mines students benefit greatly from this collaboration on multidisciplinary design projects that involve German faculty, engineers, chemists, and students.

“Engineers and scientists live and work in a global economy. This experience is preparing our students for the real world because many of these students will be doing this same sort of international work on industrial teams throughout their careers,” says Suzi Aadland, Director of the Ivanhoe International Center at Mines.

Mines is forging similar collaborations between universities and corporate partners in other countries including the Universidad Mondragón in Queretaro, Mexico and a number of countries in South America.

“The structure of this relationship with our partners in Germany is something we are trying to repeat elsewhere because it’s very valuable for students. This really intensive design work, with an international team is the very same experience many of our students will take part in when they graduate and go to work for a multinational company,” says Aadland.



About South Dakota Mines  

Founded in 1885, South Dakota Mines is one of the nation’s leading engineering, science and technology universities. South Dakota Mines offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and a best-in-class education at an affordable price. The university enrolls 2,493 students with an average class size of 24. The South Dakota Mines placement rate for graduates is 98 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $70,036. For these reasons  South Dakota Mines is ranked among the best engineering schools in the country for return on investment. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on FacebookTwitter, LinkedInInstagram, and Snapchat.

Contact: Mike Ray, 605-394-6082, mike.ray@sdsmt.edu

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