6659dfd2d5e4f5242dc179dd Dear Graduates

Dear graduates

May 31, 2024
An open letter to our (hopefully) new process control engineers

While college campuses are in the spotlight for political reasons these days, I’m writing to ask you to open your minds to something different, yet also important, happening on many campuses this spring. As commencement ceremonies dodge protests and counterprotests, controversies over speakers and tuition angst, U.S. engineering departments are placing new engineers into the workforce. Unfortunately, most of you—our next generation of engineers—will look the other way when it comes to process control.

Hey, I understand your apprehension. The thought of designing a control system for industries carrying fossil fuels, chemicals or food ingredients isn’t really something to pique the interest of a young mind with big dreams of solving the world’s ills. But now that you have your diploma, I remind you that we need you. The world runs on process control, and automation is quickly gaining a position of leadership when it comes to solving massive problems, such as global warming, food scarcity, and personal and national security.

While process control might not be at the top of your minds right now, I’ve met several engineers, who found process control well after graduation and often by accident. Such was the case for this year’s Process Automation Hall of fame inductees—three longtime process control gurus, who each set out on different career paths in engineering, only to make significant contributions to the process industries.

Why is it vital that you consider process control and automation as a specialty? Just look at how control engineers are developing systems in plants that help regulate how much carbon dioxide and methane ends up in our atmosphere. In addition, it was efficient process control that enabled the rapid development and efficient distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. When the world has big problems, processes are at the center of those solutions.

I never really understood the impact process control had on our world until I began to cover it. We have a lot of problems to solve in our society, and technological advances will drive many of their solutions. Behind it all will be productive processes that efficiently manufacture and deliver essentials, such as food, medicines and energy, to name a few, to billions of people worldwide.

We need a next generation of process control engineers, so please keep an open mind, and you may one day find yourself in a spotlight you never dreamed you’d be.

About the Author

Len Vermillion | Editor in Chief

Len Vermillion is editor-in-chief of Control. 

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