Writing a popular textbook about chemical engineering was just the beginning for Dr. Richard Turton. A professor at West Virginia University’s College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, Turton is embracing the latest technology to better educate future chemical engineers.
He recently helped develop a training center for integrated gasification combined cycle power plants – plants that use clean coal technology – that will include a companion 3-D immersive training component. Already equipped to simulate the operations of an IGCC or conventional power plant, the latest innovation will allow professionals and students to navigate a virtual plant using 3-D glasses and a joy-stick-controlled avatar.
The center, known as AVESTAR – Advanced Virtual Energy Simulation Training and Research Center – is the only one of its kind in the world, according to Turton. He helped develop it along with the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory; Invensys, a Texas-based software company; and other partners.
“The simulator is the equivalent of a flight simulator but for power plants,” he said.
For continuing to enhance the educational experience and his commitment to train future engineers, Turton has received the Russell and Ruth Bolton WVU Professorship for Outstanding Teaching. He will receive a salary supplement and a modest amount of annual support to further his professional development. The initial appointment is for five years.
Click to hear WVU Chemical Engineering Professor Richard Turton describe the impetus for being the lead author of the text book, "Analysis, Synthesis and Design of the Chemical Processes," and the book's evolution, including its companion CD which contains student-friendly tools.
“Richard has demonstrated his passion and dedication to teaching and research over his very successful career at WVU,” said Gene Cilento, Glen H. Hiner Dean of the College. “His work has culminated in lasting improvements in student learning that are widely acknowledged and incorporated into a recognized design textbook. He takes great pride in providing the highest quality teaching effort and a valuable learning experience to our students. He stands among our very best teaching and research faculty.”
“I’m thrilled to get this award and very appreciative to the Boltons for providing the opportunity to have these types of professorships,” Turton said.
Turton, who has been at WVU for 25 years, first made his mark as the lead writer of Analysis, Synthesis and Design of Chemical Processes, which is a required text at more than 40 chemical engineering departments in the U.S. and abroad. The book was originally published in 1998 and is now in its third edition. Turton and co-authors R.C. Bailie, W.B. Whiting and fellow CEMR professor Joe Shaeiwitz have developed an interactive CD with additional resources as a companion to the 1,000-page book.
When he began teaching in the 1980s, Turton discovered a lack of adequate textbooks on chemical process systems. Over the years, his book has evolved to mirror the latest industry trends.
“From the original book, we’ve probably added eight or 10 new chapters in different areas as we’ve gained new expertise,” he said. “Having a demand for the book and new information is motivation to keep adding to it. We’ll keep adding to it as we find out new material and we’ll write it so that it’s easily understandable by students.”
Turton is not only a textbook author, he is also a frequent contributor to national conferences, peer-reviewed education journals and has written several book chapters for handbooks and encyclopedias.
At WVU, he’s been responsible for developing several new courses, revamping and making significant modifications to existing courses and spearheading the development of new programs within the Department of Chemical Engineering. Also, he’s been a strong advocate for undergraduate research and has mentored many student research projects, including nearly 100 for Chemical Process Design, a class for seniors he has taught for 25 years.
“Finding appropriate research projects, meeting and mentoring students and guiding and troubleshooting their research is an often overlooked part of our mission, but I strongly believe that it is a crucial function in the undergraduate process,” he said.
Click to hear WVU Chemical Engineering Professor Richard Turton describe the way IGCC power plants work and the benefits the AVESTAR system will have for students.
Turton has earned previous recognition for his teaching. He has won seven WVU teaching awards, including the WVU Foundation Teaching Award in 1992-93 and the West Virginia Professor of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.
His latest award won’t have him resting on his laurels
Along with updating his text book for a forthcoming fourth edition, Turton is working with Invensys to produce a more basic chemical plant simulator teaching tool for undergraduates.
He’d also like to explore partnerships abroad, including a possible collaboration with Guanajuato University in Mexico which already has an exchange program with WVU in place.
“Dr. Turton’s wide-ranging interests, his achievements in his field, and his commitment to undergraduate education truly exemplify the spirit of the Bolton Professorship,” said Dr. Michele Wheatly, WVU Provost. “Supporting educators and researchers like Dr. Turton is the reason that John and Ruth funded this award.”
The Boltons are both WVU alums and have given generously to the University. Russell earned a JD in 1949; Ruth earned a bachelor’s degree in speech in 1943. Russell is a native of Morgantown while Ruth is a native of Clarksburg.
They are both charter members of the Woodburn Circle Society, the WVU Foundation’s most prestigious philanthropic society, and the Irvin Stewart Society. They are also members of WVU’s Alumni Association and Emeritus Club.
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