New student-designed class—open to all majors—serves up key concepts through study of two everyday essentials

It was May 2020 when Veronica Meyer ’22 saw the message from chemical and biomolecular engineering (ChBE) professor James Gilchrist.

"He wanted to know if there were any students interested in doing something over the summer if their internship had fallen through due to COVID-19," says Meyer. "He was basically asking us, how can we improve the ChBE program? As a student, you don’t usually get asked that.”

Soliciting that level of feedback was new for Gilchrist, too. But after the pandemic derailed so many internships, Lehigh instituted a virtual research opportunity for undergrads—and it got him thinking. His work on the fundamentals of particulate systems was too experimental for Zoom, but he didn’t want to miss out on tapping students for their expertise. “They have so much to offer,” he says.

The result was a focus group of students like Meyer who got a chance to do something they never imagined having the opportunity to do: conceive and design a new class for their peers. "Coffee and Cosmetics: Engineering of Consumer Products" is open to all Lehigh students and introduces the concepts of chemical engineering in relevant, relatable ways. 

Learn more about this innovation in engineering curriculum in "Brewing Interest" from Lehigh's Resolve magazine, Volume 2, 2021.

And don't miss the Episode 17 of the Rossin Connection podcast, where Gilchrist shares the course's origin story—and how for the first time in his teaching career, he wasn't the expert in the room.