Austin Peay Launches Chemical Engineering Technology Track

Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN
Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN
Austin Peay University in Clarksville, TN launches a Chemical Engineering Technology track for students.

For the better part of a century, Austin Peay State University has enhanced the Clarksville area’s economic development efforts. And now, with the arrival of Hemlock Semiconductor Group’s new, $1.2 billion facility to make polycrystalline silicon for the solar power industry, the school is helping out once again.

With a $2 million donation from Hemlock to buy laboratory equipment, and a $6.4 million state grant, Austin Peay is set to offer a degree in chemical engineering technology. The three-pronged partnership is being hailed as a win for all parties involved: The state gets to help a new corporate citizen, the college gets to expand its offerings and Hemlock is guaranteed a pipeline of well-trained employees.

The university will open its new Chemical Engineering Technology Center for the program in fall 2010, and will train undergrads to become chemical process operators. At Hemlock and similar facilities, those employees are tasked with overseeing equipment and systems that process chemical substances, a job that includes understanding basic and complex chemical reactions as well as interpreting laboratory results.

The hands-on lab and classroom facility will not only benefit Hemlock, but related companies who are likely to relocate to the area in order to be near the major manufacturer, which is set to open in late 2012 and employ 500 people. “In our efforts to attract manufacturers along the solar value chain, we hope that the lab space, equipment and graduates will serve as added value to those customers wanting to be close to the Hemlock production facility,” says James Chavez, president and chief executive officer of the Clarksville-Montgomery County Economic Development Council.

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