Monday, 6 October 2014

The Polymer Engineer - An interdisciplinary knowledge-worker

When I have decided to study polymer engineering, a basic question came up:
What is this study about and what is a polymer engineer doing in a company?
I am talking about the polymer engineering study at the Montanuniversity Leoben (Austria) (  It is a very specific study. All over the world, polymer engineering is part of mechanical engineering or process engineering. In Europe, the heart of polymer science and engineering is placed in countries, such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Belgium.
There, the industry claims to need people with detailed knowledge about polymers and respective machine design for polymer processing and testing.
Back to the entering question: Before I started studying, I attended an open-house day at Montanuniversity Leoben to get an insight into what would be to study there. A Professor from the polymer engineering department held an overview class. He defined the polymer engineer as follows:
A polymer engineer is an interdisciplinary knowledge-worker covering 3 areas:
Physics: You need to understand the basics rules of physics and apply them to polymers. Understanding the thermodynamics of polymers and use this knowledge for designing functional as well as integrated polymer based parts and objects.
Chemistry: As a polymer engineer you have to be fit in organic chemistry. The carbon-chemistry is necessary for developing new formulations for polymers and respective additives.
Mechanical Engineering: This discipline is the basic fundament for designing machines for polymer products processing.
I have graduated in 2012. Now, I see this definition even clearer then during my student times. As a polymer engineer you have to work with chemists, physics, mechanical engineers, but also with economists and managers. Your job is to get the necessary knowledge out of these areas and combine it in one discipline. This is the strength of this kind of engineers that makes them valuable assets in different industries, such as aircraft, space, automotive, sportswear, construction, chemicals, etc.

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