As a chemical or chemical-biological engineer, you are a member of a professional community defined not only by its training and work activity, but also by its responsibility to society and common consent to abide by certain standards of conduct in the execution of our work. Some of the standards are purely technical; for example, engineers are expected to use accurate data, perform valid computations, and abide by various codes of practice in design, construction, and operation.
Other standards concern matters less quantitative, but no less real or important. These are expressed in a code of professional ethics. Professional ethics address matters of right and wrong that arise in engineering practice. As chemical and chemical-biological engineers, we subscribe to the statement of chemical engineering ethics adopted by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.
A code of professional ethics provides explicit guidelines that reflect the common understanding of the professional community regarding what is or is not expected of its members. Individual circumstances may place an engineer in a position in which the best course of action is not obvious; in such cases, the code sets priorities for what is deemed ethical and responsible behavior. By abiding by this code, the individual engineer can expect the support of the professional community if a conflict arises as a result of actions taken in accordance with the established code of ethics. It guides the behavior of the individual engineer by stating the expectations of peer engineers. A code of ethics sets guidelines by which the profession can regulate itself, and dismiss individuals who by their behavior would damage the honor, credibility, and effectiveness of the profession. Support and maintenance of the code confers benefits on all members of the profession.
As part of our departmental mission, we endeavor that our graduates be “sensitive to the environmental, social, safety and economic context in which their work is done, and possess a strong commitment to ethical practice within that context”. Part of that mission rests on the students, who are expected to abide by the MIT Handbook of Academic Integrity. In the undergraduate curriculum, we explore the applications and implications of professional ethics within the context of the required technical subjects, using a range of techniques.
Welcome to the community; may we do good work, and do it well!