Carefully crafted textbook helps make sense of thermodynamics


Donald Visco Jr., associate dean for undergraduate studies and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at The University of Akron, remembers the challenges he experienced in his chemical engineering thermodynamics course as a college student.
He says that students often start the course with fear of the subject matter and that many textbooks in thermodynamics do little to allay those worries or to demystify the material.

Donald Visco Jr.

So, when asked to co-author a new textbook on chemical engineering thermodynamics, Visco saw an opportunity to make the complex subject more accessible to undergraduates.
In the preface of their book, "Fundamentals of Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics," Visco and Kevin D. Dahm, professor of chemical engineering at Rowan University, write, "Our goal with this book is to provide a practical and relatable introduction for students who are encountering chemical engineering thermodynamics for the first time."
"We wanted to write a book for students so they could read  … outside of class to help them better understand the concepts," Visco says.
Topics in the book are introduced with "motivational examples" that illustrate their real-world importance and applications. Written in a conversational tone that helps guide students through the subject matter, the book includes margin notes throughout.

"We tried to take some of the mystery out of where some of the equations have come from," Visco adds.
A recipient of the Department of Energy Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers and a National Outstanding Teaching Award from the American Society for Engineering Education, Visco currently teaches from the new textbook in his course Equilibrium Thermodynamics.

 Story by Nicholas Nussen

Media contact: Denise Henry, 330-972-6477 or

Thermodynamics textbook

The cover of the "Fundamentals of Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics."