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  1. Every year new safety features and regulations are employed within the process industry to reduce risks associated with operations. Despite these advancements chemical plants remain hazardous places, and the role of the engineer will always involve risk mitigation through real time decision making. Results from a previous study by Kongsvik et al., 2015 indicated that there were three types of decisions in major chemical plants: strategic decisions, operational decisions, and instantaneous decisions. The study showed the importance for improving upon engineers’ operational and instantaneous choices when tasked with quick solutions in the workforce. In this research study, we dive deeper to understand how senior chemical engineering students’ prioritize components of decision making such as budget, productivity, relationships, safety, and time, and how this prioritization may change as a result of participation in a digital immersive training environment called Contents Under Pressure. More specifically, we seek to address the following two research questions: (1) How do senior chemical engineering students prioritize safety in comparison to criteria such as budget, personal relationships, plant productivity, and time in a process safety context, and (2) How does senior chemical engineering students’ prioritization of decision making criteria (budget, personal relationships, plant productivity, safety, and time) change after exposure to a virtual process safety decision making environment? As part of this study, 187 senior chemical engineering students from three separate institutions completed a pre- and post-reflection survey around their engagement with Contents Under Pressure and asked them to rank their prioritizations of budget, productivity, relationships, safety, and time. Data was analyzed using descriptive statistics, and Friedman and Wilcoxon-sign-rank post hoc analyses were completed to determine any statistical differences between the rankings of decision making factors before and after engagement with Contents Under Pressure. Simulating process safety decision making with interactive educational supports may increase students’ understanding of genuine workplace environments and factors that contribute to process safety, without the real world hazards that result from poor decision making. By understanding how students prioritize these factors, chemical engineering curricula can be adapted to focus on the areas of process safety decision making where students need the largest improvement, thereby better preparing them to enter the engineering workforce. 
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    Two methods of assessing senior chemical engineering student ethical decision making in a process safety context were developed; the case-study-based Engineering Process Safety Reasoning Instrument (EPSRI) and a digital immersive environment entitled Contents Under Pressure. Both interventions had similar ethical and process safety decision prompts, but were presented in different manners; the EPSRI as a traditional electronic survey, and Contents Under Pressure as a digital immersive environment (“game”). 148 chemical engineering seniors at three institutions responded to both interventions and responses were compared. Student responses to the traditionally formatted EPSRI revealed most students applied post-conventional reasoning, which is uncommon for students in their age range. This suggests that students are aware of the ethical framing of the instrument, and answer accordingly with the perceived “right” response. Student responses to Contents Under Pressure showed significant differences from the EPSRI, including more typical conventional responses. These results suggest that the authenticity of the digital environment can produce more realistic student responses to ethical and process safety dilemmas. Situating ethical and process safety instruction within this type of educational intervention may allow students to gain insight on their ethical decision making process in a safer, low-risk environment. 
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  6. Despite process safety and ethical decision making being recognized priorities in many chemical companies, process safety incidents continue to occur with unfortunate regularity. In order to understand why such incidents keep occurring, and to prevent future accidents from happening, it is important to study the decision-making habits of people employed at chemical companies, and to inform students of the difference between the influences of ethics and behavioral ethics in process safety decision making. This study seeks to determine how senior chemical engineering students approach reasoning through process safety scenarios through the use of a mixed methods study. This study found that four out of the five students who participated in the study demonstrated post-conventional reasoning, and the remaining student showed conventional reasoning based on the quantitative analysis of their responses. Students showed mostly post-conventional reasoning in their responses based on a qualitative analysis; however, through comparison of these results it was found that the moral schema students were classified as was not always truly representative of their moral reasoning. 
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  7. Process safety is at the heart of operation of many chemical processing companies. However, the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has still documented over 800 investigations of process safety failures since the year 2000. While not all of these incidents were severe, some did lead to employee injuries or death and environmental harm. As a result, chemical engineering companies are increasingly dedicated to process safety through training programs and detailed vigilance as part of their operations practice. AIChE and OSHA also offer courses in process safety to help support the industry. These efforts illustrate the paramount importance that chemical engineering graduates have an appreciation and understanding of process safety as they transition from their degree program into industrial positions. Previous studies have shown that despite difficulties due to course load constraints, process safety has been incorporated into chemical engineering curriculum through either the addition of new courses, incorporation of the content within existing classes, or a combination of the two methods. A review performed in Process Safety Progress suggested that a key step for departments moving forward is to perform an assessment of the process safety culture within their institution in order to determine how faculty and students view process safety. An issue with completing this task is the lack of assessment tools that can be used to determine how students are developing their understanding of process safety decision making. This observation led to the development of the Engineering Process Safety Research Instrument (EPSRI). This instrument is modeled after the Defining Issues Test version 2 (DIT2) and the Engineering Ethical Reasoning Instrument (EERI). Similar to these instruments, the EPSRI provides dilemmas, three decisions, and 12 additional considerations that individuals must rate based on their relative importance to their decision making process. The dilemmas developed in the EPSRI are based on case studies and investigations from process safety failures that have occurred in industry to provide a realistic context for the decision making decisions that engineers may be faced with upon employment. The considerations provided after the scenario are derived to reflect pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional decision making thinking as described by Kohlberg’s Moral Development Theory. Pre-conventional decision making thinking focuses particularly on what is right/wrong or good/bad from an individual level, whereas post-conventional thinking seeks to determine what is correct from moral and value perspectives at the society level. This WIP paper describes the content validity study conducted while developing the EPSRI. Dilemmas were examined by context experts including professionals in the process industry, chemical engineering departments, and learning sciences field. Content experts reviewed the dilemmas and determined whether they represented accurate examples of process safety decision making that individuals may face in real-world engineering settings. The experts also reviewed the 12 considerations for each dilemma for their accuracy in capturing pre-conventional, conventional and post-conventional thinking. This work represents the first step in the overall instrument validation that will take place over the next academic year. 
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