The chemical engineering option is designed to prepare its students for either graduate study or research and development work in industry. This is accomplished by providing broad and rigorous training in the fundamentals of chemical engineering while maintaining a balance between classroom lectures and laboratory experience. The program also strives to develop in each student self-reliance, creativity, professional ethics, an appreciation of the societal impact of chemical engineering, and an understanding of the importance of continuing intellectual growth.
Chemical engineering involves applications of chemistry, physics, mathematics, and, increasingly, biology and biochemistry. In addition to these disciplines, the chemical engineering curriculum includes the study of applied and computational mathematics, fluid mechanics, heat and mass transfer, thermodynamics, chemical kinetics and chemical reactor design, and process control. Because of this broad-based foundation that emphasizes basic and engineering sciences, chemical engineering is perhaps the broadest of the engineering disciplines.
Because many industries utilize some chemical or physical transformation of matter, the chemical engineer is much in demand. He or she may work in the manufacture of inorganic products (ceramics, semiconductors, and other electronic materials); in the manufacture of organic products (polymer fibers, films, coatings, pharmaceuticals, hydrocarbon fuels, and petrochemicals); in other process industries; or in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, or biomedical industries. Chemical engineering underlies most of the energy field, including the efficient production and utilization of coal, petroleum, natural gas, and newer technologies such as biofuels, fuel cells, and solar energy conversion technologies. Air and water pollution control and abatement and the study of climate change, its impacts, and its mitigation are also within the domain of expertise of chemical engineers. The chemical engineer may also enter the field of biochemical engineering, where applications range from the utilization of microorganisms and cultured cells, to enzyme engineering and other areas of emerging biotechnology, to the manufacture of foods, to the design of artificial human organs.
Key educational objectives of our chemical engineering curriculum are to prepare students for professional practice at the forefront of chemical engineering or for graduate school, and to become leaders in engineering, science, academia, business, and public service in a continually changing world. To do this, the curriculum focuses on developing an ability to synthesize and apply knowledge from the many subjects studied to the design of systems, components, processes, or experiments, subject to technical, economic, environmental, and/or social constraints. Problems illustrating the design process are integrated into the core courses.
Undergraduate research is emphasized, and students are encouraged, even in the freshman year, to participate in research with the faculty. In order to obtain a basic intellectual background, all students take courses in the fundamentals of chemical engineering through the junior year. During the junior and senior years, students diversify into one of four tracks (biomolecular, environmental, materials, or process systems), where they pursue concentrated study in their chosen area of chemical engineering. An optional senior thesis provides an opportunity to pursue independent research and design in lieu of one of the senior laboratories.