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Department Overview


View from Shriram | Drew Kelly

Life. Energy. Environment. This triad of engineering priorities is perhaps unmatched in its potential for improving the quality of life for all inhabitants of planet Earth. And at the heart of all three is chemical engineering.

Countless industries depend on the synthesis and processing of chemicals and materials — on chemical engineering — for their existence. The chemical and energy industries are obvious examples, but advances in chemical engineering have led to new developments in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, in electronic device and materials fabrication, in water purification and environmental engineering, and more.

Our department focuses on making an impact on the key environmental, technological and biological questions of our time. We believe chemical engineering holds the key to a healthier, cleaner and more efficient world, and a better tomorrow for all.

To match our field’s new focus and widened potential, our department is undergoing a dynamic expansion organized along three distinct lines of strategic focus:

Chemistry of Life 

Chemistry of Energy

Chemistry of the Environment 

Hallmarks of the department include our seamless integration of research and teaching — with up to 50 percent of undergraduate majors studying for a co-term master's or honors research thesis — and our interest in encouraging all students to develop individual research plans that they pursue in close cooperation with faculty. The department offers BS, MS and PhD degrees in Chemical Engineering and Online Graduate Certificates in Energy Engineering and Technologies and Biotechnology.

Founded in 1961, the Department of Chemical Engineering was initially an outgrowth of the university’s Department of Chemistry. Early faculty pioneered or substantially influenced the emerging field of chemical engineering in a number of important areas including catalysis and transport/fluid mechanics. More recently, the department has added bioengineering and soft-material science to its core areas of excellence and has made a growing commitment to technology development that complements its long-held strength in fundamental applied science and molecular engineering.