What is Chemical Engineering?
Chemical engineers take products that can be made in a laboratory on a small scale and design and operate processes to produce them commercially on a large scale. At the same time, they do this in a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way. We're talking product quantities that range from a few pounds of a specialty pharmaceutical to billions of gallons of a commodity such as gasoline.
Some chemical engineers are in the manufacturing plant on a daily basis, checking the quality of the product and working with technicians to monitor and optimize equipment function. Others are more focused on the design and startup of new processes. Still others are involved with sales, marketing, or management. And some are more devoted to fundamental or applied research, whether in industry, academia, national laboratories, or regulatory agencies. A graduate degree is typically required for a research position. The job descriptions of B.S. chemical engineers often overlap with those of bioengineers, environmental engineers, and mechanical engineers. For M.S. and Ph.D. chemical engineers, there is also substantial overlap with the chemical and biological sciences.
Your B.S. in chemical engineering begins with classes in the fundamentals of science (general chemistry, general physics, and general biology) and mathematics (calculus, differential equations). In your second year, you will take classes in such areas as how existing manufacturing processes work and how individual pieces of equipment fit together to make a complex process. In your third year, you delve into the details of heat transfer, mass transfer, fluid dynamics, and reaction kinetics. In your fourth year, you try your hand at designing a complete process. Throughout your B.S. education, you should seize opportunities to augment your education through undergraduate research, work experience (such as with a co-op job), elective course work, and engineering design competitions such as the Chem-E-Car and the Environmental Design Contest sponsored by WERC, both of which have seen strong participation by Ohio University undergraduate chemical engineers in recent years.