Chemical Engineering

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Maintained by Harry E. Pence, Professor of Chemistry, SUNY Oneonta, for the use of his students. Any opinions are totally coincidental and have no official endorsement, including the people who sign my pay checks. Comments and suggestions are welcome (

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Last Revised June 9, 2000

A nanosized gear (Engineering at the molecular level)

What Does a Chemical Engineer Do?

Many thanks to Dr. Bruce Knauer (Chemistry Dept., SUNY Oneonta.) for help with this section.

Chemical engineers can be involved in a number of industrial activities. However, they most commonly are involved in producing useful chemical products in commercial quantity. Usually, chemists have worked out a method for producing the material of interest at laboratory scale. This material may be a medicine, fine chemical, polymer, feedstock, consumer item, etc. In order to produce the item in question commercially, the chemists' bench-size operations must be scaled-up to industrial size. Chemical engineers are involved in the design of the pilot and full-size plants that are required; they also run them.

Scale-up is not just a matter of using larger flasks and beakers. For one thing, chemistry done on the bench is almost always done in batch mode -- one batch of material is made at a time. On the other hand, in a chemical plant where large amounts of product are made, it is more efficient to run processes in continuous flow mode. Consequently, the conditions that will be optimal in the plant may not be the same as those on the bench. The chemical engineer must know enough chemistry to be able to adjust for these differences. Furthermore, in working with large quantities of material transport phenomena and thermodynamics become very important. Transport phenomena is a term used to encompass mass flow, especially fluid dynamics. In short, a chemical engineer does some very sophisticated plumbing, involving complex mathematical modeling, but does not have to know quantum mechanics.

For further information about what an engineer does, you might look at the World Wide Web Virtual Library list under Engineering, or at specific types of engineering, such as ceramics engineering, or wastewater engineering.

The History of Chemical Engineering site not only provides a historical perspective on this field but also seeks to answer questions, such as, what is chemical engineering?, that may be very useful.

Chemical Engineering Programs

The University of Florida Chemical Engineering Department maintains a listing of academic institutions in the U.S. that offer degrees in chemical engineering, with links to the home pages of many of these departments.

If you wish more information specifically related to academic programs in chemical engineering, link to the site maintained by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

A more general site that gives information about schools that offer a variety of types of engineering programs will be found at the listing of Schools affiliated with the International Engineering Consortium.

Obtaining a Job in Chemical Engineering

Lalit R. Gajare, from the University of Southern California, has put together an excellent set of Chemical Engineering Links, that includes some sites for job hunting as well as some corporate web pages for companies that may hire chemical engineers.

Many of the resources provided elsewhere at this site under the general heading of Obtaining a Job in Industry is also applicable to chemical engineers, especially the various job listings and employment services. Other potentially useful resources at this site include Questions for the job interview and the links to major chemical company web pages, since these companies often have positions for chemical engineers. You may also wish to refer to the discussion of electronic resumes.

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