What is Chemical Engineering?

Felice Frankel

Chemical engineering occupies a unique position at the interface between molecular sciences and engineering. Intimately linked with the fundamental subjects of chemistry, biology, mathematics, and physics — and in close collaboration with fellow engineering disciplines like materials science, computer science, and mechanical, electrical, and civil engineering — chemical engineering offers unparalleled opportunities to do great things.

Traditionally linked to fuel combustion and energy systems, today’s chemical engineers are spearheading new developments in medicine, biotechnology, microelectronics, advanced materials, energy, consumer products, manufacturing, and environmental solutions. A new generation of chemical engineering-trained entrepreneurs are forming innovative new businesses, no doubt influenced by the fact that chemical engineers have served as CEOs of such leading global businesses as 3M, DuPont, Intel, General Electric, Union Carbide, Dow Chemical, Exxon, BASF, Gulf, and Texaco.

People with undergraduate and graduate chemical engineering degrees go on to work in industry, academia, consulting, law, medicine, finance, and other fields. For more information, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) offers an online database that lists the companies that are the most prolific hirers of its members. The Chemical Engineers in Action site shows the variety of things that chemical engineers can do.