Chemical & Biochemical Engineering
The Department of Chemical & Biochemical Engineering at Christian Brothers University prepares students to succeed in the chemical process industries and beyond. Recent graduates have moved on to careers in energy (petroleum refining, biofuels, natural gas processing and distribution), paper manufacturing and packaging, cosmetics and consumer products, and industrial gases and chemicals. Others have pursued advanced degrees in engineering (chemical, biomedical, and materials), pharmaceutical science, and medicine.
Chemical engineers apply their knowledge of chemistry, physics, and engineering techniques to create, design, and improve processes to manufacture materials we encounter every day, including:
- Polymers & Plastics
- Consumer Products
Unfortunately for public awareness, most of what emerges from chemical manufacturing facilities isn’t of immediate use to the consumer; instead, products are typically intermediates later used to produce consumer goods.
For example, a chemical engineer might be involved in designing an improved process for manufacturing PETE (polyethylene terephthalate) polymer. A ChE is also likely the manager of the plant that produces the polymer. The product that emerges from the plant will look like white or gray sand or gravel which is then shipped to another manufacturer. It is only in this next step that this polymer resin is molded into everyday products, most prominently soft drink bottles (with recycling number 1). So, even though the bottles wouldn’t exist without chemical engineers, most people remain unaware of the ChE’s role.
A chemical engineer’s education has special emphases on optimizing and controlling chemical reactions and on separation of mixtures. These skills apply to more than just manufacturing. Our environment and our human bodies are complex systems built upon chemical processes, so the chemical engineering skill set offers insight and opportunities to improve our environment and our lives. A ChE studying a human kidney would recognize it as a membrane separation and so would understand its principles. This understanding has been critical in the development of modern dialysis machines and artificial organs.
Chemical engineering degrees are flexible. The practical, quantitative, problem-solving skills learned may be applied to a wide array of careers. Careers in chemical engineering are rewarding. Surveys of starting salaries almost always list ChEs near the top. Polls of working chemical engineers indicate a high degree of job satisfaction.
Biochemical engineering supplements the traditional ChE skills with additional study of biology, microbiology, and biochemistry. This knowledge enables the extension of chemical engineering principles to applications in biotechnology including commercial enzymes, food and food additives, pharmaceuticals, and biofuels. These processes use living cells in biochemical reactors, called “fermentors”, to conduct the manufacturing. The resulting mixtures are extremely complex, so bioseparations are one of the most important – and expensive – parts of biotech processes. Reactors and separations are the bedrock of chemical engineering, so it should be clear why ChEs are important in the broad application of biotechnology.
Degrees and Programs
The department offers an ABET-accredited BSChE (Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering) degree. Courses in thermodynamics, material and energy balances, fluid mechanics, heat transfer, separations, and other topics build to an individual senior project. Often these projects are done in conjunction with an industrial internship, enabling students to apply their academic training to real world problems.
ChE students may additionally opt to pursue a biochemical engineering emphasis to open pathways into biotechnology careers, including pharmaceuticals, commercial enzymes, food additives, and biofuels. The CBU biochemical engineering track includes all the course required for medical school admission, and so offers a “pre-med” option for highly motivated students.
Our program allows students to add a certificate in packaging engineering to their program to increase their career options. We also offer elective courses in industrial safety and air pollution for students who are interested in regulatory affairs or environmental careers.
All chemical engineering courses at CBU feature small class sizes and are taught by experienced faculty. Our laboratory facilities provide hands-on experiences to supplement and reaffirm classroom learning. Students are also encouraged to pursue internship opportunities with local firms to further reinforce the theory and practice taught at CBU.
Our students learn that teamwork is critical to professional success, and have opportunities through the AIChE (American Institute of Chemical Engineers) student chapter, SWE (the Society of Women Engineers), and other campus organizations to cultivate leadership skills. For those interested, numerous chances to develop “soft skills” in communications, group dynamics, and leadership are available.
Please contact any of the department faculty if we can provide more information on our programs. We’re excited about what we offer and would like you to be, too!