TL;DR Majors Chemical Engineering
By Shang Chen
December 02, 2020 · 2 minute read
I hope everybody had a safe and socially distanced Thanksgiving. At SciTeens, we're back with our TL;DR majors series. This time we're covering the major of Chemical Engineering. We hope this look at specific majors will help you choose how you want to explore your interests in college and get a sense of what activities you could be doing in high school to prepare yourself for this major.
What is Chemical Engineering?
"Chemical engineering requires a foundational knowledge in chemistry, biology, physics, and mathematics. From this foundation, chemical engineers develop core expertise in thermodynamics, transport processes, and chemical kinetics."
- MIT ChemE
That description is definitely a mouthful so let's try and break it down. As with a lot of these STEM fields, Chemical Engineering builds on many disciplines, which makes a lot of sense if you consider the jobs many chemical engineering majors end up going into. A strong understanding of chemistry is obviously important, as if you don't understand the complex interactions of different compounds, you'll be in big trouble trying to perform experiments. Likewise, if you major in chemical engineering to go into medicine or engineering, an extensive background in biology and physics will be necessary.
What Jobs do Chemical Engineering majors get?
A degree in Chemical Engineering offers students a solid preparation for professional work in the development, design, and operation of chemical products and processes. It prepares the student for employment in such industries as chemical, petroleum, electrochemical, biochemical, semiconductor, nuclear, aerospace, plastics, food processing, or environmental control.
- UC Berkeley ChemE
Chemical engineering majors have the opportunity of working in a wide array of fields depending on their interests and specializations. If you're interested in creating the future of clean energy or making more classic fuel sources like oil and natural gas, chemical engineering is for you. Likewise, if you want to work for companies like NASA or SpaceX but don't necessarily want to be an astronaut, you can participate in their projects by helping them design the most efficient fuel for their rockets. Some chemical engineering majors decide to pursue a different route entirely and go into medicine or law. Regardless of your interests, if you have a passion for understanding the world around you, chemical engineering can help you achieve your dreams.
We'll end this article off as we usually do, with an interview with real students at universities studying the major in question.
Awele Uwagwu - Massachusetts Institute of Technology
What inspired you to major in chemistry?
The polluted air and water in my hometown of Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
What are some of the coolest experiments that you have done in high school or college?
My favorite is definitely the creation of a toy car battery from household items and a dilute base.
What have been some of the challenges of being a chemistry major?
As a chemical engineer, the most challenging thing has been balancing the intensity of my course load. For example, one semester, I took organic chemistry, thermodynamics, and fluid mechanics at the same time.
What fields or jobs are you looking to go into after majoring in chemistry?
I'm looking to work in the energy industry in Nigeria in the future but right after college, I'm looking to consulting to learn more about how businesses run.
What skills would you say are the most important for aspiring chemistry students?
I would say the most important skills are perseverance, good work ethic, and openness to always ask questions. I think those are the most important skills to achieve anything.
What advice/tips would you offer to a high school student who might be interested in chemistry?
I would say that you shouldn't let other people's opinions scare you. Be very aware that you can do excellently if you work hard, stay determined, and always ask for help. Also, never let too much time pass before you make the extra effort to understand a difficult concept.
Finally, tell us a little about yourself.
I graduated high school at the age of 15 and became the first person in my family to go to college. I love playing soccer, and I'm an Arsenal fan.
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About The Author
Shang Chen is on the executive team of SciTeens and is studying Data Science and Economics at UC Berkeley. His hobbies include working out, cooking, and speedrunning video games. Feel free to reach out to him with comments, questions, and future article recommendations at Shang@SciTeens.org. Sources: https://cheme.mit.edu/about/what-is-chemical-engineering/ https://chemistry.berkeley.edu/ugrad/degrees/cheme https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/engineering-chemical-engineering