Chemical engineers design and produce the processes to produce, transform and transport materials to become usable and useful end products – from plastics, to pharmaceuticals to make-up. This begins with experiments in a laboratory and follows on to implementing the technologies in full-scale production.
A degree in chemical engineering combines chemistry, physics, biology, microbiology, biochemistry, mathematics and economics, helping students develop their knowledge at a molecular level, through to the application of expertise in large-scale or industrial environments.
Courses are made up of lectures, tutorials, seminars, computer practise sessions, practical laboratory work and both individual and group work. Site visits and classes by industry professionals may also form part of the course. Many courses include work placements and a year in industry to equip graduates for tools to succeed in the industry.
In the past, chemical engineering was known to cover just oil refining and petrochemical production, but the industry is constantly progressing and study will be influenced by advancement in the field. New and improved materials are always being developed, so students will benefit from tuition in fields such as nanotechnology, fuel cells, fabric development, mineral processing and bioengineering. But core subjects include fluid mechanics, mass and heat transfer, thermodynamics, plant design, process systems, process economics, process analysis and process operations.
A large number of industries rely on the synthesis and processing of chemicals and materials so chemical engineers are always in demand. Traditional careers for a chemical engineer can be found in the chemical, energy and oil industries, as well as the less traditional spheres of biotech, pharmaceuticals, environmental engineering and device fabrication.