The ‘traditional’ definition is that chemical engineering is ‘the branch of engineering concerned with the design, construction and operation of machines and plants that perform chemical reactions to produce energy or more useful products’. While this definition is still somewhat true, today’s chemical engineers are doing much, much more than this. Perhaps the best way to see this is to consider some of the research interests of the faculty in Virginia Tech’s chemical engineering department. Our faculty are investigating such diverse topics as the use of microfluidic devices for cell analysis, high performance polymer and composites processing, engineering liver tissue mimics, computational catalysis, novel separation membranes, nanoparticles for controlled drug delivery, and instructive biomaterials for tissue engineering.
What’s so Great about ChE at Virginia Tech?
The faculty in chemical engineering pride themselves on the quality of their teaching. Our faculty have won numerous teaching awards, and each year the average student evaluation of teaching performance for chemical engineering faculty is among the highest in the College of Engineering.
Diverse Job Options
The types of companies that hire chemical engineering graduates has expanded dramatically over the past 20 years. In addition to jobs in the oil, gas and chemical fields, chemical engineering students are now routinely placed in a range of industries, including pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, semiconductor manufacturing, pulp and paper, mineral processing, environmental protection, defense, nuclear energy, and even financial services.
Co-op and Intern Positions
Gaining work experience while still a student is perhaps the best thing you can do for landing a full-time job after graduation. Fortunately, there are a huge number of companies that offer such opportunities to chemical engineering students.
The average starting salary extended to B.S. chemical engineering graduates is routinely the highest of any major at Virginia Tech. (This is true nationally as well.) Chemical engineers are in extremely high demand!
Undergraduate research can be fun and rewarding, and is also a great help in deciding if graduate studies might be right for you. All faculty in the chemical engineering department are actively engaged in research and all routinely provide research projects for undergraduates. In addition, many chemical engineering students conduct research with faculty in chemistry.
Study Abroad Opportunity
Each year, over 30% of chemical engineering students elect to take their summer Unit Operations Laboratory course at the Technical University of Denmark, located outside of Copenhagen.
Chemical engineering has two active student organizations: AIChE (American Institute of Chemical Engineers) and ΩCE (chemical engineering honor society). AIChE’s Chem-E car team designs, builds, and tests a shoe-box sized car to compete against other teams from across the country. The team has won regional competitions and placed in national competitions.
What do Chemical Engineers do?
Some chemical engineers invent and design new processes. Some construct instruments and facilities. Some plan and operate facilities. Chemical engineers have helped develop atomic science, polymers, paper, dyes, drugs, plastics, fertilizers, foods, petrochemicals... pretty much everything. They devise ways to make products from raw materials and ways to convert one material into another useful form. Chemical engineers can make processes more cost effective or more environmentally friendly or more efficient. The bottom line is, a chemical engineer can find a niche in any scientific or engineering field.