When I first decided to become a Chemical Engineering major, I was not 100% sure of what I was getting myself into. I just knew that I had a keen interest in biofuels, and that this was the major for me. However, I thought that I would probably be doing a ton of chemistry and a ton of math. Since I have entered USC, I have learned a lot about each, and about more too!
In Introduction to Chemical Engineering (CHE120), which is the class I took in the spring of my freshman year, I was expecting that we would be doing a lot of chemistry and learning about reactions and stuff, but I realized that Chemical Engineering is much more than analyzing chemical reactions. We learned about simple, single-system processes, and even though there would be chemistry involved in analyzing a given system, the system would not be defined or understood without LOTS and LOTS of calculations. That was my first realization of being a Chemical Engineer – expect lots of math!
One thing that I picked up on that intro class was that to be a good engineer, you need to be able to be a very good problem solver. The homework sets would involve a problem that was multiple paragraphs long. You would need to read it and find the important points and calculate certain properties of that system. It was very difficult for me to pick up on this at first, but as I practiced these kinds of problems more and more, I began to understand how to go about solving the problems and it became much more clear.
In the first semester of your sophomore year, you take CHE 330, which is entirely based around thermodynamic properties of various systems. The class teaches you a huge amount of information, which is good and bad. The bad part is that as a student, you really have to be on top of your game all the time and stay one step ahead. The good part is that I feel as though it is very interesting because the problems we look at are very applicable to the outside world.
Currently, I am taking CHE 350, which is titled “Introduction to Separation Processes”. My favorite part about this class is that there are no thermodynamics analyzed in this class! So far, we have spent time looking at industrial separations and how to optimize these processes to get a product of high purity. The difficult part about this class is that it overloads you with equations and formulas that can make my head spin at times. However, it does interest me, which is keeping me on track.
Outside of the classroom, I am a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, or AIChE for short. This is a national organization for Chemical Engineers, and the local chapter on campus holds events throughout the year for chemical engineers at USC. The president this year is actually fellow VSA, Anastasia! The programs I get the most out of is when there is a speaker who comes to give a lecture on a certain topic. My freshman year, a professor came and spoke about the process of synthesizing biofuels that are extremely efficient when burning. They also hold career events. I went last fall to a talk given by the U.S. Navy about opportunities in Nuclear Engineering. I really enjoy being in an organization of all Chemical Engineers because it is comforting to be around people who are going through the same experience.
I am really enjoying being a Chemical Engineer and even though it involves a lot of hard work, I really enjoy what I am learning and I am looking forward to take this knowledge and make a difference after college. I am also glad that I have met the friends that I have, because they are similar to me and think like me and we get along extremely well. Not only do I enjoy studying with them, but I also like to hang out with them in my free time.