My Major: Chemical Engineering

greg Viterbi Class 0 Comments

So in high school, I was interested in making alternative fuels, but I was not exactly sure what major suited those interests the best.  I knew that I did not want to spend much time in college biology classes, and that I was hoping to learn much more about chemistry.  My strongest interest at the time, in the world of alternative fuels, was biofuels.  After visiting the engineering departments at different universities and talking to different professors, I decided that chemical engineering would be most suited to my interests.


In a very basic sense, Chemical Engineering can be described as a major for people who like math and chemistry.  However, from my experiences, I have found out that it is lot more than that.  I like to think of Chemical Engineering as the study of all chemicals in the universe, and how they interact, move, and react with everything else.  The classes a chemical engineering major will take as an undergraduate will include chemical reactor design, separation processes, viscous flow, and heat transfer, along with many other classes.


As a junior, I have already taken a decent amount of chemical engineering classes and have learned a lot.  Right now, I am in a chemical reactor design class, where we are learning about how to create a reactor to carry out a specific reaction at an optimal rate or at specific conditions.  I personally think that a class like this is so much more interesting than math or chemistry courses, because the class is more tangible – it discusses how to build reactors, not a theory of reactor design.


My first chemical engineering class was CHE 120 – Introduction to Chemical Engineering.  It was neat being able to take this course freshman year, diving right in to different concepts of engineering.  The course surveyed different topics in the world of chemical engineering, and I got a lot out of that class.  It definitely captivated my interest.


My next engineering class was fall of sophomore year.  It was CHE 330 – Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics.  This class was the first real “slap in the face”.  All engineering classes I have had since then have been structured the same way as Thermodynamics.  Even though this class is mostly theory, it provides an important foundation for future engineering classes.  It was difficult, but I worked hard and did well.


The next engineering class I took was spring of sophomore year.  It was CHE 350 – Introduction to Separation Processes.  This class began the transition from theory to applied engineering.  In this class, you learn about how to design separation columns and distillation columns in order to carry out an optimal separation process.  It was neat, because the concepts we learn are very applicable to industry.  Separations is a huge part of the commodity chemical industry, the oil industry, the food industry, etc.  It was neat to actually feel like you are doing engineering.

Some Matlab coding for the design of a distillation column

I am really enjoying the reactor design class I am taking now, but I am looking forward to next semester, when I take my first Chemical Engineering Laboratory class.  This will be very interesting, because it will be the first time that we can take the concepts we have been learning and apply it.


The research I am involved in is actually not through the Chemical Engineering department, but I feel like I am learning a lot of Chemical Engineering by working in the lab.  You can read more about my research lab here.

My research lab

I think I enjoy Chemical Engineering because it is such a wide field, and yet at the same time, feels like such a small field.  All of my friends who are Chemical Engineering majors are each interested in completely different fields.  Chemical Engineering is very difficult, and requires a lot of math and creative thinking, but I have learned so much and I look 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.

Study Group!

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