Why I Chose Chemical and Petroleum Engineering

Sophie Chemical, Internship, Sophie, Viterbi Class 0 Comments

Before I start this blog, I have some good news to share. After a pretty intense search for internships this year, I got an offer to intern for Chevron as a petroleum drilling engineer! I’ll be in Bakersfield this summer, which is the same city I was in last summer for my Aera internship. In fact, the Aera and Chevron office buildings are right next to each other. Last summer I was doing a different aspect of petroleum engineering, called production, so I’m excited to work on a very different project this summer. If you want to learn a little bit more about how to find an internship, you can read about my experience from last semester here.

As there are a bunch of high school seniors that just got admitted, I thought this would be a good time to share my story of choosing a major. I have pretty unique experience, because I’ve been interested in petroleum since junior year of high school. That might seem scary to you if you have no idea what you want to do, but it’s totally okay to have no idea! Anyhow, during my junior year of high school, I took a career class where I had to interview a couple people who worked in something I was interested in. Since my neighbor worked in oil and gas, I had lunch with him and two petroleum engineers. The petroleum engineers had nothing but good things to say about their jobs. Mostly I liked that their projects were interesting and that they had a good work life balance, which were both important to me. Since then, I’ve talked to many petroleum engineers and gone to professional conferences. I still think petroleum is the right path for me.

You might be wondering, “I thought USC doesn’t have a petroleum engineering degree?” And you would be right, at least for undergrad. I’m actually a chemical engineering major with an emphasis in petroleum. Since I wanted to do petroleum, I decided to choose between mechanical engineering and chemical engineering, as those both have petroleum emphasis option. This was an important choice for me, because I didn’t want to be spending four years in classes I didn’t like. I ended up choosing chemical engineering because I generally enjoyed chemistry in high school more than physics. So far, it’s definitely been the right choice.

One question I hear a lot is, “What’s the difference between chemistry and chemical engineering?” I like to explain it like this: as a chemist, you might invent some really neat reaction that turns product A and product B into a much more useful product X using your sweet organic chemistry skills. As a chemical engineer, you’ll take that reaction and decide how to produce on an industrial scale. Chemical engineers ask questions like, “How much heat does the reaction need to run optimally?”, “Should it be reacted in a big tank or maybe a smaller one?”, “Are there side products that needed to be separated, and if so how do we separate them?”, “How much pressure does it take to pump it in and out of the reactor tank?”, and most importantly, “How much does all that cost?”. Engineering is really the real world application of how to get it into a consumer’s lap. This is what I really liked about engineering.

Anyhow, I hope it was helpful to see a different perspective on choosing a major in engineering! If you want to read more about choosing your major, I recommend reading this blog by Maria.




Chemical Engineering (Petroleum), Class of 2018, Learn more on her profile here!

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