I came into USC not really knowing much about Chemical Engineering. I basically chose the major because Chemistry was my favorite class in high school, but I knew I didn’t want to just be a Chemistry major. I also was really good at Math, so I settled on Chemical Engineering because it seemed to be an amalgamation of both subjects. Once I got to USC, it even took me a while to figure out what Chemical Engineering was because I didn’t take my intro the Chemical Engineering class until the second semester of my freshman year. Once I took that class, I discovered that Chemical Engineering didn’t really encompass too much chemistry, but rather built on chemistry concepts and applied them to engineering problems. I expected to be doing a lot of work similar to the work done in organic chemistry (reactions, drawing structures, etc.) but it ended up being a lot more thermodynamics and mass balances, which I actually found to be more intuitive.
After taking two Chemical Engineering classes (and being in two classes currently) I’ve really found that I like the structure of the classes. They focus much more on learning the concepts and applying them than memorization. All Chemical Engineering classes are open notes and open book, so there is much more focus on understanding than regurgitating. The problems we do during tests actually take a bit of problem solving, which I really like. I tend to do better on tests that require problem solving, and it really helps to have notes in front of you to reference. My favorite Chemical Engineering class so far is CHE 205, Numerical Methods for Chemical Engineers. This class is a programming class that gives us an introduction to Matlab. I really like this course because the programming is challenging but it also forces us to apply Chemical Engineering concepts to solve the problems. This class has been more hands on than any of the classes I’ve taken so far, and I’m really excited by it because it’s given me more insight into what kinds of thing I could be doing as a Chemical Engineer in the real world.