Choosing an Emphasis: Chemical Engineering (Environmental)

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One of the best things about majoring in engineering at USC is that you have the option to choose a specific emphasis that allows you to take more specialized courses. Just within Chemical Engineering there are five different emphases to choose from:

  • Biochemical
  • Environmental
  • Nanotechnology
  • Polymers/Material Science
  • Petroleum

Not to mention there is a straight ChemE track where you don’t declare an emphasis at all. In my first year at USC, I was struggling to figure out which emphasis to go with. I didn’t know what type of career track I wanted to follow (what 18-year-old does?) and I wasn’t even positive what each of the emphases meant. After talking to my advisor, I got some great advice: don’t worry about your career, just choose an emphasis that interests you. And I took his advice to heart.

My interests have definitely changed over my years at USC and it shows in my emphases. I started out in the biochemical emphasis, switched to nanotechnology, and finally landed on the environmental emphasis. The great thing about the different emphases is that in general, you don’t have to settle on an emphasis until late in your junior year because there is room in your schedule to shuffle classes around. I decided on the environmental emphasis after my time studying abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland. While abroad, I took some very interesting courses in renewable energy and wastewater management and decided that the environmental track would be right for me.

With the environmental emphasis I’ve gotten to take some pretty cool classes in Air Pollution Control and Water System Design.

Map of the water system we designed for our final project

Next semester I am very excited to be taking a course in Sustainable Design and Construction with fellow VSA Natalie! This course will delve into the principles behind designing LEED certified buildings and carbon footprinting.

The seal of a LEED certified building

The ability to choose an emphasis within a specific discipline of engineering is a great way to explore interests and is one of the reasons I love studying engineering at USC.

Until next time,


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