My Major: Chemical Engineering (Environmental)

will Viterbi Class 2 Comments

As I am now in the midst of my senior year of college, it’s nice to reflect back on my years at USC and how I came to choose engineering and Chemical Engineering specifically. I decided to major in engineering after talking to my brother who graduated college with a Mechanical Engineering degree. Hearing about his coursework and his experience made me realize that engineering was perfect for me because it combines my loves of science and math and has numerous applications in the real world. I finally decided on Chemical Engineering because I was fascinated with Chemistry in high school and wanted to explore the technical applications of Chemical Engineering.

Over my fours years at USC, I’ve taken courses in thermodynamics, separation processes, reaction kinetics, fluid dynamics, and many other topics. While these provide the foundation of Chemical Engineering, my favorite courses have been ones that are more hands on such as the Chemical Engineering Laboratory and courses I’ve taken for my environmental emphasis.

Every week in Chem-E lab, we get to use really cool equipment to test concepts we learn about in class. We often learn a concept in a different class and end up testing it out in the lab just a few days later! It’s really exciting to see the concepts come to life in front of our eyes. While the labs are a lot of work, the knowledge we gain from such hands on work is invaluable.

Measuring the flow rate of different liquids through a porous membrane

Mixing ice water for use in a stacked column heat exchanger

Using the scanning electron microscope to view magnified images of treated aluminum plates

In my environmental classes I’ve also gotten some hands on design experience. Last semester in Water Supply and Sewer System Design, I used a program called EPANET to map the water distribution system for an entire town. It was very interesting to see how the different parameters of the system such as pipe diameter, pressure, and fluid flow affected the water distribution.

An output from EPANET of a water distribution system for a small town

Ever since I decided to major in Chem-E, I’ve been asked the question “what is Chemical Engineering” quite a lot. When I started out freshman year I probably wouldn’t have been able to answer it. But by now, based on the course and laboratory work I have completed, I have really come to fundamentally understand Chemical Engineering. Simply put, Chemical Engineers convert raw materials into more useful forms by using their knowledge of heat and mass transfer and chemical reactions. Chemical Engineering can be applied to virtually any field but is most useful in the conversion of raw materials for energy use or to make use of polymers and other organic materials.

If you want a younger perspective on Chemical Engineering check out Lyssa or Makana’s blogs or my post from sophomore year!

Until next time,




Comments 2

  1. Hi Will!

    I am currently in the college application process for USC and plan on majoring in chemical engineering. One of the questions on the supplement is how I plan to use my engineering degree to benefit society. May I ask how have you used or plan to use your engineering degree to benefit society?


    1. Post

      Hey Chris,

      Great question! I am hoping to use my engineering degree to further the development of renewable energy and sustainability. But this question should be specific to you and your interests. Try to examine why you decided to major in engineering and that should set you on the right track. Good luck with your application!



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