Pitt | Swanson Engineering
Undergraduate Overview

Chemical Engineering  

Chemical engineering is concerned with processes in which matter and energy undergo change. The range of concerns is so broad that the chemical engineering graduate is prepared for a variety of interesting and challenging employment opportunities. 

Chemical engineers with strong background in sciences are found in management, design, operations, and research. Chemical engineers are employed in almost all industries, including food, polymers, chemicals, pharmaceutical, petroleum, medical, materials, and electronics. Since solutions to energy, environmental, and food problems must surely involve chemical changes, there will be continued demands for chemical engineers in the future.

The department received in 2005 a three-year $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) entitled " Pillars of Chemical Engineering: A Block Scheduled Curriculum." Led by Associate Professor Joseph J. McCarthy, the curriculum team—composed of 11 faculty from chemical as well as industrial engineering—completed the reform of the undergraduate chemical engineering curriculum into a series of six "pillar" courses. This plan was developed as part of NSF's program for Department-Level Reform of Engineering Curricula (2002), and is the basis for the larger implementation project completed in 2009.

The undergraduate chemical engineering program offers course in the following areas: thermodynamics; mass and energy balances; energy, mass, and momentum transfer; unit operations; process dynamics and control; process design; and chemical reaction engineering. These areas are covered in the student's last six terms. The first two terms of the engineering curriculum are common to all departments and are administered by the Freshman Program Office.

In addition, the curriculum offers the undergraduate student earning a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering the opportunity to enhance their education by obtaining a minor or concentration in one of several specialty areas, participating in the cooperative education program, or by performing undergraduate research.

Educational Objectives

1.     Graduates will gain employment in professional careers (often in positions of technical expertise in chemical engineering, but also including professions such as medicine, law, business, finance, non-profit organizations, government, education, etc.) and/or enroll in graduate studies. 

Measure: The percent of alumni that graduated three or more years ago (responding to the alumni survey or identified in the direct phone poll) that have professional careers either in areas that use chemical engineering knowledge or other professions, plus the percent enrolled in a full-time graduate program. 

2.     Graduates will be committed to lifelong learning throughout their careers. 

Measure: The number of lifelong learning activities (specifically the sum—for the past 12 months—of the number of technical society memberships, the number of workshops or technical conferences attended, and the number of part-time graduate school classes enrolled in) associated with alumni that graduated five or more years ago (responding to the alumni survey or identified in the direct phone poll). 

3.     Graduates will assume positions of leadership. 

Measure: The percent of alumni who graduated three or more years ago (responding to the alumni survey or identified in the direct phone poll) who are employed in professional careers and who have at least two people reporting to them plus the percent that is enrolled in full-time graduate study and have published or submitted at least one paper as lead author, have taken on a leadership position in a graduate student or professional organization, and/or have been involved in organizing a conference or portion of a conference. 

4.     Graduates will recognize the importance of utilizing their knowledge, skills, and initiative for the benefit of society and demonstrate that understanding through their interactions within their community, in government, or in society as a whole. 

Measure: The percentage of alumni who graduated three or more years ago (responding to the alumni survey or identified in the direct phone poll) who are active in their community or in a related societal role. 

Accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, http://www.abet.org.