What Do Chemical Engineers Do? Are you looking for a challenging and innovative career path where you can have a tremendous impact on people’s lives by working with natural chemical processes to meet the needs of society?
Do you dream about developing new chemical processes that produce cutting-edge materials and products?
Would you like to run chemical production experiments in a laboratory and/or direct operations at industrial plants, refineries, and other locations?
The field of chemical engineering offers unique opportunities to make a real difference by applying the principles of chemistry, biology, physics, and math to solve problems that involve the production or use of chemicals, fuel, drugs, food, and many other products.
- Design processes and equipment for large-scale manufacturing, planning, and testing production methods and byproducts treatment.
- Rely on their knowledge of physics, mathematics, mechanical and electrical engineering, and science to overcome technical problems safely and economically.
- Apply the principles of chemistry to solve problems and technical challenges involving the production or use of chemicals and other products.
- Innovating chemical processes, such as oxidation or polymerization.
- Performing research in specific fields, such as nanomaterials.
- Developing specific products.
Famous Chemical Engineers
- Keki Hormusji Gharda – prominent Indian chemical engineer and entrepreneur; Founder, Chairman, and Managing Director of Gharda Chemicals Limited, one of the frontrunners in the chemical industry in India and one of the largest agrochemicals manufacturing companies in the country
- Alice Hamilton – directed the first governmental commission to investigate industrial hazards in the workplace, including exposure to dangerous chemicals; because of her work, laws were passed to protect employees from occupational hazards
- Carolyn Bertozzi – contributed to the design of artificial bones that are less likely to cause reactions or lead to rejection; also helped create contact lenses that are better tolerated by the cornea of the eye
- Fred C. Koch – American chemical engineer and entrepreneur who founded the oil refinery firm that later became Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held company in the United States
- Lanny D. Schmidt – American chemist, inventor, author, and Regents Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at the University of Minnesota; well known for his extensive work in surface science, detailed chemistry, reaction engineering, catalysis, and renewable energy
- John J. Mooney – American chemical engineer who was the co-inventor of the three-way catalytic converter, which has played a dramatic role in reducing pollution from motor vehicles since their introduction in the mid-1970s
Areas of Employment
- Engineering services
- Chemical manufacturing
- Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences
- Petroleum and coal products manufacturing
- Resin, synthetic rubber, and artificial synthetic fibers and filaments manufacturing
- Design and construction
- Food processing
- Specialty chemicals
- Environmental health and safety industries
- A variety of manufacturing industries other than chemical manufacturing, such as those producing:
Career Guidance Suggestions for Pre-University Students
- Advanced algebra
- Engineering fundamentals
- Molecular biology
- Computer-aided design
- Process control
- Quantitative analysis
- Fluid dynamics
- Heat and mass transfer
- Summer programs
- Afterschool programs
- Online puzzles and games
- Online courses
- Maker Faires
- Design projects
- Science centers and museums
- Professional societies like IEEE
- Analytical skills: must be able to troubleshoot designs that do not work as planned and be able to ask the right questions and then find answers that work.
- Creativity: explore new ways of applying engineering principles and invent new materials, advanced manufacturing techniques, and new applications in chemical and biomedical engineering.
- Interpersonal skills: develop good working relationships with others involved in production processes.
- Math skills: use the principles of calculus and other advanced topics in mathematics for analysis, design, and troubleshooting.
- Problem-solving skills: be able to anticipate and identify problems, including such issues as workers’ safety and problems related to manufacturing and environmental protection.
Links and Resources
- American Chemical Society: publishes scientific journals and databases related to chemistry.
- American Institute of Chemical Engineers: the world’s leading organization for chemical engineering professionals; one area of interest is nanobiotechnology.
- Institution of Chemical Engineers: a global membership organization for those in the chemical engineering profession.
- National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers: initiates and supports programs that assist people of color in fully realizing their potential in academic, professional, and entrepreneurial pursuits in chemistry, chemical engineering, and related fields.
- World Chemical Engineering Council: focused on addressing economic and ecological challenges on a global scale through chemical engineering.