The chemical engineering program educates engineers to design, develop, and operate chemical processes by which chemicals, petroleum products, food, pharmaceuticals, and consumer goods can be produced economically and safely. Products and processes must be environmentally friendly and safe. Chemical engineering processes usually involve chemical reactions and separations to produce more useful and valuable products.
Chemical engineering students study changes in the composition, energy content, or state of aggregation of materials taking into consideration the fundamentals of the nature of matter and its properties (chemistry); the forces that act on matter (physics); and the relationships between them (mathematics). Chemical engineering differs from chemistry in its emphasis on commercial applications of chemical reactions and separations and techniques for designing, operating, and controlling processes. Chemistry, on the other hand, emphasizes development of new compounds that may become useful products and with determination of their structures and properties.
Chemical engineers are responsible for commercial applications of chemistry. These applications often involve processes that provide the basic necessities of life--food, clothing, shelter, energy, transportation, and communications. They do, on a large scale, what chemists may do on a test tube scale. For example, a team can design, build, and operate a process that produces millions of pounds per year of a polyester resin used for soft-drink bottles. Chemists who formulate that resin may produce only a few grams per day. Chemical engineers may help produce, purify, and even determine appropriate dosage for pharmaceuticals. Chemical engineers are able to succeed in such diverse activities because of their education in a variety of scientific subjects.