Chemical engineers apply the principles of science, mathematics, and economics to develop, design, construct, operate, and manage facilities which convert raw materials to desired products in a safe, environmentally-acceptable, and economically-sustainable manner.
Your Career Prospects
The goods produced by processing industries influence every aspect of modern life, from fertilizers used to increase food production, to high tech materials used in the manufacture of improved sporting goods, to new computer software used in the optimization of process operations.
A degree in chemical engineering may lead you to a career in process design and development, plant operations, technical sales, or management. In process design, you would adapt the small-scale processes used in the laboratory to large-scale commercial production by designing cost-effective, safe, and environmentally friendly processes. In process development, chemical engineers would be involved in creating processes with improved efficiencies and reduced environmental impact. In plant operations, you would be responsible for the production rates and quality control of the products produced in a particular facility. You would work with the plant operators and technologists to ensure that the industrial process works efficiently and safely. In technical sales, chemical engineers use their technical knowledge of products and processes to sell goods to other companies. You might sell polymers to a producer of plastic film, ethylene glycol to a manufacturer of polyester fibre, or ammonia to a fertilizer distributor. As managers, chemical engineers bring their understanding of industry and their problem-solving skills to making sound business decisions in a technical setting.
Traditionally, chemical engineers have found employment in the petroleum, natural gas, chemical, pulp and paper, process design, and pharmaceutical industries. You might also find employment with instrumentation and control companies, environmental companies and agencies, food processors, and polymer producers and processors. The world of chemical engineering is constantly expanding and chemical engineering graduates are finding positions in new areas such as biomedical engineering, environmental engineering, and advanced materials.
What You Will Study
The core chemical engineering subject areas include: material and energy balances, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, heat transfer, separation processes, chemical reactor analysis, and computer process control. These areas require a solid foundation of mathematics, physics, and chemistry. In these courses you will learn about the principles required for the design and analysis of processes.
The second-year course on material and energy balances introduces you to the principles relating to mass and energy conservation in systems in which chemical reactions and energy transfer occur. Thermodynamics courses provide you with information on the limits nature places on chemical reactions and energy transformation processes. The transport phenomena courses of fluid mechanics, heat transfer, and mass transfer, provide you with the tools to describe the dynamics of mass and energy transfer processes. The chemical reactor analysis and separation courses, topics which are unique to chemical engineering, teach you how to design equipment for chemical conversion and purification of compounds. The computer process control course provides instruction on how, with the aid of computers, complex processes (such as chemical reactors, distillation columns, absorbers, heat exchangers, pumps, compressors, and filters) can be operated efficiently in a continuous manner. The concepts you will learn in these core courses will be combined in the capstone design course in the final year of the program. In this course you will be responsible for the technical design and economic analysis of a processing facility.
During your program you may broaden your chemical engineering background by taking a number of elective courses in biotechnology, catalysis, computer applications, corrosion, hydrocarbon processing, polymer production and properties, process modelling and optimization, and pulp and paper technology. You may also choose to study process control in greater depth by entering the computer process control option, which is detailed on the following pages.
The UofA Advantage
An undergraduate degree in chemical engineering prepares you for direct entry into the chemical engineering profession. Our graduates are equipped to compete with the best engineering graduates in the world for positions in industry and government, as well as in the top graduate schools anywhere.
In Alberta and Western Canada, petrochemical, refining, oilsands, polymer, and pulp and paper industries, as well as design, consulting, and engineering firms are significant employers of chemical engineers. This strong industrial presence benefits our undergraduate program by providing our students and staff with opportunities to interact with practicing engineers in the classroom. One of the ways in which this interaction is accomplished is through the Stollery Executive in Residence program: a program that brings industrial engineers into the Department for extended periods of time. These individuals provide topics and data for student design projects, deliver lectures on special topics, and discuss current industrial needs and practices with students and staff. Additional interaction with industry is possible for a large percentage of chemical engineering students through Co-op placements.
Undergraduate students also benefit from the quality of our academic staff. Members of our Department have been recognized for excellence in teaching and research internally by being awarded the University’s highest award in teaching, the University’s top research award, the University Industrial Synergy Award, as well as the University Cup, the ultimate recognition of academic performance. And on the national scene, one of our professors has been awarded the University-Industry Synergy Award and two others have won the top award given out by the Canadian Society of Chemical Engineering (CSChE), the RS Jane Award. Four members of our Department have received the CSChE’s Syncrude Canada Innovation Award, presented to a chemical engineer who has made a significant contribution to the field under the age of 40. Five professors have been awarded international research fellowships in recognition of their research excellence, three professors have received Alberta Science and Technology Awards, and one has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada as well as the Canadian Academy of Engineering.
Students may choose between the Co-op route or the traditional Chemical Engineering program.