Traditionally, chemical engineers were, and still are, concerned with research and process development, leading to new means of materials production or a better understanding of existing techniques. These materials and processes may be chemical, petrochemical or biochemical. On-the-job challenges include the efficient operation of a chemical plant, its equipment, or subunits; quality control for products we use every day, like food, cosmetics, soap, paper, and paint; the technical services plants require to stay operational; the sale and distribution of products; and general management or executive direction.
Over the last 20 years, biology has taken its place alongside chemistry as one of the sciences forming the basis of the chemical engineering discipline. The profession has now expanded to include creating biochemical products such as pharmaceuticals, materials for biomedical applications, and new fuel sources from agricultural waste. Chemical and biomolecular engineers are also creating products at the nonoscale, including advanced drug delivery systems and "smart" fluids that respond to light and electrical signals.
Students in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Maryland learn to use a combination of mathematical, physical, chemical, and biological science concepts within a rigorous engineering design framework, graduating with a unique set of skills highly valued by a wide range of employers in industry, academia, and the government.
For more information about our program's goals, see:
ChBE Mission, Outcomes, and Educational Objectives
Projects in undergraduate courses are diverse. For example, a course in particle science could include studying aerosol drug delivery systems, powder production for cosmetics or alternative energy applications, or means of reducing of particulate air pollutants such as diesel soot. A course on the engineering of soft nanostructured materials, or "soft condensed matter", introduces students to materials used in the production of everyday products like toothpaste and shampoo, and foods like Jello, yogurt, and ketchup. Students might also explore bioremediation, the process of using biological agents, especially bacteria, to remove or neutralize contaminants from polluted soil or water; tiny computer circuitry built using chemical reactions; biosensors for human health and safety; and alternative energy sources such as solar cells.
Research experience for undergraduates is an important part of our program, and an opportunity many ChBE departments do not or cannot offer. Approximately half of our students graduate with significant lab experience and most find it to be one of the high points of their undergraduate education.
Typically, students spend several semesters working closely with a faculty member on an individual research project—real research that involves developing and experimentally testing new chemical and biomolecular engineering technologies using state-of-the-art laboratory and computational facilities. Recent projects include developing a process to make metal powders for microelectronics applications, applying green chemistry concepts, and the development of tiny, biocompatible capsules to be used for targeted drug delivery.
Student research can be arranged to count toward class credit, or as on-campus employment, providing the student with extra financial support. Students also participate in off-campus research internships in summer programs, at companies, or at national laboratories. Some of our students have even been invited to present findings at seminars and national chemical engineering conferences, while others have been published!
Chemical and biomolecular engineering has a wide range of applications, which makes it a great choice for people who want career flexibility. Out department’s unique strengths in nanotechnology and biotechnology prepare our students for outstanding careers in many fields, including energy, pharmacy, food processing, home care and personal producs, petroluem, biofuels, electronics, biomedical research (including tissue engineering and understanding and diagnosing disease) environmental safety, papers and fabrics, and education.
See Career Paths to learn more about careers for chemical and biomolecular engineers and some of the places our graduates have gone to work.
Our students also benefit from the Clark School's Engineering Career Services, which gives students 24-hour access to engineering co-op, internship, summer, post-graduation, and part-time job listings. It also runs free resume clinics, career fairs, and other workshops for job seekers!
Questions about the undergraduate program in chemical and biomolecular engineering may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.