Almost everything you use in daily life – plastics, metals, textiles, paper, food and beverages, toiletries, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals – have been made with the help of a chemical engineer. Chemical engineers are instrumental in the process of converting raw (and sometimes recycled) materials into finished products. This process is complex and involves research and development, design, construction, daily plant operation, and management.
Chemical Engineers take a unique view of processes – they have the capacity to consider processes which convert raw materials into useful products – both from an overall view, determining the economic feasibility of such conversion processes, but also from a very fundamental view, where the role and behaviour of specific components occurring in these processes are studied in detail.
This is what makes Chemical Engineering unique and relevant. Chemical Engineering has been a key factor in enabling the transformation of crude oil, coal and gas into useful products – especially fuels and chemicals, in other words, the petrochemical industry, without which our daily lives, would be severely affected. In addition, many chemical engineers are actively involved in synthesis, design and fabrication of electrochemical energy storage devices such as batteries, fuel cells and supercapacitors or ultracapacitors, etc., the minerals processing industry, where extraction of sought-after metals and other products in an economically feasible manner is the focus. Most interestingly, many of our graduates venture into the corporate banking and investment banking environment, where their abilities to analyze and synthase, taking economics into account, fit the requirements of this sector very well.
More recently, the emphasis has been shifting towards development of special materials – an ever-increasing drive towards the production of stronger, lighter and cheaper materials (think of your cell phone and smartwatch).
Add to this the fact that some of the world’s natural resources are being depleted and have to be replaced by other resources, preferably of renewable nature, in order to sustain growth and prosperity, while at the same time, it has become necessary to focus on the reduction of pollution and protecting our environment and developing processes sourced by renewable feedstocks.
Lastly, by looking at nature, and how we can follow the example to use biotechnology to achieve our objectives, would complete the picture… for now.
I trust that you will find Chemical Engineering as interesting, challenging and relevant as many others before you have.