Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Illinois

What is Chemical Engineering?

What is Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering?

Chemical and biomolecular engineering is a diverse and exciting field where you could find yourself creating life-saving medicines, advancing fuel cell research, or developing the next big food item to hit grocery store shelves. It’s about improving things that people use every day while reducing their cost. Around the world, Illinois alumni can be found reducing costs at production facilities and building reactors to manufacture new materials. They’ve been instrumental in developing products like Tide (Procter & Gamble), Cheerios (General Mills), DiGiorno pizza (Nestle), and Cottonelle tissue (Kimberly-Clark).

Rooted in chemistry, chemical engineering applies the principles of chemistry often, but not limited to, a large scale. Chemists often synthesize new molecules or mixtures on the size scale of beakers. Chemical engineers then work to scale up the synthesis process to meet market demand.

At the University of Illinois, the study of chemical engineering dates back to 1901. We’re one of oldest chemical engineering departments in the nation. Throughout the 20th century, chemical engineering expanded from chemical production to fuels, plastics, foods, and consumer products. In 2002, to mark the increased role that biology plays in product manufacturing, the department was one of the first to change its name to the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

What does a Chemical Engineer do?

Chemical engineers work in fuels and energy; biotechnology, including pharmaceuticals; foods and beverages; cosmetics and other consumer products; advanced materials and plastics. The average annual salary for Illinois students graduating with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering is $74,000, as of 2014-2015, according to the School of Chemical Sciences Career Services.

The department has a history of producing outstanding graduates, from Arnold Beckman (BS ’22), inventor of the pH meter and founder of Beckman Instruments, to BP CEO Bob Dudley (BS ’78). Paul Adriani (BS ’85) with SunPower develops new products that convert sunlight into electricity. At Pixelligent Technologies, which manufactures next-generation optical materials for the electronics industry, Amy Stabell (BS ’07) designed the company’s reactor for making the nanomaterials. Brian Kwok (BS ’00) is a lawyer focusing on intellectual property practice, including patent strategy and licensing. As senior product design engineer, Sonom Patel (BS ’11) develops consumer products for Procter & Gamble’s feminine care business. Other BS graduates, like Dan Pack (BS ’90) and Chris Argus (BS ’05), have gone on to earn their doctoral degrees and become chemical engineering faculty.

Read profiles of some of our alumni.