Undergraduate program ranked No. 5 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report

9/12/2022

Claire Benjamin

Chemical and biomolecular engineering undergraduate students work in the Unit Ops Laboratory. 
Chemical and biomolecular engineering undergraduate students work in the Unit Ops Laboratory. 

The chemical and biomolecular engineering undergraduate program at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign moved up three spots to be ranked No. 5 nationwide by U.S. News & World Report.

“This recent ranking is a reflection of our commitment to continually assess and improve our undergraduate program,”   said department head Paul Kenis, the Elio E. Tarika Endowed Chair. “Our faculty and staff are deeply invested in curriculum development, cross-curricular design, revitalizing lab-based learning experiences, and providing value-added student experiences to prepare chemical engineers who are capable and eager to tackle societal problems across many industries."

Specialized teaching faculty and tenure-track faculty work side-by-side to evaluate and improve the undergraduate chemical engineering curriculum, for example by incorporating cross-curricular design assignments throughout the sophomore and junior level courses to ensure that students master the ability to address open-ended questions in collaborative teams — just like they will in the real world. 

“During the pandemic, the university provided excellent online infrastructure and our faculty embraced the opportunity to modernize their courses.  We are working to maintain that momentum with new data science initiatives and a new laboratory fundamentals course,” said Director of Undergraduate Studies Baron Peters, William H. and Janet G. Lycan Professor. “Illinois has a long tradition of excellence in chemical engineering foundations.  We want to maintain that while also emphasizing computation, probability, and data analytics to ensure that graduates from our program continue to excel in a changing industry.”

Efforts are underway to realize a new $2.5 million, 3,000 square-foot laboratory space in the fall of 2024 to house the chemical engineering undergraduate laboratory courses, including separate spaces for the specialized third and fourth-year experimentation. The revitalized laboratory curriculum will include cutting-edge experiments relevant to contemporary societal and industry needs, such as water purification, catalysis for sustainability, and food processing. The new laboratory will also house a new distributed control system to provide a hands-on facility for teaching process control.

Core required courses are offered in both the fall and spring to help students who transition into the program from other disciplines or institutions and to allow students to pursue value-added experiences such as study abroad or 6-month cooperative internships with industry partners. 

Our program’s dedicated career services team helps our students discover these opportunities and guides them through the process of arranging their application materials and preparing for interviews.

Based on students’ self-reports at graduation, 70% participate in an internship or co-op program, and 60% take part in undergraduate research or study abroad. More than 90% of our students report landing a job or acceptance into graduate school upon graduation.

“I am most proud of the community of chemical engineers we created in Illinois,” Kenis said. “What speaks volumes is the number of faculty and teaching and classroom assistants who have been ranked as excellent by our students. They add important context and dimension to the curriculum, but most of all, they are invested in student success.”