Caltech’s Chemical Engineering option prepares its students for the future, whether that be furthering research and development in industry, or continuing their studies at the graduate level. This is accomplished through a mixture of interdisciplinary classes that expose students to almost every field of science (chemistry, physics, mathematics, and biology). The inherently computational nature of chemical engineering shines through courses’ active use of computational software such as Python, Matlab,Mathematica and COMSOL for modelling and data analysis. At the same time, classes and independent projects also focus on systematic analysis and problem solving, incorporating social, economic, environmental, and of course, technical constraints to tackle the open-ended challenges of today and tomorrow with new and creative solutions.
The option’s curriculum begins in students’ second year and continues through their third year with fundamental studies in heat transfer, fluid mechanics, mass transfer, thermodynamics, reactor design, and chemical kinetics. Upon building a common, foundational toolkit, chemical engineers then specialize in one of five different tracks: (biomolecular, sustainability, process, materials, or computational) to advance studies in specific realms of chemical engineering. The option also offers exposure to design elements through three distinct lab courses that entail hands-on, open-ended projects relevant to current research so students can innovatively apply chemical engineering concepts. In their fourth year, students can also pursue a senior thesis to explore research topics under the mentorship of a chemical engineering professor and gain experience in proposing a research plan, applying relevant lab techniques, and presenting results through an oral presentation and a written thesis. More information on the option requirements and individual tracks can be found on: https://tinyurl.com/2kxfnnva.
The option’s breadth enables its students to take on a wide variety of fields upon graduation, such as the manufacturing of both organic products (polymers, films, hydrocarbon fuels, and pharmaceuticals) and inorganic products (semiconductors and ceramics), as well as the development of sustainable technologies (energy efficiency, pollution management, climate mitigation, biofuels) and novel biotechnologies (enzyme engineering, cell culturing, food manufacturing), in industrial, consulting, and academic settings.
First-year students normally take the core courses in mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology (Ma 1 abc, Ph 1 abc, Ch1 ab, and Bi 1), as well as general chemistry laboratory (Ch3a [or Ch 3x]).
Sophomores take ordinary differential equations (Ma 2), wave physics (Ph 2a), and organic chemistry laboratory (Ch/ChE 9). They also take the second-year organic chemistry course Ch 41 ab, and the basic chemical engineering courses (ChE 15, ChE 62, and ChE 63 ab). ChE 15 may be taken in the first or second years. The third-year applied and computational mathematics course (ACM 95 ab) may be taken in the junior or sophomore years.
Undergraduate research is emphasized, and students are encouraged, even in the first year, to participate in research with the faculty. In order to obtain a basic intellectual background, all students take courses in the fundamentals of chemical engineering through the junior year. During the junior and senior years, students diversify into one of five tracks (biomolecular, environmental, materials, process systems or computational), where they pursue concentrated study in their chosen area of chemical engineering. An optional senior thesis provides an opportunity to pursue independent research and design in lieu of one of the senior laboratories.
Attention is called to the fact that any student whose gradepoint average is less than 1.9 at the end of an academic year in the subjects listed under the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering may, at the discretion of the faculty in this division, be refused permission to continue the work in this option.
ChE Option Requirements
- Ma 2, Ph 2 a, Ch/ChE 9, ChE 15, Ch 21 ab †, Ch 41 ab, ChE 62, ChE 63 ab, Ch/ChE 91 (or En/Wr 84), ACM 95 ab, ChE 101, ChE 103 abc, ChE 105, ChE 126, and one of [Ec 111, BEM 102, or BEM 103]1.
- Completion of a track (biomolecular, sustainability, process systems, materials or computational), each consisting of at least 72 units of science or engineering courses. Students should inform the executive officer of their track choice by the beginning of the spring quarter of the sophomore year by providing a planned schedule for completion of all degree requirements. Requirements for the tracks are as follows.
- Biomolecular track: BE/ChE 163, Ch/Bi 110ab, [ChE 130 or ChE 90 c], and additional units of bioengineering or biochemical engineering electives or approved related courses.3,4
- Sustainability track: two of [ChE/ESE/ME/MS 111, ESE 101, ESE 102, ESE 103], one of [ChE 128 ChE 90 c, Ge 114 a], and additional units of 100 level ESE electives, 100 level EST electives or approved related courses.3,4,5
- Process systems track: ChE 118, ChE 120, [ChE 128 or
ChE 90 c], and additional units of engineering electives,
courses from the other tracks, or approved related
- Materials track: [ChE 128 or ChE 90 c]; one course on materials synthesis or processing selected from [Ch 102, Ch 117, Ch/ChE 1472, ChE 1152, or MS 133]; at least one course on the physical basis of structure and properties selected from [Ch 120, ChE/Ch 1482, MS 115, MS/APh 1222, MS 131, or MS 132]; and additional units of chemical engineering, materials science, or applied physics elective courses selected from [ChE/Ch 1552, ChE/Ch164, ChE/Ch 165, APh 109, APh 114 ab, any MS course]or approved related courses.3,4
- Computational track: ACM/IDS 104, ChE 141, at least one course sequence from [Ch 121 ab; BE/ChE 163 & BE/CS/CNS/Bi 19a; ESE 101 & ESE 136; Ae 232 ab; or ChE 90 abc], and additional units from ChE 142 or approved courses in IDS, ACM, CS or related options.3
- Passing grades must be earned in all courses required by the Institute and the option. None of the courses satisfying option requirements may be taken pass/fail (except when courses are only available P/F)
- Passing grades must be earned in a total of 486 units, including courses listed above.
† Ph 12 b may substitute for Ch 21 a; Ch 24 may substitute for Ch 21b.
1 The 9 units of Ec 11 or BEM 103 partially satisfy the Institute requirements in humanities and social sciences. BEM 102 does NOT count for Institute core social science course.
2 Course is not typically offered every academic year. Given in alternate years.
3 No more than 18 units of [ChE 90ab or ChE 80] may count as track electives.
4 ChE 118 and/or ChE 120 may be elected provided the design project undertaken contains a significant component relevant to the track.
5 students in the sustainability track are encouraged to take one policy-related course [BEM/Ec/ESE 119 or ME/EE/EST 117] as a track elective.
ChE Typical Course Schedule
|Units per term|
|Ma 2||Ordinary Differential Equations||9||-||-|
|Ph 2 a||Sophomore Physics: Waves||9||-||-|
|Ch/ChE 9||Chemical Synthesis and Characterization||-||-||9|
|for Chemical Engineering|
|Ch 41 ab||Organic Chemistry||9||9||-|
|ChE 62||Separation Processes||-||9||-|
|ChE 63 ab||Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics||9||-||9|
|ACM 95 ab||Intro. Methods of Applied Math.||-||12||12|
|ChE 103 abc||Transport Phenomena||9||9||9|
|ChE 101||Chemical Reaction Engineering||-||9||-|
|ChE 105||Dynamics and Control of Chemical Systems||-||-||9|
|Ch/ChE 91||Scientific Writing||3||-||-|
|ChE track electives 1||9||9||9|
|Ec 11 (or BEM 103 2nd term)||9||-||-|
|ChE 126||Chemical Engineering Lab||9||-||-|
|ChE track electives 1||18||18||9|
|Ch 21 ab||Physical Chemistry||9||9||-|
1 See option requirements.