Undergraduate Program

Chemical Engineering

Graduates of the Chemical Engineering Program achieve success in one or more of the following within a few years of graduation:

  1. Careers in industries that require technical expertise in chemical engineering.
  2. Leadership positions in industries that require technical expertise in chemical engineering.
  3. Graduate-level studies in chemical engineering and related technical or scientific fields (e.g. biomedical or environmental engineering, materials science).
  4. Careers outside of engineering that take advantage of an engineering education, such as business, management, finance, law, medicine, or education.
  5. A commitment to life-long learning and service within their chosen profession.

Upon graduation, we expect our students to have:

  1. an ability to identify, formulate, and solve complex engineering problems by applying principles of engineering, science, and mathematics
  2. an ability to apply engineering design to produce solutions that meet specified needs with consideration of public health, safety, and welfare, as well as global, cultural, social, environmental, and economic factors
  3. an ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences
  4. an ability to recognize ethical and professional responsibilities in engineering situations and make informed judgments, which must consider the impact of engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental, and societal contexts
  5. an ability to function effectively on teams whose members together provide leadership, create a collaborative and inclusive environment, establish goals, plan tasks, and meet objectives
  6. an ability to develop and conduct appropriate experimentation, analyze and interpret data, and use engineering judgment to draw conclusions
  7. an ability to acquire and apply new knowledge as needed, using appropriate learning strategies.

Columbia’s program in chemical engineering leading to the B.S. degree is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, http://www.abet.org.

The first and sophomore years of study introduce general principles of science and engineering and include a broad range of subjects in the humanities and social sciences. Although the program for all engineering students in these first two years is to some extent similar, there are a few important differences for chemical engineering majors. Those wishing to learn about, or major in, chemical engineering should take the professional elective CHEN E1000 Chemical engineering for humanity in term I. This course provides a broad overview of modern chemical engineering. It can also possibly serve as a technical elective for other engineering majors. Those wishing to major in chemical engineering should also take ENGI E1006 Introduction to computing for engineering and applied scientists in term II. Chemical engineering majors receive additional instruction in CHEN E3020 Analysis of chemical engineering problems, and throughout the major core curriculum, on the use of computational methods to solve chemical engineering problems.

The table spells out the core course requirements, which are split between courses emphasizing engineering science and those emphasizing practical and/or professional aspects of the discipline. Throughout, skills required of practicing engineers are developed (e.g., writing and presentation skills, competency with computers).

The table also shows that a significant fraction of the junior-senior program is reserved for electives, both technical and nontechnical. 21 points (7 courses) of technical electives are included in the senior and senior-year requirements. Technical electives are science and/or technology based and feature quantitative analysis. Generally, technical electives must be 3000-level or above but there are a few exceptions including: PHYS UN1403, PHYS UN2601, BIOL UN2005, BIOL UN2006, BIOL UN2501, and CHEM UN2444. A full list of approved elective courses in each category can be found on the departmental website or obtained from the departmental advisers. The technical electives are subject to the following constraints:

  • 1 Thermodynamics Elective: One technical elective must fall with in the category “thermodynamics electives”: Chemical engineering courses with 50% or more content related to thermodynamics. Examples include: CHAP 4120, CHEN E4650, CHEN E4880.
  • 1 Transport Elective: One technical elective must fall within the category “transport electives”: Chemical engineering courses with 50% or more content related to transport phenomena (fluid mechanics, heat transfer or mass transfer). Examples include: CHEN E4150, CHEN E4201, CHEN E4600, CHEN E4630.
  • 1 Chemical Engineering Elective: One upper-level technical course with the designator BMCH, CHEN, CHEE, CHAP, or MECH with significant engineering content.
  • 2 SEAS Electives outside Chemical Engineering: Two upper-level technical course with significant engineering content.
  • 2 Advanced Science Electives: The remaining two technical elective courses must comprise "advanced science" coursework, which includes the natural sciences and certain engineering coursework. At least one of these courses must be taken outside of SEAS (e.g., in a science department at Columbia). Qualifying engineering courses are determined by Chemical Engineering department advisers.

The junior-senior technical electives provide the opportunity to explore new, interesting areas beyond the core requirements of the degree. Often, students satisfy the technical electives by taking courses from another SEAS department in order to obtain a minor from that department. Alternately, you may wish to take courses in several new areas, or perhaps to explore familiar subjects in greater depth, or you may wish to gain experience in actual laboratory research. Up to 6 points of CHEN E3900: Undergraduate research project may be counted toward the technical elective content. (Note that if more than 3 points of research are pursued, an undergraduate thesis is required.)

The undergraduate concentrations are a way for students to explore a subject area in modern chemical engineering in depth through their selection of technical elective courses. To fulfill a concentration, the student must complete any combination of four courses (12 points total) from the list of suggested courses in that subject area. Concentration areas are: Climate, Environment, and Energy Solutions, Biotechnology and Biopharmaceuticals, Concentration in Data and Computational Science, Concentration in Advanced Materials. More information on courses satisfying the requirements for each concentration can be found on the departmental website.

The program details discussed above apply to undergraduates who are enrolled at Columbia as first-years and declare the chemical engineering major in the sophomore year. However, the chemical engineering program is designed to be readily accessible to participants in any of Columbia’s Combined Plans and to transfer students. In such cases, the guidance of one of the departmental advisers in planning your program is required (contact information for the departmental UG advisers is listed on the departmental website.

Requirements for a Minor in Chemical Engineering

For more information click here.