Learning About Chemical Engineering

I have a passion in science especially physics. I dreamed of becoming an inventor when i was small. Next year i will be going to the university and the subjects i learn in school now are physics, math and chemistry without biology. I want to do something related to the environment but wider so i am thinking of che eng. I heard that it is more to physics than chemistry, is that true?(i do think memorizing chemical equations is boring). I prefer designing and problem solving work.
Can i know what che eng students learn? Are che engineers always working in the lab? Is their job dangerous or bad for health? Can they work as material engineers too? Or are there any other courses that suit me better? Thank you for any answer or suggestion.
posted by Jane, Malaysia on May 25, 2014

Answer by Dr. Sunita Satyapal

Hi Jane,

Engineering is a versatile field and if you like physics and math instead of memorizing chemical formulas, there are still jobs in chemical engineering that may interest you.  Chemical processing and chemical manufacturing related jobs typically involve more organic or inorganic chemistry but can also include reactor design and processing which involves math and physics.  If you’re designing instruments or involved in other fabrication processes there may be less chemistry involved. 

Since chemistry is often considered the ‘central science’ it’s probably good to have a basic understanding of it, regardless of what type of engineer you’d like to be.  If you really dislike chemistry and don’t want to pursue chemical engineering, then other options like mechanical engineering or electrical engineering may be of interest.  My advice is to take as much math, physics and chemistry to get a solid foundation (along with your engineering classes).  Physical chemistry might be more of interest to you than organic chemistry if you don’t like memorizing formulas. 

As for health hazards, it’s all about ensuring the proper handling of equipment and chemicals regardless of the job you have.  Most companies are very responsible about providing proper controls and conditions for chemical related work.  As for your question about if you have to always work in the lab- the answer is no. There are many examples where engineers do theoretical calculations and cost analysis in addition to designing processes or systems rather than actually carrying out the experiments themselves.  Often you work as a team, especially in large companies.  You might also want to search online for “what do chemical engineers do?” to find a lot more detail that may give you some ideas.