Surya Mallapragada

Surya Mallapragada

Iowa State University
Ames, IA
Surya Mallapragada
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Answers by Dr. Surya Mallapragada

Sukhada, congratulations on doing well on your 12th and the JEE. I have a chemical engineering background and if you are interested in chemistry and math, chemical engineering seems like a good fit for you. Regarding career options in chemical engineering, I tend to disagree with the advice that you have been receiving. Chemical engineering is a scaled-up version of the college chemistry that you have been exposed to.Chemical engineering is a very broad field that deals with making different substances, arranging from petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, food, advance materials, consumer products etc. So there are a wide range of industries and career options to choose with a degree in chemical engineering. And while some processes involve significant chemical hazards, am important part of the chemical engineering education involves safety. And depending on the sector you choose, the hazard levels involved will be different. 

Hope this helps. Good luck.

It is possible to major in chemistry as an undergraduate and become a chemical engineer, if you pursue a graduate degree in chemical engineering. Taking more calculus and math courses during your undergraduate study while pursuing a chemistry degree will help that transition. However, whether or not you want to pursue a graduate degree depends on what kind of career you want to pursue. With a graduate degree in chemical engineering, you will probably go into research and development. If that is not the direction you want to pursue, then you should try to get an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering.

Hope this helps


As a chemical engineer, you can work in a diversity of different fields- petrochemicals, commodity chemicals, food industry, semiconductor industry etc. to name a few. You can work in  a chemical plant as a process engineer, but you can also choose to work as a sales engineer, product engineer, in R&D etc. So there are a number of different kinds of opportunities available. And I am not sure about your comment about no chemical engineering option in India. You are clearly mistaken about that, as I studied chemical engineering in India, and there are several wonderful Universities and Institutes that offer degrees in chemical engineering. 

Lakshmi, please do not be swayed by uninformed opinions that chemical engineering is not for girls. If you love chemistry and math, chemical engineering is a very good career option for you. I grew up in India myself and went through the JEE system a while ago, and studied chemical engineering. And as a woman, I have had and continue to have a very rewarding career as a chemical engineer. I teach and conduct research at a University in the US, and about 30-40% of our chemical engineering students (out of a total of 700) are women. Most of our students, both men and women, go into industry and have vibrant careers. So there is no real rationale or basis behind the statement that chemical engineering is not for girls. 

In addition to grades, your SAT or ACT scores are important. If you have any significant extracurricular activities and/or leadership experiences, that would help as well to show the breadth of activities that you have been involved in, and to show that you are a well-rounded person. Good luck with your future career as a chemical engineer!


1) No, there are many different kinds of jobs that chemical engineers do. Some, like sales or research and development, do not require them to operate plants or work with machines. 2) Typically in a lab setting 3) No, typically not.