Elisabeth Drake

Elisabeth Drake

Title
Emeritus Staff
Organization
MIT
Location
MA
Elisabeth Drake
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Biography

Elisabeth Drake is currently Emeritus Staff at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Laboratory for Energy and the Environment. Dr. Drake's work focused on development of sustainable approaches to world energy usage. Although she is officially retired, she still team teaches a graduate course at MIT on Sustainable Energy and participates in a variety of professional activities relating to engineering and environmental issues..

Answers by Dr. Elisabeth Drake

Hi Leila!  If you are interested in chemistry and physics and their engineering applications, you will learn the math necessary for pursuing chemical engineering.  Right now, it is important to get a solid academic background so you can get into a good college.  You will have lots of time to decide whether chemical engineering is your passion - or whether something else might fit your interests better in a few years. Make sure you also take biology since a lot of chemical engineering now involves biochemical applications.

Is there any chance you might be able to get a Summer job somehow related to chemical engineering?  Also, do you know any chemical engineers?   Asked them about their jobs and what they do. If you like what you hear, some hard work is ahead - but also many opportunities for a great career!   Best wishes,  Lis                                                  

Hi Marwa! 

Thanks for a good question, but you didn’t say enough about what you really would like to do in the future.  If you are interested in pharmacy, then a Master of Science would be more useful.  (I don’t know whether this alone would qualify you as a pharmacist, but it certainly would give you a good background for taking any professional license exams.)  If you think you would like to keep your options open for a broader range of careers, then engineering management might be the better alternative.  I suggest you talk with some of your professors about this also, since they already know your strengths.  And know that you will always keep learning as you move forward in any career, and will get to know your own interests better as well. 

Many good wishes!  

Lis Drake

Dear Swarnalaxmi, I had the same questions you raise when I was trying to decide about what major to take in college. I liked chemistry but didnt want to go into a pure research field (where a doctorate is usually required for professional stature). My choice was finally based on what field would both match my interests and give me the most options for the future. I picked chemical engineering and have always been glad that I did. Today, there are increasing numbers of women in all the branches of chemical engineering and the range of activities open to chemical engineers is wide. Chemical engineering was a great background for all sorts of things as my interests and opportunities changed over my career. I worked for six years after getting my B.S. and then went back to school and got a doctorate in chemical engineering so I could move ahead in the consulting industry. Chemical engineers work in bioengineering, energy, environmental engineering, as well as in education and the traditional chemical industry. With globalization, there are great chemical engineering jobs worldwide. If you like solving real world problems, I cant think of a better preparation than chemical engineering the chemistry piece gives it a unique edge over other engineering fields. It takes work, but Ive always found interesting new challenges and have had a lot of fun along the way. With many good wishes! Lis

Dear Kayla, With your interests in math, chemistry, and biology, you seem to be well suited to become a chemical engineer. Chemical Engineering is a very broad profession (e.g., bioengineering, environmental engineering, computer-aided design, new energy technologies, etc.) and has lots of interesting directions to pursue as you move forward through college. During the first couple of years in college, it is pretty easy to change majors as you find some courses that you like more than others and talk with students who are junior and seniors. I remember being insecure about studying chemical engineering in college, but once I got there I found that I could do the work if I wasnt afraid to ask questions when I didnt understand something. (I thought at first that people would think I was stupid then I learned that they just thought I was interested and curious.) And if you can get summer jobs or internships that are in areas you like, they will let you know a lot about the post-college professional options. So best wishes, and know that most of us dont have detailed knowledge of where we are going just a knowledge of the direction of interest, the willingness to do some work, and the common sense to make good choices when new options appear. I have never regretted my choice of chemical engineering as a profession! Lis

Dear Emy, Twenty years ago, most chemical engineers did not study biology! Have you taken a course in biochemistry yet? If you love that as much as chemistry, then you know that you will enjoy a career in food engineering. As biological engineering became an important field twenty years ago, some chemical engineering programs incorporated biological engineering into their curriculum. Some universities started separate programs in biological engineering where chemical engineering techniques were applied to biological processing and production operations. If the university you are attending has both programs, you probably will find the biological engineering program best suited to food engineering. Perhaps you can talk to some of the students who are already in these programs to get a better idea of the content. I am sure you will find lots of excitement and rewards in pursuing any engineering career there are so many challenges and opportunities available if you have a good fundamental education! Many good wishes, Lis