Can a Skinny Girl Work as a Chemical Engineer?

I am currently studying diploma in Chemical engineering. However, I’m constantly worried that as a skinny, underweight and short girl, I would not be able to cope with the physically demanding work of chemical engineering. Also, I may not even get through job interviews as the employers may feel that I am too weak for such work. In Singapore, even if one has a bachelor degree in chemical engineering, one usually has to begin as a chemical technician and do manual work in plants quite often. I am healthy and I can’t change my weight or size so I’m wondering whether a career in chemical engineering is suitable for me. I have heard advices of going into research or teaching but I want to work in the plants first before making the switch.

Secondly, how can I get interested in chemical engineering subjects? I have looked for information on the career of engineering and I like the job scope but I find it difficult to gain interest in what I am studying now like rotating equipments and thermodynamics. I can handle these subjects but I want to develop a passion for them so I can excel.

Lastly, it is not easy to get into chemical engineering degree course in Singapore university so if I can’t get in yet I’m still interested in chemical engineering related jobs, should I study environmental engineering ? or should I study applied chemistry?
I am quite interested in dealing with environmental problems too but many say that chemical engineers can do the job of environmental engineers so there are very few jobs for environmental engineers. I am not very interested in the job of a chemist but I will be able to move abound the chemical industry better with diploma in chem Eng and degree in chemistry.
posted by Antang, Singapore on March 29, 2012

Answer by Suniti Bidikar

Being skinny and short does not restrict one from working in the plants. When I started almost 33 years ago I was also skinny and may be weak physically(which I am still) but that did not hamper my chances. If one is fit one can undertake any job. Research and teaching also demands physical fitness. In chemical plants one doesnt have to lift weights which really needs manual strength. The job in plants is mostly to monitor processes, and with latest instrumentation this is almost like working in an office. Also I would suggest to join a organic chemical industry rather than inorganic, something like specialty chemicals. To get hired the first thing required is clear chem engg concepts, the basics. There is a myth about chem engg that it is based on chemistry. I would say the basis is physical chemistry, but it is highly mathematical. Secondly to develop passion one needs to go a little deep in any subject. For diploma the real chem engg subjects like mass transfer, transport phenomenon, reaction engg are not taught in depth. Unless one learns these subjects in depth one cannot get the real feel. My advice is try to get into degree . It is easier in India if you can afford to come and stay . Environmental engg has very little of hard core chem engg and it really doesn't need a specialist like chemical engineer. Chemical engineering has many facets like R@D, PILOT PLANT SCALE UP, PROCESS DESIGN, PROCESS ENGINEERING DESIGN etc and one should choose depending on the aptitude. Applied chemistry is not chem engg. Try to get into a degree course. Regards, suniti