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Chemical engineers design and operate industrial processes that convert raw materials into valuable products. The need for more sophisticated products and sustainable processes means chemical engineers are in great demand.
Chemical Engineering at Cambridge
Our course concentrates on the scientific principles that underpin modern chemical and biochemical engineering. The aim is to produce graduates that meet the needs of today’s process industries by providing a thorough understanding of the subject, technical competence, and transferable skills. The underlying theory is complemented by a series of lectures and projects that teach process design and chemical product design.
We have strong links with industry. The course is supported by a consortium of 10 industrial companies which provide input on content and assist with teaching. These links also mean that there are opportunities for vacation placements with some of the world’s top companies.
Teaching and facilities
Our Department enjoys a reputation for excellence in its teaching and research, regularly topping national league tables. The Department moved to a new purpose-built building in 2016 that provides the highest quality teaching and research facilities.
Qualifications and accreditation
It’s possible to graduate with a BA degree after three years. However, virtually all students stay for the fourth year leading to the BA and MEng degrees (progression to the fourth year is dependent on satisfactory performance). The four-year course is accredited by the Institution of Chemical Engineers, meaning that after graduation you can apply for Chartered Engineer status once you have four years of relevant experience without taking further exams.
Within chemical engineering, there are many well-paid career opportunities. You might work as a field engineer, be part of a research team, or become a senior manager within industry. Chemical engineers also secure jobs outside the discipline because of their broad range of skills. About 50 per cent of our graduates go into the chemical, process and food industries; 20 per cent go into finance and management; and 15 per cent go into further education and research.
You’re taught primarily through lectures, which are supported by projects, laboratory classes, supervisions and coursework.
In a typical week, you attend 10 lectures and have two supervisions. You also undertake fortnightly projects.
Assessment is by written exams during the final term of each year, and coursework which makes an increasing contribution to your marks each year.
Year 1 (Part IA)
Your choice of route
Chemical engineers spend their first year studying either Engineering or Natural Sciences. These routes provide equally good preparation for becoming a chemical engineer, and are taken up by a similar number of students.
Year 2 (Part IB)
Introduction to core chemical engineering
From Year 2, you’re based within the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology. You study compulsory topics within five themes:
- fundamentals – fluid mechanics, mass and heat transfer, thermodynamics
- process operations – reactors, separators, biotechnology
- process systems – safety, economics
- mathematical methods – mathematics
- enabling topics – depending on your first-year subject, you have additional lectures and practicals on either chemistry or mechanical engineering
You also take laboratory classes and undertake regular assessed project work. Towards the end of the year, you perform the mechanical design of an item of process equipment such as a heat exchanger.
Year 3 (Part IIA)
The third year includes further compulsory topics within four themes:
- fundamentals – fluid mechanics, heat transfer, thermodynamics
- process operations – reactors, separators, bioprocessing, particle processing
- process systems – process dynamics and control, process synthesis, safety
- enabling topics – materials, statistics
After the written exams in the third term, you undertake a group project that lasts five weeks of full-time work to design a modern industrial process. You consider all aspects of engineering design
(including specification of equipment and control procedures), safety, environmental impact and economic assessment. The design project brings together all the taught subject matter whilst giving you the opportunity to work in a team on an open-ended problem..
Year 4 (Part IIB)
Choice of advanced topics
You undertake a project on chemical product design and take a compulsory paper on environmental aspects of chemical engineering.
You choose six further topics from a list of optional papers which changes every year to reflect the research interests of academic staff. Some are advanced chemical engineering topics - past examples have included:
- pharmaceutical engineering
- rheology and processing
- electrochemical engineering
- computational fluid dynamics
Some are broadening material topics from outside the discipline (past examples have included healthcare biotechnology, a foreign language, and entrepreneurship).In addition, you undertake a research project. This might involve experimental, theoretical and/or computational work. Some projects support ongoing Department research, while others are ‘blue sky’ investigations leading to new research programmes. Successful projects sometimes lead to students becoming authors of publications in scientific literature.
- All applicants to the University of Cambridge must submit an application to UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) by the relevant deadline.
- The Attestat o (polnom) Srednem Obshchem Obrazovanii (Certificate of Secondary Education) is not considered to be suitable preparation for a competitive application to the University of Cambridge. We strongly recommend that you undertake further study if you wish to apply for an undergraduate degree. Examples of the qualifications that would be considered suitable for admission to Cambridge are A Levels, the International Baccalaureate (IB), five or more Advanced Placement (AP) courses, or possibly the first year of an undergraduate degree at a university outside the UK. We recommend that you contact the College that you wish to apply to directly for further advice and guidance.
- IELTS – normally a minimum overall grade of 7.5, usually with 7.0 or above in each element.
- Cambridge English: Advanced – grade A or B.
- Cambridge English: Proficiency – grade A, B or C.
- Cambridge Commonwealth, European and International Trust
Your living expenses may be higher than for a Home student (eg if you stay in Cambridge/the UK during vacations). The minimum resources needed in Cambridge for the year (excluding tuition and College fees) are estimated to be approximately £10,080 in 2017-18 and £10,310 in 2018-19, depending on lifestyle (you should allow for increases in future years).