Undergraduate Study in Chemical & Biological Engineering at Rensselaer

Coordinator of Undergraduate Studies: Prof. Joel Plawsky (plawsky@rpi.edu)

Objectives of the Undergraduate Curriculum

Alumni of the Howard P. Isermann Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering will within five years of graduation be:

  • gainfully employed in a professional capacity and promoting the responsible application of technology to enhance the common good.
  • preparing for leadership roles in society by furthering their proficiency in engineering practice or by preparing for professional practice in related disciplines via further graduate or professional study.

Learning Outcomes for the Chemical & Biological Engineering Program

By the completion of their undergraduate studies, students in the Chemical and Biological Engineering program are expected to have:

  • An ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering to engineering problems.
  • An ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data.
  • An ability to design systems, components, or processes to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability.
  • An ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams.
  • An ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems.
  • An understanding of professional and ethical responsibility.
  • An ability to communicate effectively with written, oral, and visual means.
  • The broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global and societal context.
  • A recognition of the need for and an ability to engage in life-long learning.
  • A knowledge of contemporary issues.
  • An ability to use modern engineering techniques, skills, and computing tools necessary for engineering practice.

Chemical Engineering Enrollments & BS Degrees Awarded

Enrollment per Year by Accumulated Credit Hours

BS Degrees

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The Chemical Engineering Program

The Chemical Engineering degree program at Rensselaer is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, http://www.abet.org.

The Howard P. Isermann Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering prepares students to enter their engineering practice dealing with chemical as well as physical processes to meet the challenges of the future. The curriculum, which builds on chemistry, biology, mathematics, basic sciences, and engineering science, culminates in professional applications in which theory is tempered by engineering art and economic principles. Through this curriculum, graduates are prepared equally well for professional practice or for advanced study.

Opportunities for creative and satisfying practice in chemical and biological engineering can be found in conception, design, control, or management of processes involving chemical and/or biochemical transformations. These processes range from the more conventional conversion of crude oil into petrochemicals and plastics, to the microbiological transformation of hardwood chips into specialty alcohols, or to the creation of semiconductor devices from silicon wafers. Diverse career choices exist not only in the chemical industry, but in virtually all processing industries, including agricultural, biotechnology, chemical, food, nuclear, semiconductor processing, and environmental operations. By emphasizing basic principles, the program prepares its graduates for positions spanning the spectrum of activities from research and development, to process and project engineering, to production, or to technical marketing.

The chemical engineering program comprises a minimum of 39 courses, which include three free electives and three area electives: one in advanced chemistry, one in advanced chemical engineering, and one in a nonchemical engineering area. On completion of three years of the baccalaureate program, the student may continue to the fourth year or be admitted to the professional program. While individual variations may be made in the course sequence in consultation with a faculty adviser, all listed courses and elective credits in the curricula must be satisfactorily completed to qualify for the specified degrees. The complete curriculum totals 132 credit hours. 

For details regarding course requirements please consult the course catalog

Co-terminal Degree Program

Co-Terminal Program: Co-Terminal BS/ME program is open only to current Rensselaer undergraduates.  It is an honors program in chemical engineering intended to provide top students with the opportunity to apply for admission to the master's program at the end of the junior year and complete both the BS and ME degrees with one additional year of study.  Co-terminal ME students are required to maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 in advanced courses used towards their graduate degree. This program is not intended for students wishing to pursue a PhD degree, but does not exclude them should they wish to pursue it. However, the department recommends that those students apply directly to a PhD program at RPI or elsewhere.

The minimum eligibility requirements to be considered for admission into the program are listed below. Meeting these requirements does not guarantee admission and the final decision for admission rests with the graduate admissions committee in the department:
Eligibility requirements:

  1. Two letters of recommendation:  Reference forms are available at http://www.rpi.edu/dept/admissions/resources/GraduateRecommendation.pdf  
  2. Statement of purpose and goals (1-2 pages), indicating the applicant's reasons for pursuing the Co-Terminal program and preparations and qualifications for graduate work
  3. A minimum average GPA of 3.5 in four core chemical engineering undergraduate courses: CHME 2010 (Material, Energy, and Entropy Balances); CHME 2020 (Energy, Entropy, and Equilibrium); CHME 4010 (Transport Phenomena I); and CHME 4030 (Chemical Process Dynamics and Control)

Professional Program

Students who, at the end of their third year, apply and are accepted to this program will complete ten additional courses beyond the baccalaureate degree and will be awarded the M.Eng. degree. This program is described in detail in the Master of Engineering program.