Undergraduate Study in Chemical & Biological Engineering at Rensselaer

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

Program Educational Objectives of the Undergraduate Curriculum

The Howard P. Isermann Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering bachelor’s degree program is designed to prepare students for continued learning and successful careers in industry, government, academia, and consulting. Within a few years of graduation department alumni are expected to:

  • be gainfully employed in a professional capacity and promoting the responsible application of technology to enhance the common good.

  • be 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.

Students may achieve these objectives through completion of either the baccalaureate program leading to the B.S. degree or the professional program leading to the M.Eng. degree. Both programs are described in detail in the Programs section of this catalog.

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

Student Outcomes of the Undergraduate Curriculum

Students who successfully complete this program will be able to demonstrate:

  • an ability to identify, formulate, and solve complex engineering problems by applying principles of engineering, science, and mathematics

  • an ability to apply engineering design to produce solutions that meet specified needs with consideration of public health, safety, and welfare, as well as global, cultural, social, environmental, and economic factors

  • an ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences

  • an ability to recognize ethical and professional responsibilities in engineering situations and make informed judgments, which must consider the impact of engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental, and societal contexts

  • an ability to function effectively on a team whose members together provide leadership, create a collaborative and inclusive environment, establish goals, plan tasks, and meet objectives

  • an ability to develop and conduct appropriate experimentation, analyze and interpret data, and use engineering judgment to draw conclusions

  • an ability to acquire and apply new knowledge as needed, using appropriate learning strategies.

Enrollment and Graduation Data

    Enrollments Degrees Awarded
    1 2 3 4 UG Total Grad Total Bachelors Masters Doctorates
13/14 FT 77 96 84 77 334 77 66 3 13
PT           3
14/15 FT 93 92 95 95 375 69 74 1 17
PT           4
15/16 FT 97 108 99 103 407 61 82 9 14
PT           7
16/17 FT 94 110 103 116 423 65 94 2 12
PT           3
17/18 FT 78 113 117 126 434 65 109 4 15
PT           5
18/19 FT 67 77 116 126 386 69      
PT           0

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 and the website for The Arch.

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.