Chemical Engineers combine a sound background in fundamental understanding of science and mathematics with highly-developed problem-solving skills to improve existing processes or methods, or to implement new ones. Chemical Engineers are distinguished from physical scientists such as chemists by their training in the "engineering method": the use of heuristics to cause the best change in a poorly understood situation within the available resources.
Chemical Engineers design, analyse, optimize and control processing operations, or guide others who perform these functions, in industry, government, universities or private practice. Most materials encountered in daily life have been impacted by Chemical Engineering at some stage. Chemical Engineers will continue to be in demand for many exciting new developments over the next few decades.
Current and future activity areas include:
- Energy: conservation; renewable and non-renewable resources; fuel cells; hydrogen economy.
- Materials: petrochemicals; biochemicals and foods; nanomaterials; consumer goods; pulp and paper; polymers; pharmaceuticals; etc.
- Environment: pollution prevention; pollution control; climate change mitigation; recycling; environmental safety and regulations; etc.
In a world faced with growing shortages of non-renewable resources and a finite limit on the amounts of renewable resources, persons wishing to use their talents to optimize the recovery or utilization of matter and energy will find Chemical Engineering a challenging and satisfying career, one which will place them in enviable positions with respect to the availability of employment opportunities. In addition to technical positions, Chemical Engineers often move into managerial functions within their companies. Traditionally, significant numbers of women enter Chemical Engineering and this trend continues.
Waterloo offers the student a first-rate opportunity to obtain a sound, relevant background in the discipline of Chemical Engineering. The Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Waterloo is one of the largest and most active departments in North America. There are 33 full-time faculty, each of whom specializes in a particular sub-field through research and consulting activities, thereby bringing depth as well as breadth to the instruction and professional development of students.
Chemical Engineering at Waterloo is a co-operative education program and offers many advantages:
- an opportunity through work terms to gain exposure to a variety of job-related experiences within Chemical Engineering
- work term salaries effectively reduce the costs associated with university education
- Waterloo graduates receive favourable recognition from employers for their work term experiences
- work terms can offer an opportunity to travel through a worldwide network of co-op employers
- academic terms become more meaningful and relevant against a background of work term related experience
THE WATERLOO CHEMICAL ENGINEERING CURRICULUM
A Curriculum for the 21st Century
The curriculum offers courses in life science and material science, to provide the fundamentals required for future careers in the biotechnology or nanotechnology areas. There are four technical elective courses that can be taken to either specialize in an area of particular interest or to build a strong general background for maximum career flexibility.
The main emphasis in the first and second year is on courses in science and mathematics which provide the foundations upon which engineering skills can be built. The upper-year core and elective courses assume and require this background.
Engineering is both a quantitative and an applied discipline, which requires a strong mathematical ability. Courses in Calculus, Algebra, Engineering Computation, Differential Equations, Engineering Economics, and Statistics help develop this ability. More specialized Engineering Mathematics courses extend into the third year.
To perform successfully, the Chemical Engineer must be able to design, analyse and control processes to produce useful and desirable products from less valuable raw materials in an efficient, economic and socially responsible way. The knowledge and skills essential for achieving these goals are developed in the core Chemical Engineering courses taken mainly in the third and fourth years (e.g., in fluid mechanics, heat and mass transfer, thermodynamics, reactor design, biotechnology, process control, process and equipment design). Most of these courses are a mixture of theory and practice. Computer simulations and hands-on laboratory experiences are used in several courses to reinforce the theoretical principles.
Students in the fourth year complete a group project in direct collaboration with one of their professors. These projects allow students to focus on topics and industries of special interest for their career goals. Numerous Canadian companies also sponsor projects, reinforcing the bridge between academic and work term experience. There are opportunities to compete in national and international design competitions.
In the third and fourth years, students select technical elective courses to further develop their understanding of, and ability to use, engineering principles applied to important Canadian industrial sectors. Many of these electives can be taken to fulfill Faculty Option requirements, or to focus on an area of particular interest such as polymer processing, biotechnology, analysis and control, or environment. Courses from other departments in Engineering and the University are available as electives.
An important component of the development of a professional engineer, which receives emphasis throughout the entire four-year curriculum, is frequent practice in learning to communicate technical results clearly, accurately, and effectively to others. Written practice is provided in the requirement for co-op work term reports which are graded by faculty. Written and oral report requirements in laboratory and other courses provide additional practice opportunities.
ACCELERATED MASTER'S PROGRAM IN CHEMICAL ENGINEERING
Provision is made for outstanding students to pursue an Accelerated Master's Program. This program provides a quicker route to the Master of Applied Science (MASc) degree. Admission is normally granted to qualified students possessing a consistently good cumulative academic record at the end of the 3A term. See Accelerated Master's Program in Engineering for more details.
A total of six Complementary Studies courses must be taken, consisting of five one-term elective courses (CSEs) in non-technical areas (that is, outside the engineering, sciences, and mathematics disciplines) and a core course in engineering economics. This requirement is organized on a Faculty basis and is detailed elsewhere in this Engineering section. If some Complementary Studies Electives are satisfied online or from other institutions on Letters of Permission, each term's minimum course load must be maintained by substituting an approved "free" elective (technical or non-technical).
A number of Faculty or University Designated Options available to Engineering students are listed and described elsewhere in this Engineering section. Students who satisfy the option requirements (usually seven or eight courses) will have the appropriate designation shown on their transcript.
Minors are sequences of courses, usually totalling ten, which are arranged in conjunction with another department outside of Engineering, such as Economics, Biology, Psychology, etc. and lead to an appropriately designated degree. Approval from both Chemical Engineering and the other department is required.
Usually students must take extra courses to complete a Minor or a Designated Option. Students in Chemical Engineering are most frequently interested in the Management Sciences Option, the Environmental Engineering Option, the Biomechanics Option, the Statistics Option and the Water Resources Option.