Chemical Engineering Course Outline
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.
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 engineering
You’re assessed on these topics at the end of the year by four three-hour written exams.
You also take laboratory classes on fluid mechanics 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)
Continuation of core chemical engineering
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
You perform assessed project work throughout the year, and sit four three-hour written exams at the start of the third term.
After the written exams, you undertake a design project that lasts five weeks of full-time work. This project is carried out in groups and concerns the design of a modern industrial process. You take into account all aspects of engineering design, including specification of equipment and control procedures, and consider safety aspects, environmental impact and economic performance. 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 advanced 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
You also choose a ‘broadening material’ paper on a topic that’s useful to chemical engineers without being part of 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 research activities within the Department, while others are ‘blue sky’ investigations leading to new research programmes. Several are sponsored by interested companies and successful projects sometimes lead to students becoming authors of publications in scientific literature.
For further information about studying Chemical Engineering at the University of Cambridge see the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology website.