Chemical engineers translate processes developed in the lab into practical applications for the commercial production of products and then work to maintain and improve those processes. They rely on the main foundations of engineering: math, physics, and chemistry (though biology is playing an increasing role). The main role of chemical engineers is to design and troubleshoot processes for the production of chemicals, fuels, foods, pharmaceuticals, and biologicals, just to name a few. They are most often employed by large-scale manufacturing plants to maximize productivity and product quality while minimizing costs.
The aerospace, automotive, biomedical, electronic, environmental, medical, and military industries seek the skills of chemical engineers in order to help develop and improve their technical products, such as:
- Ultra-strong fibers, fabrics, and adhesives for vehicles.
- Bio-compatible materials for implants and prosthetics.
- Films for optoelectronic devices.
Chemical engineers work in almost every industry and affect the production of almost every article manufactured on an industrial scale.
Typical Job Tasks
- Ensuring compliance with health, safety, and environmental regulations.
- Conducting research into improved manufacturing processes.
- Designing and planning equipment layout.
- Incorporating safety procedures for working with dangerous chemicals.
- Monitoring and optimizing the performance of production processes.
- Estimating production costs.
- Chemical engineers use analytical, problem-solving, and deductive reasoning skills to determine why a design does not work as planned and to troubleshoot to find a solution that does.
- Math skills are important, such as using calculus and other advanced mathematics techniques to model flow parameters.
- Interpersonal skills and teamwork are required, especially when identifying and solving problems between people in production and manufacturing and when working with technicians and mechanics who turn the chemical engineer’s designs into reality.
Entry-level chemical engineers typically work under the supervision of more senior engineers, especially before they earn their license. They may advance to supervising teams of technicians or other management positions. Moving into technical sales or sales engineering is also a possibility.
Original content at acs.org