All first-year engineers basically have the same schedule for their freshman year; Calculus, Chem, English, etc. These general education classes provide a basis for more complex and challenging classes, while introducing students to what a college class is truly like. During sophomore year, engineers are thrown to the wolves, as each discipline breaks up into its respective department and students begin their true track toward a degree. The chemical engineering department is no exception.
The typical fall semester course load for a ChemE is ChE 31, CHM 31, Calc 3, and Physics 22 with lab. It’s obviously very math and science oriented, which is expected. I arrived at Lehigh with AP credit, so I took Calc 3 last fall and ChE 44 (usually sophomore spring) last spring. Therefore, I have the before mentioned schedule with CHM 110 (organic) substituted for Calc. I love the challenge and ideals of science and math classes, and this semester has not been a disappointment.
The toughest part of my schedule is also, strangely, the most interesting. I have three labs a week, two of which require work outside of the lab. The work is extremely time-consuming but it’s exciting to physically work with concepts taught in class. It really helps to understand a concept by holding it in your hands, rather than reading it off a page. I think I’d enjoy doing research someday, so these labs are a great introduction in working with equipment and mastering common experimental procedures.
ChE 31 (Material Balances) is the typical first Chemical Engineering course taken by undergrads. I’m at an advantage because I already took Fluid Mechanics, which operates on similar principles as ChE 31. So far, ChE 31 has focused on mass and molar balances in systems. Basically, when material enters a system, it must exit in the same mass or molar quantity, or be accounted for in a reaction. The material that we study go through reactions, compression and evaporation among several other processes. The ideas of this class establish a foundation for all other ChemE classes and introduce the principle of [Accumulation=Input+Generation-Output-Consumption]. I’m looking forward to more complex problems and applying them to the real world. This semester, as a whole, proves to be challenging, but I know the concepts being taught will be instrumental for later classes and an eventual career.