Big news came out of the ChemE program at Lehigh this week. The official name of the department has been changed to “Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering”. Obviously, this is a very important for the school and program, and speaks to the changes that are occurring currently in the field of chemical engineering. Here is an excerpt from an email from the head of the department,
“As you all know, the Chemical engineering profession has been greatly influenced by the progress and growing importance of the biological sciences within the core of Chemical Engineering. This is reflected also in the fact that ABET has been requiring a biology class for CHE majors since 2004. Additionally, our graduates are increasingly hired by pharmaceutical and biomedical/biochemical companies and routinely require use of and expertise in biomolecular sciences. Indeed, chemical engineers are devoted to accomplishing “molecular transformations” and these naturally extend to “biomolecular transformation” as well. The importance of the biomolecular sciences is also reflected in our faculty whose research profiles are increasingly focusing on biomolecular research problems and grand challenges.”
Recently, there has been a real surge toward biology in the field of chemical engineering. With advances in technology and understanding the world, scientists and researchers must inherently adapt to face new problems presented to them. The biomedical sector has been rapidly growing the past few years. Pharmaceutical and biochemical companies are quickly expanding and constantly producing products, vaccines, and medicines that improve the well-being of humans. It’s great that Lehigh is also adapting the professional landscape of chemical engineering because it will ultimately benefit the professors and students. Nearly all of the recently hired professors concentrate their research on biological applications. Hopefully, the name change will help professors receive more national recognition and be able to make influential discoveries. Check out the link here: http://www.che.lehigh.edu/blog/faculty/
In regard to the students, the department adapting its focus will help us students be more prepared for a career in the field. This will help when applying for jobs or graduate school. Companies or grad programs want students that are relevant to the current landscape and have a strong foundation of chemical engineering. We talked about an interesting topic in ChE 179 last week related to chemical engineering education. An article in the latest edition of AIChE talked about how well chemical engineering students were prepared for the workplace. Like Lehigh, many schools across the country are shifting focus to biological applications and many new professors earn their doctorate in bio topics. The article questioned if students were not receiving an adequate basis of knowledge for traditional chemical engineering ideas such as unit operations and catalysis. Several different companies were interviewed about what was most important for them, and all except a pharmaceutical firm ranked biological sciences low in importance. The article seemed quite biased though, and only focused on traditional sectors. In any case, I’m excited to be in the center of such an interesting time in the field of chemical engineering. Coincidentally, my research this summer will be heavily focused on biology, namely cellular engineering. I’m looking forward to hearing what students from other parts of the country and professors at UMass think about this topic.