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What kind of questions should I be asking my councelor?

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Hello all, I am about to transfer to a university from a community college, and have been meeting with the counselor of this university.  What kind of questions should I be asking them.  I am unsure of whether I want to major in chemistry of Chemical Engineering.  Should I meet with the director of these departments?  What is the major difference between these two majors?  I know this is a randomly general questionm but which major would you recomend me to pursue?

Can you take classes in both disciplines before you make any life-altering decisions?

Remember also this is dominantly a Chemistry forum and responces will have a bias.

There's actually a couple chemical engineers (or studying it) on this forum, check the "Introduce Yourself" thread in the General Discussion forum.

Or click here:

Is your counselor a chemical engineer?  Does he teach at all?  Would he know that Calc 3 is not a corequisite of Pchem?   The courses you absoluetly have to take for your major are outlined in the really thick course catalog.  A good counselor will know what order you need to take them in (or, he'll at least read through the catalog before the meeting).  Outside of that are core courses (if your school prefers well-rounded students) and electives.  The electives are the fun part because these are what makes your school experience unique.  If your counselor is any good, he'll steer you towards electives that compliment your major and your interests.

I can't be biased against engineers, there's too many of them in my family.

Donaldson Tan:
I study chemical engineering. This is a link from my department website which explains clearly what chemical engineering is: http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/portal/page?_pageid=100,372291&_dad=portallive&_schema=PORTALLIVE

--- Quote ---This simulation exercise involves an evaporator plant whereby potassium nitrate (KNO3) solution is concentrated. Concentrating a beaker of solution in the laboratory involves mild heating with a
burnsen burner to evaporate the solvent. The solute remains in the solvent throughout the process and the evaporated solvent is discharged into the environment.

However, the same process cannot be emulated in an industrial chemical plant. An industrial chemical plant would need to concentrate tonnes and tonnes of solution, thus a lot of heat will be needed for the process. An efficient and economic mean of transferring heat to the solution is therefore important. Moreover, tonnes and tonnes of the evaporated solvent will be produced and cannot be discharged into the environment for two reasons. Firstly, the discharged solvent maybe reused and thus contributing to bringing down the cost of production. Secondly, the evaporated solvent maybe harmful to environment, therefore cannot be discharged beyond a legally restricted concentration.

In order to meet all this criteria, the process to concentrate the potassium nitrate solution is broken down into 4 unit operations: stirring, heat exchange, evaporation and condensation.

Stirring ensures uniform concentration of the feedstock.

Heat exchangers, unlike the burnsen burner, does not produce soot while heating the feedstock and at the same time facilitate energy integration.

Evaporation is carried out in a container to prevent unnecessary harmful discharge into the environment.

Condensation recovers the evaporated solvent and facilitate re-use or allow further chemical treatment to the solvent before discharging it into the environment.

--- End quote ---

The above quote came from my pilot plant report. It should give you an idea of what chemical engineers study and do. The technical nature of chemical engineering is best characterised by the unit operations, such as stirring, heat transfer, etc.

Chemical engineers seldom deal with high level chemistry, except chemical kinetics and catalysis. Even the so-called industrial chemistry modules which i take essentially cover chemical kinetics and reaction engineering, ie. design  and troubleshooting reactors.

I attached a picture (from my dept website) to show what the typical study themes that run through a chemical engineering undergraduate degree. it involves some chemistry, but essentially it's all physics and mathematics. however, strictly speaking, engineering still differs alot from physics. Engineers use models that produce results that agree with experimental data, although the model maybe fundementally wrong. eg. using perfect gas assumption on a liquid fluid. Physicists, on the hand, seek to explain the natural phenomena emperically.

Hope my description of chemical engineering proves helpful to you.


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