May 28, 2022, 09:35:12 PM
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Topic: BS Chemical Engineering a good springboard for grad studes in Physical Chem?  (Read 14100 times)

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Offline edwinksl

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Hello all,

I would like to ask if taking a BS in Chemical Engineering is a good way for me to further my graduate studies in Physical Chemistry. Or is taking a BS in Chemistry better? It seems quite a significant of the things one learns in Chemical Engineering is related to Physical Chemistry anyway. Thanks for your time.

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40% of the academic/research staff in my department are physical chemists, not chemical engineers. Although physical chemistry is related to many areas in chemical engineering, many areas in physical chemistry are not related to chemical engineering. Eventually, the admission criteria depends on the chemistry department. I know chemical engineering departments at many universities accept chemistry graduates into their PhD program, but I am not sure if chemistry departments accept chemical engineering graduates into their PhD program.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2006, 09:34:14 AM by geodome »
"Say you're in a [chemical] plant and there's a snake on the floor. What are you going to do? Call a consultant? Get a meeting together to talk about which color is the snake? Employees should do one thing: walk over there and you step on the friggin� snake." - Jean-Pierre Garnier, CEO of Glaxosmithkline, June 2006

Offline Dude

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My observations are that if you are absolutely sure you want to go to graduate school in Physical Chemistry, take Physics as an undergraduate degree. 
Your understanding of nature through mathematics and logic will be much stronger at the BS level than a chemist or engineer if all three hypothetical students simply took the university dictated coursework and did not apply themselves outside of the university.  If you apply yourself and learn things outside the structured class, any degree will work.  If you decided to bail after a BS degree, the chemical engineering degree will likely be your best bet for getting a job.


Offline edwinksl

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My observations are that if you are absolutely sure you want to go to graduate school in Physical Chemistry, take Physics as an undergraduate degree. 
Your understanding of nature through mathematics and logic will be much stronger at the BS level than a chemist or engineer if all three hypothetical students simply took the university dictated coursework and did not apply themselves outside of the university.  If you apply yourself and learn things outside the structured class, any degree will work.  If you decided to bail after a BS degree, the chemical engineering degree will likely be your best bet for getting a job.

Wouldn't the lack of college chemistry affect somehow?

Offline Donaldson Tan

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Although A level chemistry is not required for admission for all chemical engineering programs, most universities prefer someone with a chemistry background. There are people in my course who never studied pre-university chemistry, and they still do well academically. Of course, as long your grades reflect you are an intelligent student who can commit to his studies, I don't see why a chemical engineering department should reject your application. After-all, chemical engineering contains more physics/engineering than chemistry. We study things like fluid mechanics, heat transfer, mass transfer, distillation, boiling, process dynamics.

The only chemistry we study is basic organic chemistry (eg. electrophillic addition, aromatic nucleophilic substitustution, acid-base equilibrium, solubility equilibrium, nucleophilic substitution, dehalogenation, dehydration). I wouldn't count reaction kinetics as really chemistry because it is so mathematical. You only need to know basic chemistry to formulate the differential equation. Solving the differential equation itself is a pain in the ass. LOL.
"Say you're in a [chemical] plant and there's a snake on the floor. What are you going to do? Call a consultant? Get a meeting together to talk about which color is the snake? Employees should do one thing: walk over there and you step on the friggin� snake." - Jean-Pierre Garnier, CEO of Glaxosmithkline, June 2006

Offline edwinksl

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Yup, chemical engineering doesn't have much chemistry as far as I know..but then at UIUC, the curriculum consists of more chem modules than I expected. Guess diff unis have diff emphasis.

Offline Dude

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You'll find that most research areas in Physical Chemistry do not involve much actual chemistry.  It is more math and application of reasonably simple chemical principles.  Some amount of "elective" classes exist in any curriculum.  One could take general chemistry, organic chemistry, analytical chemistry and physical chemistry as your electives.  The rest of a chemistry curriculum in the US is basically just an applied form of these fundamental classes.

Offline Donaldson Tan

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Yup, chemical engineering doesn't have much chemistry as far as I know..but then at UIUC, the curriculum consists of more chem modules than I expected. Guess diff unis have diff emphasis.

Actually, the chemical engineering curriculum in UK and USA are different. By American standards, British chemical engineering program is best described as Process Engineering. By British standards, the USA Chemical Engineering program is best described as Industrial Chemistry.
"Say you're in a [chemical] plant and there's a snake on the floor. What are you going to do? Call a consultant? Get a meeting together to talk about which color is the snake? Employees should do one thing: walk over there and you step on the friggin� snake." - Jean-Pierre Garnier, CEO of Glaxosmithkline, June 2006

Offline edwinksl

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40% of the academic/research staff in my department are physical chemists, not chemical engineers. Although physical chemistry is related to many areas in chemical engineering, many areas in physical chemistry are not related to chemical engineering. Eventually, the admission criteria depends on the chemistry department. I know chemical engineering departments at many universities accept chemistry graduates into their PhD program, but I am not sure if chemistry departments accept chemical engineering graduates into their PhD program.

Yup, actually I am more concerned with whether Chemical Engineering graduates can get accepted into a Chemistry PhD programme. To my surprise, I do find some people who did that, though not a lot as compared to the number of people Chemistry graduate in a Chemical Engineering PhD programme.

Offline Donaldson Tan

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I just want to re-iterate my point that admission to a particular chemistry research program would depend on how relevant your BS Chemical Engineering is. Chemical Engineers are involved in catalysis research, molecular modelling and thermodynamics of complex fluids, etc. A PhD in these areas are not necessary entitled PhD Physical Chemistry. Sometimes, these PhDs are also called PhD Chemical Engineering. What really matters (in my opinion) is the field of your PhD dissertion. This is the profile of my chemistry tutor. Although she holds BS and PhD in Chemical Engineering, she is a Professor of Chemistry. She specialises in physical organic chemistry. In fact, she was a Professor of Physical Chemistry at University of Hull. You don't have to hold a PhD Physical Chemistry to become a Professor of Physical Chemistry.
"Say you're in a [chemical] plant and there's a snake on the floor. What are you going to do? Call a consultant? Get a meeting together to talk about which color is the snake? Employees should do one thing: walk over there and you step on the friggin� snake." - Jean-Pierre Garnier, CEO of Glaxosmithkline, June 2006

Offline edwinksl

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Okay noted. Thanks a lot!!

Offline edwinksl

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Hmm one more question. Does your chem eng curriculum include quantum physics and quantum mechanics? I think they are very useful to all engineers and scientists. :D

Offline Donaldson Tan

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There is 0.1% Quantum Mechanics in my first year course. it is very basic and limited. It is just enough to help you understand IR Spectroscopy to work out the bond length, how the distribution of different quantised states affect the heat capacity. and provide a foundation to learn basic MO theory. Undergraduate chemists and physicists study QM so much more in depth
"Say you're in a [chemical] plant and there's a snake on the floor. What are you going to do? Call a consultant? Get a meeting together to talk about which color is the snake? Employees should do one thing: walk over there and you step on the friggin� snake." - Jean-Pierre Garnier, CEO of Glaxosmithkline, June 2006

Offline edwinksl

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There is 0.1% Quantum Mechanics in my first year course. it is very basic and limited. It is just enough to help you understand IR Spectroscopy to work out the bond length, how the distribution of different quantised states affect the heat capacity. and provide a foundation to learn basic MO theory. Undergraduate chemists and physicists study QM so much more in depth

Don't you learn quantum mechanics in your physical chemistry modules?

Offline Donaldson Tan

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Chemist may strive for the novel method of synthesis, but engineers strive for the most economical process. You don't need Quantum Mechanics at all to establish the most economical process.
"Say you're in a [chemical] plant and there's a snake on the floor. What are you going to do? Call a consultant? Get a meeting together to talk about which color is the snake? Employees should do one thing: walk over there and you step on the friggin� snake." - Jean-Pierre Garnier, CEO of Glaxosmithkline, June 2006

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