3 world leaders in chemical engineering creating a more sustainable future
Source: University of Rochester

Chemical engineering is a versatile discipline that forms the bedrock of our modern lives. From the food we consume to the medicines that ensure our health and well-being, chemical engineers lead the forefront of these developments to address the world’s most pressing challenges. 

In the future, there will be many more frontiers to break. Many of the field’s past achievements came into fruition due to the potent mix of skilled engineers with tools, resources and opportunity. To replicate these, aspiring engineers need to start by building a solid foundation of know-how, skills and experience. 

The following three US universities offer chemical engineering degrees that provide just that and more:

University of Rochester

chemical engineering

Research informs MS and PhD programmes at the University of Rochester’s Department of Chemical Engineering. Source: University of Rochester

Located in New York’s third-largest metropolitan area that’s welcoming, friendly and affordable, University of Rochester’s Department of Chemical Engineering (ChE) was established in 1915 as one of the first chemical engineering programmes in the country. Today, ChE is known for cutting-edge, well-funded research in sustainability and advanced materials. Spanning technologies, materials and processes, they uncover and solve issues in the areas of clean energy, sustainable process engineering, nanotechnology, and human health. Research areas here include advanced materials, catalysis and electrocatalysis, computational fluid dynamics and theory, simulations and artificial intelligence.

What makes ChE research unique is its  interdisciplinary collaborations with other disciplines across the sciences – biology, chemistry, environmental and earth sciences, physics, biomedical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, optics and even the prestigious University of Rochester Medical School and the renowned Laboratory for Laser Energetics. Such collective efforts support the Department’s commitment to creating affordable energy resources and sustainable process engineering.

The highly-focused research culture embodied across the university empower students to discover and share new ideas. This can be seen in their MS and PhD programmes where students have access to state-of-the-art facilities and world-class faculty members who are industry experts. The MS degree offers students two options: thesis-based independent research and coursework or coursework-based with optional research. Regardless of which they decide, students will gain fundamental knowledge in core areas such as thermodynamics, transport and kinetics while being exposed to research opportunities through faculty-run research groups.

The PhD programme provides a range of research opportunities that emphasise materials science and sustainable engineering. All ChemE PhD students in good standing receive full tuition waiver, a competitive stipend ($34k in 2024) and full medical insurance coverage.

Imperial College London

chemical engineering

The carbon capture pilot plant is a unique facility that teaches undergraduates the ins and outs of running a plant. Source: Imperial College London/Facebook

Ranked first among Russell Group universities for research impact, Imperial College London is home to a Department of Chemical Engineering that works with industry powerhouses to create solutions with immediate, real-world impact. Think reducing carbon emissions, developing clean energy technologies and infrastructure, and producing innovations in healthcare — their research interests range from the molecular to the mega-scale. Everyone is welcome to participate.

The Department of Chemical Engineering first offered undergraduate courses in 1937, making it one of the oldest, most experienced chemical engineering divisions in the UK. Its integrated four-year degree programme is also the first in the country to fulfil the most recent Engineering Council MEng requirements. The course combines core foundation subjects, design, specialised modules, sometimes a year abroad, and of course, practical work in labs and the pilot plant.

To graduate chemical engineers who will continue Imperial’s legacy of solving the world’s greatest challenges, the college offers students unlimited access to state-of-the-art facilities — all of which are leveraged alongside a cadre of highly skilled technicians.

Students have the opportunity to carry out hands-on research as part of their studies in Imperial’s bespoke undergraduate teaching laboratory, with access to the Analytical Services laboratory which houses a suite of major analytical instruments. The undergraduate workshop allows students to design and create equipment with the support of a team of expert workshop engineers.

Stretching over four floors, the carbon capture pilot plant is built to the highest industrial standards. It is a unique facility that teaches undergraduates the ins and outs of running a plant. Spaces like these are just one of the reasons why Imperial Chem Eng is consistently rated as one of the leading departments in the UK and the world for research in chemical engineering or why student satisfaction at Imperial is now at 90%.

ChemEng Soc is an active, student-led society which organises a range of social and career-based events throughout the academic year. They run a buddy system for new students, host annual welcome dinners, and work closely with the department to ensure students have an excellent, well-rounded experience while at Imperial.

National University of Singapore

chemical engineering

Source: National University of Singapore/Facebook

As Singapore’s flagship university and one of Asia’s best, National University of Singapore (NUS) offers a global approach to education, research and entrepreneurship, with a focus on Asian perspectives and expertise. Engineering programmes at its College of Design and Engineering (CDE) are ranked eighth in the world in the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2023 by Subject.

NUS is home to one of the largest chemical engineering departments and the oldest chemical engineering department in Singapore. Undergraduate, postgraduate and graduate certificates stand out for several reasons.

They are enriched by the views of a community with over 200 research scholars from all over the globe, informed by research activities in a broad spectrum of fundamental, applied and emerging technological area, and leverage active research collaborations with the industry, national research centres and institutes.

Here, postgraduate students learn from faculty members who are experts in their field, engaging in high-impact research in a broad spectrum of areas such as biomolecular and biomedical engineering, chemical and biosystems engineering and chemical engineering sciences. 

“CDE is also home to multi-disciplinary research platforms where our research capabilities cut across engineering, architecture and design that bring together exemplary faculty to drive cutting-edge research,” says Prof Teo Kie Leong, Acting Dean for the College of Design and Engineering. “We continue to expand our research focus into frontiers where design, technology, and human factors meet, and multidisciplinary collaboration is enhanced.”

*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International