The Chemical Engineering Program at the University at Buffalo has been designed by the faculty to prepare students for successful engineering practice. While designed to develop the essential knowledge, skills, and abilities needed for professional practice or graduate study, the curricular structure of the program, coupled with the integrated influence of general education studies equips our students with a well-rounded educational experience that is designed to prepare students to succeed in a world characterized by rapidly developing technology, growing complexity, and globalization.
The chemical engineering curriculum course content represents a balance of subjects in Math and the Sciences, English, the Social Sciences and Humanities, and Engineering. The earlier semesters mix Math, Chemistry, and Physics with courses in English, the Humanities, and the Social Sciences. Computer skills are introduced in the first semester of the first year and advanced in the second semester of the first year. The SEAS course, Engineering Solutions, is taken by all chemical engineering students in their first semester. While the level of engineering science must, of necessity, be low, this course serves an essential role in introducing key aspects of engineering that are then continually reinforced throughout the remaining curriculum. Specifically, it introduces the concepts of design and analysis and illustrates them through various demonstrations, projects and group case studies. Additionally the students are shown the importance of a range of topics including economic constraints upon design, manufacturability, ethical practice, social and political responsibility, and sustainability. Fundamental general engineering and chemical engineering courses appear in the second year with courses like Fundamental Principles of Chemical Engineering (material and energy balances) and Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics. Science and Math courses continue in the second year, adding depth and introducing general concepts in Biology. The engineering courses in the first two years start to impose various engineering constraints in selected problems and also present some preliminary opportunities for design. The third year includes a course in Physical Chemistry combined with engineering science and engineering practice. The students are challenged with engineering problems that require them to use the basic skills they acquire in the first two years. Engineering problem assignments at this point continue to illustrate economic and other constraints. The Chemical Reaction Engineering course emphasizes issues of constrained design with economic, environmental and other factors. In the third year, the students begin their chemical engineering lab sequence (Lab I, Lab II, Lab III, Lab IV) which introduces many other important curricular components. The labs include both a lecture component and a laboratory component. The former is the primary vehicle for instruction in safety and health issues as well as regulatory compliance. The laboratory assignments are frequently presented using a “let’s pretend” scenario where the students are given a hypothetical industrial situation and cast as an engineering group facing the specified situation. Through this vehicle they are taught to work in groups, with responsibility as either group leader or group member. The scenarios are crafted to illustrate environmental, economic and other engineering constraints upon their projects. The laboratory courses also are the primary vehicle for teaching written and oral communication via interim and final project reports. The final year emphasizes design and engineering specialization through electives. The two-semester capstone design experience challenges students to draw upon information from the first three years to design chemical products and processes of current interest and importance. Chemical engineering elective courses are offered, allowing the students to gain specialization in areas including bioengineering, polymers, colloids, process synthesis and others.
As part of our recent curriculum revision we introduced “program tracks” for students to follow who wish to perform specializations in particular areas. The tracks provide suggestions for students to follow in choosing electives only – they do not relax or add to the requirements for the B.S. Chemical Engineering degree. Students are not required to follow one of these tracks. Three tracks have been developed.