Chemical Engineers are responsible for the development, design and operation of the processes that produce the materials and products we all depend on. These range from the fresh water and gas supplied to our homes to performance products such as cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
The design of a process is a much broader activity than is often perceived, and involves its conception and development as well as an assessment of its viability in economic terms, its safety and its environmental impact.
Essentially Chemical Engineering is all about adding value to materials by changing their chemical compositions, structures or physical state. Chemical engineers need a very broad range of skills and often interact with engineers from other disciplines. For example they may work with civil engineers for the provision of foundations and access roads, with electrical engineers for the provision of power supplies, and with mechanical engineers for much of the detailed design of items of equipment such as high-pressure vessels.
Chemical Engineering is not a subject that is covered at school level. Its broad spectrum of activities - from detailed modelling of catalytic reactions to estimating wind loading on tall distillation columns - attracts students with a good science background and strong mathematics skills who are interested in applying scientific principles to the real world.