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Engineering Apprenticeship

Updated on April 14, 2014

An Introduction to Chemical Engineering and Engineering Apprenticships

Engineering is one of the more popular science related fields to get in to. One of the reasons is that there is such a wide variety of fields that you can get in to. It is a field that is dominated by men but there has been a large uptick of women that are entering the engineering field over the past few decades and that number continues to grown. Popular engineering fields include chemical engineering, fabrication engineering, mechanical engineering, process engineering, instrumentation engineering and electrical engineering. There are, of course, many other types of engineering that you can get into as well.

In this lens, we will be talking about what it is like to be a chemical engineer. If you have any interest in the engineering fields, a great way to get started is through an engineering apprenticeship. You will be able to find out more information on how you can begin an engineering apprenticeship through the link below.

Chemical Engineering

Chemical Engineering
Chemical Engineering

One of the more popular branches of engineering is chemical engineering. Chemical engineering was born upon the emergence of “unit operations”. Unit operations are a fundamental principle in this field.

The term unit operation is a step within the chemical process. It involves a change either chemically or physically to a substance. Examples of this include water freezing into ice and heating water until it evaporates. Other examples of this include the crystallization process, particles dissolving and the release of different forms of energy in the chemical process.

A day as a Chemical Engineer

This video will give you a visual introduction of what it is like to be an chemical engineer. You will hear from actual chemical engineers talking about a real world example of the type of work that they do.

Chemical Engineering involves the sciences heavily. This includes chemistry, physics, biochemistry, micro biology and biology. Below, we have given you a brief introduction to each of these sciences.

Chemistry

Chemistry studies the structure, composition, change of matter and properties of it. It is a branch of the physical sciences. Chemistry is studied at the molecular level and mainly focuses on the interaction between atoms and molecules. Chemistry is one of the most studied forms of science as it has a wide range of applications. It is the most important field of study for a chemical engineer since chemistry will be involved in any type of chemical engineering job.

Physics

Physics is also a branch off the physical sciences. Physics studies matter and how it interacts throughout time and space. It studies how matter is affected by outside influences off force and energy and the outcomes with these factors in effect.

Physics is one of the original sciences that came into existence. Physics was studied before atoms and molecules were knows to have existed. This is why physics has been studied long before other forms of sciences like biology and chemistry. Physics is often involved with other fields of science. Since it can be applied to so many situations, a basic to advanced understanding of physics is required in almost any science or engineering field that you could be involved with.

Biology

Unlike chemistry and physics, biology is not a branch of the physical sciences. Biology is a study of the natural sciences. It focuses on the study of living organisms. Other focuses include how living organisms will react in environments, how they grow and develop and how they will evolve. Biology is not as heavily involved with chemical engineering as chemistry and physics are; however, it will be used by some chemical engineers depending on their specific job. The engineers that combine biology with chemical engineering are usually involved with the environmental sciences.

Microbiology

The study of Microbiology is another branch in the natural sciences. It falls under the broader science of biology. It differs from biology in that it focuses on microscopic organisms and biology at the cellular level. This is another field that is not always used in chemical engineering, though it often is. Depending on the job that the chemical engineer has, they may or may not be required to have an understanding of microbiology. Normally, a chemical engineer should be familiar with microbiology so that they will be able to better work with a microbiologist when needed.

Biochemistry

Biochemistry, otherwise known as biological chemistry, studies living organisms and the chemical processes that occur within and around them. This often involves chemical reactions that occur in the brain, body and surroundings that affect the organism. Biochemistry plays a large role in allowing scientists to understand and learn about processes that they otherwise would not have come to learn. If you are a chemical engineer that has a job in the environmental or natural sciences, biochemistry is important field to have a firm grasp of as you will be dealing with it often.

Mathematics and Ecomonics

Why they are important in the Chemical Engineering field

Other sciences are also heavily involved with chemical engineering depending on the field. Chemical engineers should have a strong background in mathematics as well as good economic knowledge depending on the field they are working in. For example, chemical engineers may have important roles that effect transportation or energy resources. If the work of a chemical engineer will affect these or any other systems and processes, it is important that they have a good understanding of how they work. As you can see, chemical engineering requires a broad understanding of a variety of topics and is not limited to chemistry alone.

Goals of a Chemical Engineer

An understanding of economics plays a large role in the chemical engineers job. The most important aspect of Chemical Engineering, aside from understanding the basic principles of the job, is to be able to take raw materials and chemicals and convert them into materials and chemicals that are more useful and valuable. Ideally, you want to keep your raw materials and chemicals at the lowest cost that you can get them at. This will maximize the profit margins for the company that is converting and processing them. The chemical engineers that can do this the best will be in the highest demand.

Scaling up

As you may begin to see, a chemical engineer must be able to learn about a variety of fields and they should be able to perform jobs that are not restricted to chemistry alone. A chemical engineer is often asked to take laboratory results and scale them up to a more practical level. For example, a chemical that was created in a lab is given to a chemical engineer to figure out how to make large quantities of it.

As you scale up, other issues began to arise such as the economics of it. To make a large amount of a substance or chemical, there are a variety of factors that must be considered including where and how the chemical will be processed.

This is just one example of why Chemical Engineering requires an understanding of such a large amount of fields and topics. If the chemical engineers knowledge is only limited to chemistry, they would not be able to carry out the rest of what they will be asked to do.

Which engineering field do you have the most interest in?

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