WHAT IS CHEMICAL ENGINEERING?
Chemical engineering is one of the five main branches in the engineering field. This article explains what it takes to become a chemical engineer in Malaysia.
Contrary to popular belief, chemical engineering does not involve making chemicals only. It is a branch of engineering that applies chemistry and chemical reactions to research, develop and manufacture medicines, fuels, food and a wide range of other products including chemicals. Simply put, chemical engineers are responsible for turning raw materials into end products for consumers. This involves finding ways to transform an idea in the laboratory to mass production in industrial plants.
What Do Chemical Engineers Do?
At macro-level manufacturers, chemical engineers are in charge of the design, operation, improvement and maintenance of chemical processes. Their daily tasks include conducting experiments, creating safety procedures for working with dangerous chemicals, conducting tests and monitoring results throughout production. Chemical engineers make sure the full-scale production of materials run smoothly and efficiently. Every day, chemical engineers work on developing and improving processes in the production stage to make it more cost-effective and environmentally friendly. For example, chemical engineers have a hand in creating small computer chips, finding innovations in recycling, treating water and generating renewable energy.
Subjects in a Chemical Engineering Course
Generally, a degree in chemical engineering takes three to four years to complete. The first two semesters of a chemical engineering course introduce advanced foundation subjects such as Introductory Chemistry and Heat and Engineering Principles. The remaining semesters will then cover subjects that are specific to chemical engineering.
These subjects include Chemical and Phase Equilibria, Fundamentals of Process Control, Particle Mechanics and Engineering Materials. Through these subjects, students are taught the fundamentals of chemical engineering with an addition of soft skills such as good communication and teamwork. After finishing a degree in chemical engineering, graduates can start joining the workforce and continue their training to become a professional engineer.
To become a professional engineer, graduates need to be registered as a Graduate Engineer with the Board of Engineers, obtain the necessary work experience, professional training, and pass the Professional Assessment Examination conducted by the Board. For information on how to become a professional engineer in Malaysia, visit http://www.bem.org.my/
The Skills You Need
A strong interest and proficiency in mathematics, chemistry and physics are essential as they are used to convey engineering concepts and ideas. Also, having good communication skills and creativity are a must as chemical engineers usually work in teams to provide solutions to a particular problem. Next, chemical engineers need to be patient, determined, and unfazed by failure. Other useful skills include excellent control of analytical tools, strong IT skills, being able to work in a team, and being able to think outside the box. Individuals who are passionate about science and the environment can consider being a chemical engineer as well.
The industries that need chemical engineers include electronics, biotechnology, clothing manufacturing and business services. Chemical engineers can also hold positions in design and construction, energy and fuels, food processing and environmental safety. Alternatively, those who hold chemical engineering qualifications may thrive in areas that require technical training such as insurance, law and education.
Although we may not realise it, chemical engineers have helped us as consumers and human beings to improve our well-being and lifestyle. Every aspect of our lives has been touched by the products and processes created by chemical engineers. From the clothes we wear to the food we eat, we have chemical engineers to thank.