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Chemistry vs. Chemical Engineering

Many students who are interested in chemistry think of chemical engineering as their major - what is the difference?

Both disciplines deal with many of the same things and there is much overlap, but the basic differences are novelty and scale.

A chemist is more likely to be developing new compounds and materials; a chemical engineer is more likely to be working with existing substances.

A chemist deals with small amounts of materials in glassware on a laboratory bench. The chemical engineer deals with large scale reactions with factory scale equipment.

A chemist may make a few grams of a new compound, while a chemical engineer will scale up the process to make it by the ton, and at a profit.

The chemical engineer will be more concerned with heating and cooling large reaction vessels, pumps and piping to transfer materials, and plant design and operation, while a chemist will be more concerned with establishing the details of the reactions before the plant is designed.

Some idea of the differences can be obtained by looking at the names of the required courses in the two curricula:


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