Welcome to College Confidential!

The leading college-bound community on the web

Sign Up For Free

Join for FREE, and start talking with other members, weighing in on community discussions, and more.

Also, by registering and logging in you'll see fewer ads and pesky welcome messages (like this one!)

As a CC member, you can:

  • Reply to threads, and start your own.
  • Post reviews of your campus visits.
  • Find hundreds of pages of informative articles.
  • Search from over 3 million scholarships.
Please take a moment to read our updated TOS, Privacy Policy, and Forum Rules.

Physics to Chemical Engineering

bmark357bmark357 Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
edited December 2012 in Graduate School
I'm currently an undergrad Physics major at SUNY Geneseo. Ultimately, I want Chemical Engineering to be my career in the future. I came to Geneseo with the assumption I would be a part of the 3-2 Engineering program they offer. In this program I would spend 3 years at Geneseo earning a B.A. in Physics and 2 years at an affiliated school and receive a B.S. in Chemical Engineering. Upon further research into Columbia's strict requirements I found that their program wasn't for me. I've thrown the idea of the 3-2 program with other affiliated schools out of the window due to the fact Columbia was the only school I would consider attending.

Now, my goal is to still be a Chemical Engineer but I realize I'm at a disadvantage with only a Physics undergrad degree. I want to have a chance to be accepted to any top ChemE. graduate programs. Would picking up a chemistry minor make me a better candidate for this? I realize going from Physics to Chemical Engineering is not common, but I want to expand me knowledge base and have both the Physics and Chemistry background. What do you think I should do? Would I even be considered to any "top" graduate programs? I want to try to avoid transferring schools at all costs. And I don't want to only have opportunity at a mediocre graduate program.

My focus would be Alternative Energy in Chemical Engineering.
Post edited by bmark357 on

Replies to: Physics to Chemical Engineering

  • BeanTownGirlBeanTownGirl Registered User Posts: 2,731 Senior Member
    What year are you in?
  • cltdadcltdad Registered User Posts: 937 Member
    Yes, taking additional chemistry classes including organic chemistry and physical chemistry (although much of p-chem may be redundant to your physics classes) will be helpful. But if you do get admitted to grad school for ChemE you will probably still have to take a number of undergraduate ChemE classes before you start the graduate level classes.
  • bmark357bmark357 Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    Am I at a huge disadvantage as opposed to students who are pursuing undergrad chemE degrees? would doing research over the summer make me a better candidate? Is something like MIT too much of a far stretch?
  • cheme24cheme24 Registered User Posts: 104 Junior Member
    Yes, you are at a disadvantage to chemical engineering majors, but not too much. You are at a better advantage than students majoring in chemistry or biology in my opinion because you probably have a solid math background. Whatever school you get into will probably make you take undergrad chemical engineering courses, at least thats what they do at my school with people with other degrees.

    If you want to get into one of the top schools and you haven't done research, forget about it. Research is the most important criteria when it comes to graduate school, and you would be at a TREMENDOUS disadvantage without any research. I have friends at MIT and it takes almost perfect numbers, a first author publication, extensive research experience, and stellar recommendations to get in.
  • spectasticspectastic - Posts: 847 Member
    MIT is not happening. sorry.

    the core curriculum in chem e at the graduate level consists of a lot of math, particularly partial diff eq. As far as I know, fluid dynamics and thermodynamics are two fundamental courses that are you have to take. You're going to have to look up the graduate level classes at your chem e department, (or any department) to get an idea of what you're facing. I don't know what exactly you learned in physics, but in engineering, we do a lot of math, matlab, excel, and stuff like that.

    From what I hear, in grad school, there's no busy work like in undergrad. It's just really involved, and you have to keep up with the class.
  • bmark357bmark357 Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    At my school research is extremely common. I figured that by doing research in physics and in chemistry over the summers/throughout the year I'd be given a better advantage. In physics it's entirely problem solving, and heavily involved in excel, learning how to do write ups and lab reports, conducting experiments etc. I realize MIT is a long shot, but I was just curious if something as high ranking as that school would be out of the question. I want to get into a good graduate school, it doesn't have to be an ivy league. I just don't want it get to the point where it's time to apply to grad school and my application isn't even in the running because I'm a physics major/chem minor. I'll have plenty of research and internships by the time grad school rolls around, so I assumed I would still have a good chance of being a Chemical Engineer.

    Though Chemical Engineering isn't really physics based, wouldn't jobs find it more valuable to have someone who is knowledgable in both Physics, Chemical Engineering?
  • spectasticspectastic - Posts: 847 Member
    they hire you for your degree, work ethic, problem solving skills and people skills. nobody cares about who went to harvard or how many degrees they have. It's about how well you fit the bill. My adviser once told me my math minor would make me stand out... It was total BS. If I knew any better, I would've taken the right classes, and graduated in 3 years, or studied abroad..
  • bmark357bmark357 Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    So if I stay at Geneseo and build a solid resume based on the research positions available, I should be in good shape?
  • cheme24cheme24 Registered User Posts: 104 Junior Member
    Umm I don't know if you guys are aware but engineering is absolutely immersed in physics. Like i said, a strong background in physics is a lot more advantageous than a strong background in chemistry. Spectastic, if you look at any physics curriculum you would be able to find thermodynamics and fluid mechanics courses. However, the focus of these courses in chemical engineering is different from physics. For example, as chemical engineers we care a lot more about vapor-liquid equilibrium and solution thermodynamics (as examples) than physicists do. Physics is usually very heavily involved with math so it is definitely useful for chemical engineering.

    Anyway when the time to apply to grad schools comes, look at all of your accomplishments and discuss with somebody at your school what is realistic in terms of which schools to apply to. If you want to get a chemical engineering degree, you certainly can but you have to be realistic and smart when choosing a program.
  • cheme24cheme24 Registered User Posts: 104 Junior Member
    PS ivy league name means nothing in grad school. There is only one ivy in the top 10 for chemical engineering.
  • spectasticspectastic - Posts: 847 Member
    nope. I don't see any thermo or fluids anywhere in our physics curriculum. And that includes all classes, not just undergrad level.
  • Dauntless9Dauntless9 Registered User Posts: 356 Member
    Physics majors take "statistical mechanics", which is basically thermo with a very different focus. I think fluids is sometimes covered in an advanced mechanics class, but probably not to the same depth or with the same focus as ChemE transport phenomena classes. Given the math-ier approached of ChemE graduate curriculum, I actually think physics should prepare you. There's a guy a year below me in ChemE at Stanford who was a physics-chemistry double major from a small-ish non-famous university that didn't have chemical engineering, and he's doing fine.

    Honestly, just get a chemistry minor, do some research, and you should more than ok. That said, getting into a top program is very difficult. Make sure you apply to an appropriate range of grad schools based on your research interests. Hopefully your adviser/professors can help guide you on this.

    For the record, I have many friends at MIT's cheme program, and I don't think any of them had a first author publication. But the rest was pretty true...
  • cheme24cheme24 Registered User Posts: 104 Junior Member
    I would also recommend thinking long and hard about why you want an advanced degree in chemical engineering. You have to be absolutely certain that it is what you want because you can be miserable in grad school if you end up not liking it. Most people outside of chemical engineering think it is just chemistry and math, but look into the types of courses you will take and make sure it fits with what your final goal is.
  • bmark357bmark357 Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    cheme24, thank you for the help I really appreciate it. It is to my understanding that if I want to do R&D in Alternative/Renewable Energy, Chemical Engineering would be my best bet. Is this true?
  • bmark357bmark357 Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    Also, will I not be able to take the FE or PE exam due to the fact I do not have an undergraduate degree in engineering?
This discussion has been closed.