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Below are frequently asked questions and answers relating to the CHBE program.

The Profession

What is chemical and biological engineering?

The work of chemical and biological engineers improves the quality of people’s lives. Chemical and biological engineers create and develop processes to change raw materials into products that we use every day. These include food, clean drinking water, chemicals, fuels, energy, metals, pharmaceuticals, paper, plastics, and personal care products.

Chemical and biological engineers work towards developing and implementing alternative cleaner and sustainable technologies to reduce pollution and to save the environment.

Chemical and biological engineers help to manage natural resources, control health and safety procedures, and recycle materials, while developing and managing the processes which make the products we use.

What are the types of careers that a degree in chemical and biological engineering will offer?

Chemical and biological engineers are versatile professionals. They have a strong understanding of mathematics and how the physical, chemical and biological sciences intersect. Chemical and biological engineers are also trained in safety, the environment, economics and management.

Using these skills, chemical and biological engineers can design and develop equipment and processes, work in plants converting raw materials to value added products or work in environmental areas and clean energy. Students can also choose to continue their education in virtually any area, including medicine.

Chemical and biological engineers find employment globally in industry, government, research and medicine. The opportunities are endless. Many chemical and biological engineers have gone on to become managers, company executives, entrepreneurs, medical doctors, and leaders of government and non-government organizations.

Programs and Coursework

What are the programs offered by the Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering?

Programs offered by the Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering commence in your second year at UBC. Students can select one of the two programs:

  • Chemical Engineering
  • Chemical and Biological Engineering

Both programs are accredited and lead to a Bachelor of Applied Science (B.A.Sc.) degree. Environmental science & engineering and principles of sustainability are integrated into the coursework of both programs and there are also dedicated technical electives on these topics. Through their academic courses, students also become proficient in computation, product and process design, and the use of process simulation software.

What does the coursework look like?

In addition to fundamental courses in mathematics, chemistry, physics and biology, students in both programs take core courses on thermodynamics, transport phenomena, reactor design and unit operations. Students in the Chemical Engineering program also study chemical process technology and materials science. On the other hand, students in the Chemical & Biological Engineering program take courses on biochemical engineering, bioprocess design and biotechnology. Topics such as water and air pollution control, and green manufacturing are offered as technical electives to students in both programs.

Laboratory and design courses are an integral part of both programs, and these experiences emphasize team-based, hands-on learning. In the final year of the programs, student design and simulate a manufacturing plant as part of their Capstone Design Project. Students also have the option of a directed studies thesis project, examples of which include analysis of energy markets and the development of sustainable food manufacturing processes.

Co-op opportunities

What are the types of co-op jobs that are available to students in our department?

Students typically find co-op employment in research and development, plant operations and design. These experiences may be domestic or international and span a wide range of industries, including:

  • Next-generation technology development such as fuel cells and 3D organ printing
  • The petrochemical and energy sector
  • Manufacturing industries such as pulp mills and mining corporations
  • Engineering design and technical consulting companies
  • Wastewater treatment plants
  • Environmental monitoring and consulting agencies
  • Medical and university research laboratories

Our students are valued by employers for their strong technical knowledge, ability to solve problems, versatility, professionalism and teamwork.

How do students integrate co-op work terms into their education?

Students are encouraged to apply for the co-op program. The Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering firmly believes that work experiences enhance academic learning and provide students with opportunities for professional growth and networking.

Students embark on their co-op terms after their second year. The duration of a co-op term varies between 4-16 months. Integrating co-op into your education extends the program by an additional year. This means that you will graduate in 5 years as opposed to 4 years. However, co-op students are credited 1 year of work experience towards their P. Eng. certification. The third year of both programs offered by our Department are quite flexible, and students are permitted to start their third years in either January or September.

Student Experience

What are some unique student experiences that set our programs apart?

Both programs offered by the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering integrate lectures with hands-on laboratory work and team-based assignments & projects.

Students also benefit from valuable experiences such as industry networking events, guest lectures and seminars by industry professionals, an industry field trip in third year, and the final year Capstone Design Project.

The field trip is a week-long event and students are provided guided tours of several industries. This experience gives students the opportunity to observe industrial processes first-hand, meet and learn from industry professionals and understand industrial operations. Our students truly cherish the community within the Department, and we actively support several student team and extracurricular clubs such as the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) team, the Biomolecular Design (BIOMOD) team, the Oil & Gas Initiative, Engineers for a Sustainable World, Engineers Without Borders and ChemECar. The Biodiesel Club, which grew out of Engineers for a Sustainable World, converts waste vegetable oil collected from UBC kitchens into biodiesel that is used as fuel by UBC Housing.

Our faculty are trained in some of the very best institutions in the world and bring a wealth of research and industry experience to the classroom. Moreover, they are tuned to the needs of the students and prioritize student well-being and the quality of the learning experience. Our faculty members enthusiastically assist students with career and academic counselling, as well as mental well-being.

Student Testimonials

About the profession

“...the three [words that describe chemical engineering] that initially come to mind are: challenging, inspiring, and practical. I say practical because the Chemical and Biological Engineering degree can be applied to so many industries that I've felt that I have endless possibilities in my job search.” – Roberta Neumann, Class of 2015

About the coursework

“I loved the integration of sustainability within the courses since I feel it is an important conversation to have, specifically when talking about chemical engineers and the energy sector.” – Farbod Rahimi-Nejad, Class of 2016

About the student experience

“[The Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering] challenged our perspective of the world and promoted excellence within us.” – Colleen Chau, Class of 2015