K-State chemical engineering major grueling, but worth it


Chemical engineering at K-State is a branch of engineering
that offers many opportunities, according to department head James Edgar. K-State offers four basic areas of study in chemical engineering: research and development, design, process engineering and
environmental health and safety. 

Research and development consists
of finding out how to produce valuable chemicals. 

“A valuable chemical can be a plastic or a gasoline, or it can
be pharmaceuticals,” Edgar said.

The second basic area is design, in which students study methods of producing chemicals. Next, there is process engineering, which focuses on the production of chemicals in a plant setting. The fourth and final basic area of
chemical engineering is environmental health and safety, which consists of ensuring compliance with regulations in offices and plants and making sure that
everything is safe. 

There are a few paths within the chemical engineering
degree. The technical path leads to becoming a subject area expert. Most graduates tend to go into a more
managerial role where they can rise easily through the ranks of a company or

The Department of Chemical Engineering has one of the
better retention rates in the College of Engineering in spite of being, as Edgar called it, “a
pretty homework-intensive discipline.” 

“There are a lot of assignments given
out [compared to] other engineering disciplines,” he said.

Logan Pyle, sophomore in chemical engineering, said the extra work is worth it.

“I have a heavy workload. I’m taking 17 credit hours. I understand that we’re training to become professionals, and that takes a lot of effort and time,” Pyle said. 

According to K-State’s Career and Employment Services, the average chemical engineering graduate from the 2010-11 school year was offered a salary of about $67,000, while the highest salary offered a recent graduate was $87,000 — more than any other major in the College of Engineering.

Graduates can find themselves anywhere in
the world, but most stay close. Edgar said that about 80 percent of graduates from the chemical engineering
program stay in Kansas and the surrounding states, although it is common for larger companies to move employees around in this field.

“I’m looking at working
with alternative energy, possibly in a different country,” said Daniel Dorsett,
sophomore in chemical engineering. 

Students said K-State’s chemical engineering department succeeds in preparing students for life after graduation.

“K-State gives me good knowledge to prepare for the future,” said
Bettina Moncayo, junior in chemical engineering. 

Pyle said his work at K-State would pay off in the end.

“I feel very prepared. I think
the curriculum laid out by the chemical engineering professors prepares me for
real world jobs right out of college,” Pyle said.

A significant amount of money goes into chemical engineering’s material
research each year, much of it related to agriculture. For example, 
Vikas Berry, William H. Honstead professor of chemical engineering, is experimenting with nanotechnology in

Engineering is a major that takes
a lot of time and effort, according to Edgar. It seems the payoff of helping
keep the world safe is worth the
tremendous amount of homework and assignments to K-State’s chemical
engineering majors. 

“I think I’ll enjoy the end result more than the work
right now,” Moncayo said.