A sharp intake of breath. A pained grimace. A look of confusion and dismay.
I get a variety of reactions from students who ask me what my major is, but those three are the most common. By the time "chemical and biomolecular engineering(CBE)" crosses my lips, I have their undivided attention, and I think that's because very few of us know what the major entails, and what individuals with chemical engineering degrees go on to do. I wasn't certain when I applied as a CBE major, and as I talked to current CBE students throughout the semester, I realized the extent of the hell I had gotten myself into. I think it's safe to say all CBE freshmen are perpetually salty about their situation, and here's why.
1. We have to use the most obscure units in our calculations.
When will we ever use slugs, poundals, kilogram-moles, or Rankines in the future? That's right, never.
2. Pound-mass vs. Pound-force
Although these are still units, they deserve their own slide because they are just so annoying to convert between.
3. Complex systems of equations
10 equations and 10 unknowns? Oh, that's not too bad, why don't I give you four more problems exactly like that for the homework?
4. Speaking of homework...
If you're not spending at least 10-15 hours every week on CBE problem sets, you're not doing them right.
5. Drawing process flow diagrams
The picture says it all.
6. Classes all day every day
Mom: So what times during the week do you have classes this semester?
Me: No, no, the question is: when don't I have class?
7. Grades are very depressing
Hey, at least the classes are curved....right?
8. Time is our worst enemy
You'd think we would be more productive when we know there's not enough time to fool around, Unfortunately, it's exactly the opposite.
9. Explaining what we study to our friends and family
This is eerily accurate.
10. We have no idea what we want to do in the future
Chemical engineering is a very versatile degree, and so it's common for CBE graduates to pursue work in a variety of fields. This is the one redeeming quality of CBE; it provides you with a comprehensive skillset that can be applied in different settings.
11. Too many acronyms
DOF, VDW, SRK(Shah Rukh Khan?!)...the list goes on.
Although I know we make chemical engineering sound horrific and depressing, there are reasons why we have chosen to suffer through the next four years. Like every engineer, we live for those 5% moments in which something clicks, the solution becomes clear, and we've figured out the problem at last. The feeling of finally getting an answer after 4 hours of staring at the computer screen is extremely rewarding. Whether the answer is right or not is another story, but at least it looked like we tried! In all seriousness, though, I am excited to continue my path towards a chemical engineering degree. There will no doubt be numerous challenges, but now that I am a part of it, I intend to see it through to the end.
Speaking of which, I should have used this time to work on problem sets instead....