Thursday, August 30, 2012

Why I Became a Chemical Engineer

Guest Blogger: Scott Mobley, Intern, Invensys Operations Management

At the bright age of 18, I had landed in my last year of High School and with the support of my parents, was about to apply for college.

But despite all those years of schooling, I hadn’t quite made up my mind of what direction my life would take. At an early age I had been fascinated by the world, coming up with little “experiments” of which were not more sophisticated than sticking various items in the freezer and seeing what happened to them. Yet until that senior year with college applications in hand, I had not given a moment to considering a college major. Harkening back to my young inquisitive mind, the sciences had been preferable classes. That senior year blessed me with a wonderful chemistry course, challenging and thorough. The instructor’s personality was also cheerful and made the course enjoyable.
Chemistry was my future, I resolved, and began filling it out as my desired major on the applications. But wait; there was another major with ‘Chem’ in the title ‘Chemical Engineering’.  I knew nothing about it. Searching the web, I gathered some information.
  • A challenging major
  • Grapples with a vast scope of subjects from physics to biology to materials science.
  • Applies knowledge to solve industrial issues, such as improving yields, and environmental protection.
The potential difficulty caused a pause, but its engineering title and description was also intriguing. I pondered some more, feeling that this major, if it turned out not to be right for me, could always be converted to pure chemistry. I decided to go for it.
Fast-forward to college. Admitted as a chemical engineering major to the University of California, Irvine, freshman year was a refresher of many high school subjects, with a tighter focus on chemistry and math. So far, so good.
It wasn’t until the second year at UCI did the first chemical engineering specific course appear. That first day all the bright-eyed chemical engineering majors in the room took their seats as the professor began a lecture about buying a hat. Buying a hat? This was no ordinary hat though, this hat was bought with a fraudulent $100 check and now the bank wants its money back from the store owner. The question is, how much did the store owner lose?
The example didn’t just apply to hats, this was beginning mass transfer. Where is the hat?  The criminal has it. How much money was lost? The store owner lost both the material good, the costs for him to purchase or make it, and he has to pay money the bank back. This problem and others, dealing with such subjects as a washer removing dirt from clothes, and drying wood in a furnace, opened my eyes. Chemical engineering didn’t have to be only about chemistry, it could be used for anything. The information gained through the courses focused on some specific topics, but the approach to these problems was applicable anywhere. Modeling flows of people through a park or enhancing one’s cooking, a chemical engineer could tackle the problem. At its heart, this is what I really enjoyed about the major.
While I tried my hand with a lot of different subjects at college, from video game development to counter-terrorism, I found that being a chemical engineer best exemplified my passion to create and come up with creative solutions to problems. The flexibility of the degree also allows exploration into many fields both in and out of college. So if you are looking for a major, and you enjoy quantitatively describing the world, perhaps becoming a chemical engineer is a wise choice for you.

**Side note**
Scott is currently working for us for the next month or so and is doing a fantastic job. He is extremely creative and I will be sad to see him go. He has his degree in Chemical Engineering and would be an asset to your company.