Tricia Berry

Tricia Berry

Title
Director
Organization
The University of Texas at Austin
Location
Austin, TX, United States
Tricia Berry
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Answers by Tricia Berry

I recommend that you reach out to some graduate program advisors in the chemical engineering programs you would be interested in applying to for graduate school. Often times graduate programs are looking for diversity in their student body and bringing in students with different yet complementary undergraduate degrees can help in their research and programs. You may have to take some chemical engineering classes to get caught up with the others, but this would not be impossible and I'm sure you won't be the first or the last in this situation. Again, I'd suggest talking to advisors in the graduate schools as it may vary by institution and there may be other things you can do to boost your application for consideration. Best of luck! A grad degree in chemical engineering with a bit stronger background in chemistry from the undergrad level could be a powerful combination!

All engineering degrees (and really all college degrees) require work and I'm not sure that chemical engineering is the hardest degree. Each degree is what you make of it and all require hard work and good time management to get it all done. Many students work their way through college and do just fine. It's all about making the best use of your time and resources. If you need to work while going to school, that just means you need to work hard on your school work when you have the time and don't procrastinate. Visit with your professors frequently and get tutoring help so that you don't get behind on your school work. 

As far as grades go, you always want to get the best grades you can regardless of what major you are in. If you work hard, network, participate in student organizations or show leadership in some way, then jobs will be available. Some companies have a minimum GPA that is required so if your GPA is low, you may be a bit more limited in opportunities with those companies. BUT, again, if you network, show how hard you are working, do all you can do to get the best grades possible, then jobs will be available. 

Lots of mechanical engineers are hired by chemical companies to work on the chemical processes. Mechanical engineers are needed to help with the materials used, in designing the mechanical equipment, and lots of other related processes. The great thing about engineering is that it is very interdisciplinary. In my roles in the chemical industry, I worked right along side many mechanical engineers and oftentimes we were doing similar or parallel types of work. With engineering, it's more about the problem solving skills you have than sometimes the actual degree you end up with!

The great thing about engineering is that once you graduate, the disciplines end up overlapping greatly. It's interdisciplinary in the field and you can find a job or company or industry when you graduate that covers multiple areas instead of just one. I would recommend you learn more about what engineers are actually doing in these fields so you can better understand how you can make a difference in our world as an engineer. Check out the profiles on www.engineeryourlife.org and at www.fabfems.org. And yes, grad school in another discipline is something that students oftentimes do, again because of the interdisciplinary aspect of the world of engineering. 

Just to give you a bit more on ChE, here's some info I'd shared when someone asked me about the greatest thing about being a ChE:

Chemical engineering is an extremely broad field where you can impact our world, create products and process that improve lives, and work in just about any industry out there. I went into the chemical industry and then ended up in higher education. My career path included working in process design where I designed the processes to manufacture various chemicals, to research where I worked on developing new testing methods for chemical products, to new business development where I worked with customers testing out our products in their systems and in their products to see if our product would work better in the market. I have friends in environmental or patent law, consulting, personal care products, automotive industries, chemical processing, oil & gas, energy, government and more.

Focusing on my Product Development Engineer role, one of my jobs was to work on the development of a process and formula for using a Dow epoxy (plastic/polymer) in biodegradable packaging peanuts. I worked on pilot testing various formulations, testing the product, researching options on manufacturing the peanuts (made on the same machine as Cheetos’s by the way), and interacting with the potential customers to test our product on their machines and assess their needs. I traveled to customer sites, conducted research at various universities where they had the equipment we needed to use (Dow didn’t have the equipment in house), and worked with a team of chemists, engineers, manufacturing specialists, technicians, equipment fabricators, customers, etc.

I love the flexibility and creativity involved in being a chemical engineer. With a degree in chemical engineering, I’m ready to tackle a challenge in a variety of fields and have the creativity to come up with a number of solutions. I could head to the food industry to design healthier potato chips or soda bottles that keep the fizz forever. I could work in the oil and gas arena, designing looking at ways to harness energy in environmentally and economical ways. I could explore the plastics industry, seeking to reduce waste, develop applications for biodegradable plastics and come up with the latest and greatest new gadget. I could work for a consumer product company, figuring out how to make a toothbrush that has bristles that never wear out or new household cleaners or never-chip fingernail polish. Chemical engineers are everywhere you find paints, plastics, food, packaging, medicine and so many other things we interact with in our daily lives.

Chemical engineers work in a variety of environments and it can vary based on your interests. I have worked in an office setting, a corporate lab setting and a university lab setting, and a production environment where I was often out in the chemical plant. Depending on what environment best suits you, you can find a chemical engineering job to fit. I have worked on projects where I was the sole person seeking a solution with input from a variety of customers. I have worked on small teams of 2-5 people to seek a solution. I have also worked on large teams of 20+ where each person or small group of people had specific responsibilities that tied in together to provide the overall design or solution.

Chemical engineering is one of the most diverse engineering fields. With chemical engineering, you really can make a world of difference!

Aamna, You really aren't in a terrible situation! Mechanical engineering is an extremely broad field and you can go into all the areas you mention with a degree in ME. If you are interested in power plants, ME is a great place to be. And the pharmaceutical and food/chemical industries need lots of ME's for a variety of jobs. Understanding chemistry and the properties of materials would be invaluable for many ME jobs and I think once you get into industry you will find that all the engineering disciplines blend together and overlap anyway. In my work at Dow Chemical, I worked alongside ME's, Petroleum Engineers, Chemists and Chemical Engineers...and you really couldn't tell who was what major in college as we all overlapped in our efforts.  

My suggestion is to stick with ME since you are already so far into it and see if you can take some of your electives within the ChE space or materials space...or even within the power area if that's an interest. 

I also encourage you to intern or co-op so you get experience in ME and see what all there is out there for you. Also check out these cool ME role models and see what they are doing:

1) http://www.engineeryourlife.org/cms/6196.aspx  
2) http://www.engineeryourlife.org/cms/6198.aspx  
3) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9JBt-3COFI
4) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppL_um7VmXY

Hope that helps a bit. Again, ME is incredibly broad and really what you are doing is just getting the engineering foundation and learning how to problem solve. You can write your own story of where you go with your degree! Feel free to ask more questions...I'm happy to help!

Chemical engineering is an extremely broad field where you can impact our world, create products and process that improve lives, and work in just about any industry out there. I went into the chemical industry and then ended up in higher education. My career path included working in process design where I designed the processes to manufacture various chemicals, to research where I worked on developing new testing methods for chemical products, to new business development where I worked with customers testing out our products in their systems and in their products to see if our product would work better in the market. I have friends in environmental or patent law, consulting, personal care products, automotive industries, chemical processing, oil & gas, energy, government and more. Focusing on my Product Development Engineer role, one of my jobs was to work on the development of a process and formula for using a Dow epoxy (plastic/polymer) in biodegradable packaging peanuts. I worked on pilot testing various formulations, testing the product, researching options on manufacturing the peanuts (made on the same machine as Cheetos’s by the way), and interacting with the potential customers to test our product on their machines and assess their needs. I traveled to customer sites, conducted research at various universities where they had the equipment we needed to use (Dow didn’t have the equipment in house), and worked with a team of chemists, engineers, manufacturing specialists, technicians, equipment fabricators, customers, etc. I love the flexibility and creativity involved in being a chemical engineer. With a degree in chemical engineering, I’m ready to tackle a challenge in a variety of fields and have the creativity to come up with a number of solutions. I could head to the food industry to design healthier potato chips or soda bottles that keep the fizz forever. I could work in the oil and gas arena, designing looking at ways to harness energy in environmentally and economical ways. I could explore the plastics industry, seeking to reduce waste, develop applications for biodegradable plastics and come up with the latest and greatest new gadget. I could work for a consumer product company, figuring out how to make a toothbrush that has bristles that never wear out or new household cleaners or never-chip fingernail polish. Chemical engineers are everywhere you find paints, plastics, food, packaging, medicine and so many other things we interact with in our daily lives. Chemical engineers work in a variety of environments and it can vary based on your interests. I have worked in an office setting, a corporate lab setting and a university lab setting, and a production environment where I was often out in the chemical plant. Depending on what environment best suits you, you can find a chemical engineering job to fit. I have worked on projects where I was the sole person seeking a solution with input from a variety of customers. I have worked on small teams of 2-5 people to seek a solution. I have also worked on large teams of 20+ where each person or small group of people had specific responsibilities that tied in together to provide the overall design or solution. Chemical engineering is one of the most diverse engineering fields. With chemical engineering, you really can make a world of difference! Plus - you have to get an undergrad degree in something before you head to med school. Lots of chemical engineering graduates head on to be doctors. You have lots of opportunities and choices with the degree.

Hi Brianne!

Thanks for the question. I'm going to answer it...and then some:

Chemical engineering is an extremely broad field where you can impact our world, create products and process that improve lives, and work in just about any industry out there. I went into the chemical industry and then ended up in higher education. My career path included working in process design where I designed the processes to manufacture various chemicals, to research where I worked on developing new testing methods for chemical products, to new business development where I worked with customers testing out our products in their systems and in their products to see if our product would work better in the market. I have friends in environmental or patent law, consulting, personal care products, automotive industries, chemical processing, oil & gas, energy, government and more.

Focusing on my Product Development Engineer role, one of my jobs was to work on the development of a process and formula for using a Dow epoxy (plastic/polymer) in biodegradable packaging peanuts. I worked on pilot testing various formulations, testing the product, researching options on manufacturing the peanuts (made on the same machine as Cheetos’s by the way), and interacting with the potential customers to test our product on their machines and assess their needs. I traveled to customer sites, conducted research at various universities where they had the equipment we needed to use (Dow didn’t have the equipment in house), and worked with a team of chemists, engineers, manufacturing specialists, technicians, equipment fabricators, customers, etc.

I love the flexibility and creativity involved in being a chemical engineer. With a degree in chemical engineering, I’m ready to tackle a challenge in a variety of fields and have the creativity to come up with a number of solutions. I could head to the food industry to design healthier potato chips or soda bottles that keep the fizz forever. I could work in the oil and gas arena, designing looking at ways to harness energy in environmentally and economical ways. I could explore the plastics industry, seeking to reduce waste, develop applications for biodegradable plastics and come up with the latest and greatest new gadget. I could work for a consumer product company, figuring out how to make a toothbrush that has bristles that never wear out or new household cleaners or never-chip fingernail polish. Chemical engineers are everywhere you find paints, plastics, food, packaging, medicine and so many other things we interact with in our daily lives.

Chemical engineers work in a variety of environments and it can vary based on your interests. I have worked in an office setting, a corporate lab setting and a university lab setting, and a production environment where I was often out in the chemical plant. Depending on what environment best suits you, you can find a chemical engineering job to fit. I have worked on projects where I was the sole person seeking a solution with input from a variety of customers. I have worked on small teams of 2-5 people to seek a solution. I have also worked on large teams of 20+ where each person or small group of people had specific responsibilities that tied in together to provide the overall design or solution.

Chemical engineering is one of the most diverse engineering fields. With chemical engineering, you really can make a world of difference! Hope that helps. Best wishes in your journey!

-Tricia

Tanisha, An engineering course would give you some hands-on experiences in creative problem solving which is applicable to all engineering majors. High school engineering courses typically include hands-on projects and a good introduction to the engineering design process. This would be good experience for you as you head into college in either biomedical engineering or chemical engineering. Students with these hands-on and problem solving skills are better prepared for engineering at the college level since they know more of what to expect. You obviously found the great resource www.engineergirl.org. I also encourage you to check out www.engineeryourlife.org and http://www.egfi-k12.org/ and be sure to take a look at the fabulous descriptions, videos and stories about chemical engineering and biomedical engineering (and other engineering majors). Best wishes! Tricia Berry Director, Women in Engineering Program (WEP) Director, Texas Girls Collaborative Project (TxGCP)

I love the flexibility and creativity involved in being a chemical engineer. With a degree in chemical engineering, I'm ready to tackle a challenge in a variety of fields and have the creativity to come up with a number of solutions. I could head to the food industry to design healthier potato chips or soda bottles that keep the fizz forever. I could work in the oil and gas arena, designing looking at ways to harness energy in environmentally and economical ways. I could explore the plastics industry, seeking to reduce waste, develop applications for biodegradable plastics and come up with the latest and greatest new gadget. I could work for a consumer product company, figuring out how to make a toothbrush that has bristles that never wear out or new household cleaners or never-chip fingernail polish. Chemical engineers are everywhere you find paints, plastics, food, packaging, medicine and so many other things we interact with in our daily lives. Chemical engineers work in a variety of environments and it can vary based on your interests. I have worked in an office setting, a corporate lab setting and a university lab setting, and a production environment where I was often out in the chemical plant. Depending on what environment best suits you, you can find a chemical engineering job to fit. I have worked on projects where I was the sole person seeking a solution with input from a variety of customers. I have worked on small teams of 2-5 people to seek a solution. I have also worked on large teams of 20+ where each person or small group of people had specific responsibilities that tied in together to provide the overall design or solution. Chemical engineering is one of the most diverse engineering fields. With chemical engineering, you really can make a world of difference!