Chemical and biochemical engineers combine engineering principles with knowledge of mathematics, chemistry, biological sciences, and physics to develop and operate processes that convert raw materials into products that benefit the global community.

Chemical engineering relies on chemical reactions and physicochemical transformations to produce a wide variety of important materials and products. For example, biochemical engineers might develop and operate processes to mass-produce an antibiotic or generate products ranging from high fructose corn syrup in soft drinks to recombinant human insulin.

Chemical and biochemical engineers learn ethical design and a respect for the larger issues in any design, such as community health, employee safety, and global implications of the design. Iowa's curriculum emphasizes chemical process safety and environmentally conscious chemical engineering design. 

Why Study at Iowa

The Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering is small enough for daily interaction with faculty members and other students. You’ll know about your professors’ research, and you’ll be encouraged to participate in it.

The BSE in chemical engineering is one of eight undergraduate Engineering Programs in the College of Engineering, which also offers excellent opportunities for students to participate in internships, study abroad, and student organizations.

About 525 first-year students and 100 transfer students enroll each year. Women account for over 27 percent of Iowa's engineering students; the national average is 20 percent. 

Students choose to study engineering at Iowa because of the college's academic excellence, individual attention, small-college environment, camaraderie, and tremendous opportunities. U.S. News & World Report ranks Iowa's undergraduate program in the top 20 percent of engineering programs nationwide. 

Course Work

The major in chemical engineering emphasizes fundamental concepts, problem-solving, laboratory techniques, and communication skills. All BSE students complete the BSE core requirements as well as the curriculum designed for their major program, which covers four major stems: mathematics and basic sciences, engineering topics, the general education component, and an elective focus area. 

The elective focus area enables students to gain depth of knowledge in a career path. The department offers preapproved elective focus areas or students may choose to work with their adviser to develop an individualized elective focus area, which is subject to approval by the department's curriculum committee. 

Focus area options in chemical engineering include:

  • Biochemical engineering
  • Business
  • Chemical process 
  • Computation, data science, and machine learning
  • Energy and environment
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Oil and gas
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Polymers
  • Pre-medicine
  • Sustainability

Students are required to participate in at least one enriching activity, which may include a research experience, a cooperative education or internship experience, study abroad, completion of the Certificate in Technological Entrepreneurship, or other approved experiences. 

See Chemical Engineering in the UI General Catalog for more information.

BSE/MS Fast-Track Degree Program 

This program is for eligible students who seek to complete both the BSE and MS degrees in chemical and biochemical engineering at Iowa. Students apply in the second semester of their junior year and, if admitted, enter the program in the first semester of their senior year. The fast-track program allows 12 credit hours to be counted toward both their BSE and MS degrees. This program may be especially attractive to students who are interested in product research, development, and design. 

BSE/MS Joint Degree Program 

The Departments of Chemical & Biochemical Engineering and Civil & Environmental Engineering support a combined Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degree program to serve students pursuing a BSE in Chemical Engineering and an MS in Environmental Engineering & Science.

Admission Requirements

Admission Requirements Tabs

Student Opportunities

Engineering student support services include free tutoring for your first two years of math, science, and engineering courses.

Engineering student organizations, fraternities and sororities, and national honorary societies offer many opportunities to develop your leadership skills. 

In addition to having more than 500 Student Organizations, Iowa students choose from multiple Study Abroad Programs and Undergraduate Research Opportunities.

Faculty, Facilities, and Resources

Iowa's nationally and internationally renowned faculty members, including physicians and practicing engineers, teach all engineering classes, including those for first-year students. No engineering classes are taught by teaching assistants.

The Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering's undergraduate laboratories include:

  • Materials Science Laboratory
  • Chemical Engineering Laboratory
  • Chemical Process Safety Laboratory
  • Biochemical Engineering Laboratory
  • Process Control Laboratory


On average, 93-98 percent of Iowa engineering graduates are employed in their field of study or pursuing advanced education within seven months of graduation. 

Engineering is a well-respected profession that is used as a foundation for a variety of careers in industry, medicine, law, government, and consulting.

Engineering majors hold eight of the top ten spots on the list of top-paid majors for bachelor's degree graduates, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

Engineering Professional Development (EPD) offers individual advising and class presentations on resume and cover letter preparation, job and internship search strategies, interviewing skills, and job offer evaluation. 


Apply early for scholarships. The College of Engineering offers Engineering First-Year Scholarships as well as many other scholarship opportunities for sophomore, junior, and senior students. For more information, visit the College of Engineering Scholarships

The Office of Admissions and the Office of Student Financial Aid are great resources for students seeking scholarships.  

Application Process

Application Process Tabs

Apply to the College of Engineering.


Chemical Engineering (BSE)
Focus Areas
Chemical Process
Computation, Data Science, and Machine Learning
Energy and Environment
Oil and Gas
Honors Courses
Four-Year Graduation Plan
Selective Admission