Chemical engineers are people with a combination of science and engineering skills that are essential to meeting the most important challenges of the 21st Century:


  • How will we ensure access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy for everyone?
  • How will we produce enough food to end hunger, improve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture?
  • How will we ensure the availability and sustainable management of clean water for everyone?
  • How do we ensure sustainable production and consumption?
  • How can we ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing at all ages?
  • How do we make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable?
  • What action should we take to combat climate change?

Chemical Engineers around the planet are helping to address exactly these types of question. Many of these challenges are enshrined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals and it is no coincidence that the challenges described above include the word “sustainable” more than once.

Researchers search for the answer to “can we do this?” Chemical engineers answer the question “can we do this for everyone?” Many of the above challenges are easy to solve on a very small scale – the main challenge is often finding solutions that work efficiently and economically on an industrial, global scale.

Chemical engineers have technical knowledge of chemistry, biochemistry, engineering, materials science, mathematics and information technology. They know about the environment and safety, about economics and management, and use the latest developments from science and computing, to analyse and solve problems. They need this breadth of technical knowledge to be able to communicate and organise specialists to combine their expertise into scalable solutions.

Chemical engineers devise, design, combine and operate processes to produce and transport materials. From biofuels and batteries for clean vehicles, from sustainable energy to recyclable materials, from pharmaceuticals to foodstuffs, from the latest novel nanomaterials and advances in science – chemical engineers make a positive difference to the world.

The following are a few examples of how chemical engineers from Cambridge have made a difference to the world:


  • Fuel cells. Fuel cells use chemical reactions to produce electricity. The first practical hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell was developed by Francis Thomas Bacon in the Department of Chemical Engineering (now the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology). These fuel cells played a key role in the Apollo missions to the moon in the 1960s. American President Richard Nixon later welcomed Francis Thomas Bacon to the White House, and told him; “Without you Tom, we wouldn’t have gotten to the moon.” Today, fuel cells are of widespread interest for the electrification of heavy goods vehicles.
  • Recycling of plastics. Pioneering technology to enable the recycling of plastic aluminium laminates was developed by members of the Department of Chemical Engineering in the early 2000s. This technology is in daily use by recycling company Enval and is important because more than 160,000 tonnes of previously unrecyclable flexible laminate packaging enter the UK every year for use in packaging for juices, toothpaste, cosmetics and pet food.
  • Carbon reduction. Churchill College’s own Professor Markus Kraft is founding Director the University’s first overseas research centre, the Cambridge Centre for Advanced Research and Education in Singapore, most often referred to as Cambridge CARES. The research centre hosts major research projects including the Cambridge Centre for Carbon Reduction in Chemical Technology (C4T), which investigate technologies to reduce carbon emissions and to transform carbon dioxide (CO₂) into compounds that are useful in the chemical industry.

Chemical Engineering at Cambridge

The aim of the Chemical Engineering course at Cambridge is to provide you with the scientific knowledge and skills that underpin modern chemical engineering. The Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at Cambridge enjoys a reputation for excellence in its teaching and research and occupies a new state-of-the art building on the West Cambridge Site, very close to Churchill College. The Department has strong links with industry and its graduates are in strong demand. Full details are provided on the Department website, and summarised in the University Undergraduate Prospectus.

Chemical Engineering at Cambridge

Chemical Engineering at Churchill

If Sir Winston Churchill’s mission for his College was to ‘educate advanced technologists’, chemical engineers were the kind of people he had in mind.

Churchill College has a large and vibrant community of undergraduate and postgraduate chemical engineers from around the world. The size of the community means that your supervisions would likely be with another Churchill chemical engineer. In fact, quite often your supervisor will also have a link with Churchill College. The College maintains strong links with industry. Previous students regularly return to College to pass on their experience by running workshops and practice interview sessions for students, and to catch up with everyone over dinner.

The Churchill chemical engineers, and Churchillians in general, are sociable and inclusive, and play an active role in a strong college community. The College is well equipped with facilities including a large library, squash courts, tennis courts and playing fields on-site, making it a fun and healthy place to live as well as study. The College is located literally over the road from the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology building on the West Cambridge Site, making it that bit easier to be there in time for 10 am lectures.

Churchill College typically takes five to six Chemical Engineering students per year. The College will provide you with a Director of Studies to oversee your academic development, and a Tutor to oversee your welfare and education in its fullest sense, both of whom will be Fellows of the College. The Director of Studies and Tutor will be able to form a view of your developing abilities, and advise on matters including course and career choices.


As a Chemical Engineering graduate, you will be highly employable and will have excellent career opportunities, because you will be experienced at solving problems and have good analytical and management skills.

You might perform ground-breaking scientific research, work as an engineer to produce products that improve the quality of human life, occupy a senior management position, or travel all round the world. In fact, you might go on to do all of these things during the course of your career.

Chemical Engineers are highly sought for their breadth of transferrable skills. Rather than working in traditional scientific or engineering roles, many Chemical Engineering graduates also choose to pursue successful careers in a wide variety of other fields, including finance, consultancy and scientific journalism, to name but a few.

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For more information and for all admissions enquiries, please contact the Admissions Office.

Admissions Office