Girl using a pipet
Degrees Offered: BS ME MS PhD

Chemical and biological engineers use concepts from the biological sciences to inspire and guide the development and production of chemicals, pharmaceuticals and advanced biomaterials. They develop technologies like those used in X­rays, ultrasounds, EKGs and the thousands of high­-tech procedures and devices that diagnose conditions, sustain health and fight disease.

Chemical and biological engineers are also involved in developing methods to spur the growth and regeneration of tissues, radiation treatments that fight cancer and/or incubators that keep premature babies alive. Outside the world of medicine, graduates contribute to the health of the planet by developing better technology for alternative energy, agriculture and environmental science. They are also well prepared for medical or graduate school, and advanced degrees leading to careers in research and development.

Undergraduate Opportunities

The undergraduate program in chemical and biological engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder emphasizes open­-ended problems, computer applications and undergraduate research. It is characterized by a high degree of faculty­-student interactions, both inside and outside the classroom. More than half of undergraduate students participate in research in biotechnology, biomedical and tissue engineering and pharmaceutical engineering. The department also features a well­-established co-­op program, which allows students to gain professional experience and often leads to job offers. In addition to the standard chemical and biological engineering degree program, a pre­-medicine curriculum is also defined. Students can gain professional exposure through student chapters of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the Biomedical Engineering Society on campus.

Undergraduate students are encouraged to pursue research opportunities through independent study, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, the Discovery Learning Apprenticeship program or research assistantships with faculty. The department offers a senior thesis option as well as a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) summer program sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Graduate Studies

The department’s goal is to prepare students, through both innovative course work andchallenging research, to be leaders in the many emerging fields that demand chemical and biological engineers. The program has been ranked 14th among all graduate programs, and eighth among public graduate programs. In addition, a high proportion (18/22) of tenure­track faculty have won one or more national research awards.

The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering offers an innovative graduate program and emphasizes the doctoral degree. General research areas within the department include: biomaterials; biopharmaceutical engineering; catalysis, surface science and reaction engineering; complex fluids and microfluidic devices; computational science; energy and environmental applications; membranes andseparations; metabolic engineering and directed evolution; nanostructured films and devices; polymer chemistry and engineering; and tissue engineering. There is a particular emphasis on research in biological engineering, functional materials and renewable energy. Research is supported in a variety of manners, including federal grants (NIH, NSF, DOD, etc.), national foundations (Howard Hughes, Cystic Fibrosis, etc.) and industrial collaborators.

Finally, the ChBE Department has an active program in renewable energy research. Studies range from the production and utilization of hydrogen to materials for photovoltaics to biorefining and biofuels research. The latter area has significant support through the Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels (C2B2), a large collaborative research center led by faculty in the department and supported by university, state and industry funding. A number of efforts focus on developing catalysts for converting water to hydrogen and CO2 into fuels such as CO and methanol. Another area of focus is the study of novel photovoltaic materials and structures involving organic, inorganic and hybrid structures for efficient solar energy harvesting.

Research Opportunities

The department hosts four interdisciplinary research centers, including the Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels, the Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, the Center for Fundamentals and Applications of Photopolymerization and the Center for Membrane Applied Science and Technology. It is also ideally located near several national research labs, such as NREL, NIST, NCAR and NOAA.