Students in a lab

Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering Graduate Degrees

PhD Programs

Chemical Engineering
Biological Engineering

MS Program

Chemical Engineering

    The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering offers an innovative graduate program and emphasizes the doctoral degree. The department's outstanding domestic and international students take advantage of the high level of faculty-student collaboration and benefit from access to six interdisciplinary research centers. Department faculty and students have won numerous awards both nationally and internationally.

    The department particularly encourages applications from students who would broaden the diversity of our graduate community. We know that diversity is essential to academic and workplace success, and we are committed to creating an inclusive and collaborative community.

    Learn more about the CEAS Graduate Application Fee Waiver

    Admission is based on overall student qualifications and is independent of research subject area. Department faculty and staff members do not conduct individual recruiting practices for prospective graduate students. Prospective student information will only be reviewed through formal submittal to the Graduate Admissions Committee.

    MS Degree

    The master of science degree requires 30 hours of approved course work and successful completion of a comprehensive final exam or thesis defense. Students may pursue a thesis or non-thesis plan.

    The department does not accept students interested in a terminal master’s degree except under special circumstances. Students generally obtain master’s degrees in the course of fulfilling the requirements for the PhD degree.

    PhD Degree

    The doctor of philosophy degree requires 30 hours of approved course work and 30 hours of dissertation. Students must successfully complete a preliminary examination, comprehensive examination and dissertation defense.

    Admission Requirements

    • Hold a baccalaureate degree or its equivalent from an accredited college or university.

    Applications are reviewed by the department’s Graduate Admissions Committee. Final admissions decisions are communicated to all applicants via the email you provide on your online application. Admitted students who reside in the United States will be invited to visit the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, at department expense, during one of two weekends in the spring. These visit weekends provide recruits with an overview of the research conducted in the department; individual meetings with faculty; tours of the Jennie Smoly Caruthers Biotech Building, chemical engineering labs, and the University of Colorado Boulder campus; opportunities to meet with faculty and graduate students in a social setting; and social activities with graduate students so that you can become acquainted with Boulder, Colorado and the surrounding area.

    All applicants must utilize the new online application system.

    Minimum Requirements for All Applicants

    All applicants must submit an online Graduate Application.

    The following items must be uploaded with your online application.

    • The GRE is no longer a requirement for admission to our graduate program and not part of our review process.
    • Resume
    • Statement of Purpose
      • This document should briefly describe your past work in your proposed or allied fields of study, including non-course educational experiences, teaching, or other relevant employment, publications, theses, research in progress, other scholarly activities, and your plans for graduate study and a professional career. Please limit your statement to 3 pages or less.

      • Although optional, please consider including the following for your personal statement:

        1. An example of a failure and what was done to overcome it

        2. A description of what was learned during your undergraduate research and how it advances the field

        3. An example of a time when you took initiative to tackle a challenging problem

        4. How graduate school will serve as a stepping stone for your future career, and/or

        5. Why the University of Colorado Boulder and what ChBE Faculty interest you

    • Unofficial transcripts from all attended institutions of higher education. For review and decision purposes you are required to upload an unofficial copy of your transcript(s) in the online application. We require one copy of the scanned transcript from each undergraduate and graduate institution that you attended. This includes community colleges, summer sessions, and extension programs. While credits from one institution may appear on the transcript of a second institution, unofficial transcripts must be submitted from each institution, regardless of the length of attendance, and whether or not courses were completed. Failure to list and submit transcripts from all institutions previously attended is considered to be a violation of academic ethics and may result in the cancellation of your admission or dismissal from the university. ONLY after you are recommended for admission will you need to provide official transcripts. Read the instructions for uploading unofficial transcripts to your application.

    • Three letters of recommendation. You will enter your recommender’s contact information into the online application.
    • International Applicants must submit an official TOEFL or IELTS score to the University of Colorado Boulder. The department requires a minimum TOEFL score of 100 iBT (internet-based exam) or a minimum IELTS score of 7.0. The department will waive the TOEFL/IELTS requirement if the applicant has studied at a U.S. institution for a minimum of 1 year or the applicant is a citizen of one of the following countries: Australia, Belize, Botswana, Anglophone Canada, Commonwealth Caribbean, Ghana, Great Britain, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Scotland, Singapore or South Africa

    Application Fee

    Domestic Applicants

    There is a $60 application fee for all domestic applicants. However, between September 1 and December 15, the application fee will be waived for all U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents seeking a PhD and who have an overall GPA of 3.50/4.00 or greater from an accredited college or university. If you are applying to our department and you meet the requirements above, please email our Graduate Coordinator ( a copy of your most recent unofficial transcript.  After a review of your transcript, you will receive instructions on how to waive the application fee.

    The application fee will not be waived for applicants seeking a terminal Master’s degree.

    The Graduate School offers application fee waivers for participants in the following programs: current McNair Scholars, active Peace Corps or AmeriCorps volunteers, Black in AI (BAI), Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) initiative, Gates Millennium Scholars, Leadership Alliance, Louis-Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program, Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) Scholar Program, Post-baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP), SMART, Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native American in Science (SACNAS) or Teach for America. If you are affiliated with one of these programs, please send proof of affiliation to before you submit your application, and the university will process your fee waiver for you.

    If you are in the U.S. military, you will receive an automatic fee waiver as a thank you for your service (active duty, veteran, previously served, and active reserve are all eligible for this automatic fee waiver).

    International Applicants

    There is an $80 application fee for all international applicants. However, between Sept. 1 and Dec. 15, the department will consider waiving the application fee for international students seeking a PhD degree who have a GPA greater than or equal to 3.80/4.00, 4.00/5.00, 90/100, 9.0/10, 90% or 18/20 for both bachelor's and master's (if applicable) degrees from an accredited college or university. The GPA requirement is not an average of bachelor's and master's degrees. If you meet the requirement, please email our Graduate Coordinator ( a copy of your most recent unofficial transcript and a resume. After a review of your transcript and resume by the Graduate Admissions Committee, you will receive instructions on how to waive the application fee.

    The application fee will not be waived for applicants seeking a terminal master’s degree.

    Diversity Initiative

    The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering particularly encourages applications from students who would broaden the diversity of our graduate community. We know that diversity is essential to academic and workplace success, and we are committed to creating an inclusive and collaborative community. Learn more about the University of Colorado Boulder Diversity Initiative.

    Department Contact Information

    University of Colorado Boulder
    Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
    Attn: Graduate Admissions Committee
    596 UCB, RM A125A
    Boulder, CO 80309

    Phone: 303-735-1975

    General research areas within the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering include:

    • Biomaterials and tissue engineering
    • Biosensing
    • Biotechnology and pharmaceuticals
    • Catalysis and surface science
    • Computational science and engineering
    • Energy
    • Fluids and flows
    • Interfaces and self-assembly
    • Membranes and separations
    • Nanomaterials and nanotechnology
    • Polymers and soft materials
    • Protein engineering and synthetic biology

    Ours is one of the top research departments in the nation and maintains sophisticated facilities to support research endeavors. Although research in the department spans many diverse fields, there is a particular emphasis on research in biological engineering, functional materials and renewable energy.

    Biological engineering research includes a broad collection of focal areas spanning from the molecular scale (metabolites, genes, proteins) to the cellular and multicellular scales. Biological engineering projects account for a significant portion of the research activity within the department. This research is supported in a variety of manners: federal grants (NIH, NSF, DOD, etc.), national foundations (Howard Hughes, Cystic Fibrosis, etc.), and industrial collaborators.

    Functional materials research includes a diverse group of research areas including polymers, nanostructured materials, photovoltaic materials, ultrathin films, catalytic materials, computational materials science, self-assembled monolayers and liquid crystalline materials. The department has strength in studying materials problems at the nanometer and sub-nanometer scales. Such fundamental investigations are directed toward technological applications.

    Finally, the 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. 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.

    Full financial support is available to admitted PhD students in the form of teaching assistantships, research assistantships and fellowships. No additional forms are needed to be considered for this funding.

    Students admitted to the MS program are not eligible to receive department financial support.

    A significant number of PhD students are supported through external fellowships available through the National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, NASA, etc., and applicants are highly recommended to apply for relevant external fellowships.

    Compare us to other institutions nationwide.

    • 16th overall ranked chemical engineering graduate programs (tie, U.S. News & World Report)
    • 10th among public graduate programs (tie, U.S. News & World Report)
    • $15,122,128 average research grant total in last four years (as of 2020)
    • #1 Recognized faculty (Shanghai Ranking)
    • 3 National Academy members
    • 4 MRS Outstanding Young Investigators
    • 10 NSF CAREER Award winners
    • 2 AIChE Lifetime Achievement Awards
    • 50% of faculty received teaching awards
    • Since May 2013, there have been 83 graduates of the PhD program
      • 59% report employment in industry
      • 25% in academia
      • 14% in government labs

    Graduate Student Profile (AY 2020-2021)

    • Graduate Students: 167 (3 Master's and 164 PhD students)
    • 36% female students
    • 22% international students
    • 6% Black, Latina/o/x and indigenous domestic students
    • Undergraduate backgrounds:
      • Biological Engineering
      • Biomedical Engineering
      • Chemical Engineering
      • Chemistry
      • Material Science
      • Mechanical Engineering
      • Polymer Science

    Graduate Student Excellence

    • NSF Graduate Fellows: 12
    • NIH Fellows: 3
    • Department of Education GAANN Fellows: 41
    • Department of Defense NDSEG Fellows: 2
    • Chateaubriand Fellow: 1
    • Department of Energy Fellow: 1

    #1 Recognized Faculty (Shanghai Ranking)

    Faculty awards:

    • Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellows: 2
    • AIChE Colburn Award: 1
    • AIChE Professional Progress Awards: 3
    • Camille-Dreyfus Teacher Scholars: 3
    • Department of Energy Early Career Awards: 2
    • Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator: 1
    • National Academy of Engineering Fellow: 1
    • National Academy of Medicine Fellows: 2
    • National Academy of Sciences Fellow: 1
    • National Institutes of Health FIRST Award: 1
    • NIH New Innovator Award: 1
    • NSF CAREER Awards: 13
    • NSF Presidential Early Career Investigators: 3
    • Teaching and Mentoring Awards: 29
    • L’Oreal-UNESCO Award: 1

    New Facilities

    • ChBE's facilities built in 2012: Jennie Smoly Caruthers Biotechnology Building

    Opportunities for Collaboration

    • Numerous Research Centers
    • New facilities also house BioFrontiers Institute and the Department of Biochemistry
    • Close proximity to national labs (NREL, NIST, NCAR, NOAA)
    • Successful start-up companies based on ChBE research
      • BioFrontiers Institute
      • Center for Membrane Applied Science and Technology (MAST)
      • Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology
      • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
      • National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL)
      • Photopolymerizations Center
      • Renewable & Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI)
      • Soft Materials Research Center (SMRC)