Chemical and biological engineers use concepts from the biological sciences to inspire and guide the development and production of chemicals, pharmaceuticals and advanced biomaterials. Without the discoveries of chemical and biological engineers, we wouldn’t have X-rays, ultrasound, EKGs, and the thousands of high-tech procedures and devices that diagnose conditions, sustain health and fight disease.
With a degree in chemical and biological engineering, you can make a difference and help save lives by developing methods to spur the growth and regeneration of tissues, developing radiation treatments that fight cancer or designing incubators that keep premature babies alive. Outside the world of medicine, you can contribute to the health of our planet by developing better technology in the fields of alternative energy, agriculture and environmental science. This is a great degree choice for students planning to go on to medical or graduate school for advanced degrees that lead to careers in research and development.
Highly-cited faculty, innovative teaching methods and excellent new facilities make chemical and biological engineering one of CU Boulder’s strongest engineering programs.
Nearly 70 percent of undergraduates participate in research opportunities in biotechnology, biomedical and tissue engineering and emerging energy systems such as solar-driven hydrogen production and nanotechnology.
Students also gain hands-on experience through industry co-op positions, which often lead to jobs after graduation. Students can find professional exposure through the student chapters of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Biomedical Engineering Society and the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering.
Trailblazing research is a prime focus in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, and every student is encouraged to participate alongside distinguished faculty members. Faculty members have earned numerous awards for their research accomplishments; many hold notable patents and have founded successful start-up companies.
The department is also involved with several interdisciplinary research centers, including the Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels, the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute, the Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, the Center for Fundamentals and Applications of Photopolymerization, and the Center for Membrane Applied Science and Technology.
Undergraduate students are encouraged to pursue research opportunities for course credit through independent study, senior thesis options, or volunteering in faculty labs. They also may participate in paid research opportunities such as the Discovery Learning Apprenticeship Program, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program or the Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program sponsored by the National Science Foundation.
Chemical and biological engineering graduates are working at bio-based companies such as TerumoBCT, CordenPharma Colorado, Eli Lilly & Company, OPX Biotechnologies and SomaLogic, as well as energy companies like Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell.
Many chemical engineering students continue their studies in graduate, medical or law school. About 20 percent of CU Boulder engineering bachelor’s graduates collegewide continue on to graduate school at CU Boulder or other top universities.
Employment of biomedical engineers is projected to grow 23 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
New technologies and applications for medical equipment and devices will likely increase demand for biomedical engineers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The demand for biomedical devices and procedures, such as hip and knee replacements, is expected to increase as the baby-boom generation lives longer and remains active. As the public becomes more aware of medical advances, many will turn to biomedical solutions to their health problems, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes.
According to PayScale as of Spring 2020, these are the entry-level starting salaries for:
- Chemical Engineers: $66,171
- Biological Engineers: $65,051
- BioMedical Engineers: $61,922
A recent Graduating Senior Survey found that the entry level median salary for CHEN and CBEN graduates was $64,000.