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Chemical and Process Engineering Resources

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Category: Preparing to Become an Engineer
Question: What really happens in the day of the life of chemical engineer?
Keywords: day,life,chemical,engineer
Answer: Let me run through my day first since that was your primary interest. I've recently changed positions within my company. I've moved from Process Engineer to Supervisor of Quality Control. My day begins with looking over test results from the previous evening and searching for any irregularities in these results. If some of the tests appear to be what is referred to as "Out of Standard" or 'other than what they should be', I have to find out why. You see, in a chemical process, any change in the recipe (reactants) can adversely affect the product that we produce which is polyester. When most people hear 'polyester' , they think of the tight pants or leisure suits from the 1970's, but what people don't realize is that polyester is used for many, many purposes. Just as an example, consider the plastic bottles that soda (or pop depending on where you are in the country) is bottled in. Guess what...they're made from heat treated polyester. The polyester is treated by a process called solid-state polycondensation (SSP). So if I notice that a particular test result is out of standard, I may call the polymer department (where the polyester is actually made by reactors) and ask the supervisors there if they noticed anything that may have caused the abnormality. They, in turn, will examine the process conditions such as pressure, temperature, viscosity (a liquid's resistance to flow), feed rates, catalysts feeds, and others. For each process condition, there is a set point at which each should be kept. If the process system varies from these points (which can be caused by many things), the product will also vary from the standards. So what does this mean? Well, it means that we have to "downgrade" the material to B or C grade rather than A grade. Each grade of material has a strict range of standards. The product can easily slip outside of the A grade standards and into he B grade standards. Why do companies want to produce as much A grade material as possible? Because A grade material is worth much more money! Typically, there may be a $0.20 to $0.30 difference per pound between A grade and B grade material. Now that may not sound like much, but when you sell thousands of pounds of your product each day, that turns into a lot of money!Now that you know why we must keep process conditions at very specific points, let see how we do so. I may consult with other supervisors and we would examine the process data. Once we pinpoint the process problem, the real work beings. WHY DID IT HAPPEN IN THE FIRST PLACE? and HOW CAN WE PREVENT IT FROM HAPPENING AGAIN? These are the questions that plaque my daily life. These questions are typically answered by testing and examining history of the process. For example, we may notice that X happens when Y drops below a certain point. We also notice that Y drops below a certain point, when Z is too high. O.K. then our goal is to keep Z from getting too high, whether Z be temperature, pressure, concentration, or something else. It's kind of like being a detective, except lots of money is involved.The money involved would probably explain why the average starting salary for chemical engineers is well over $40,000 per year. Chemical Engineers are hired to do very important jobs. Whether you do these jobs from a chemical lab, in the process environment, in a research and development lab, or elsewhere. I hope that I have answered some of the questions that you had. If you want to study chemical engineering, be prepared for lots of: MATH, CHEMISTRY, HARD WORK, LONG NIGHTS, AND REWARDING LEARNING. It's not an easy degree to get, but if you do, you'll open up many career choices and salary options. I strongly recommend that anyone who is considering chemical engineering to pursue it. You can only do your best and see what happens. You'll never know if you can do it, unless you try!
Links: Why Chemical Engineering