What is Chemical Engineering?

Chemical Engineering combines three basic physical sciences: chemistry, physics and biology, alongside mathematics, and applies them to the design, analysis, and control of chemical, physical and biological processes, including a risks assessment of them. Chemical engineers discover, develop and implement creative solutions to current world problems in order to benefit humankind. In a simpler way, Chemical engineers transform raw matter or chemicals into a more valuable and useful products.

Chemical engineers lead to larger scales what the chemists elaborate on a laboratory in much smaller scales.  Once a potential product is identified, chemical engineers verify if it can be produced on larger scales, which is the efficiency and at what pressure and temperature conditions can be done, etc. Everything is worked for a production cost and environmental pollution minimization.

Which products surround you as a result of Chemical Engineering work?

Look around you… each product that we use is a product of chemical compounds or an intermediate. Intermediates are also similarly produced. A Chemical engineer repeats this process to produce thousands of different products that we use in our daily lives. The application of the knowledge of this profession can be widely observed in our modern technologies.

EnergyPetroleum/gas, photovoltaic energy, nuclear.
Food and WaterProcessed foods, water treatments.
AgriculturePesticides, insecticide, sugar.
EnvironmentTreatment of water, pollution control.
Consumer ProductsDetergent, OTC medicines, cosmetics.
Drugs and MedicinePharmaceutical products, biopharmaceuticals, dialysis

How many years I have to study?

Pursuing a Chemical Engineering Bachelor at UPRM takes five years. The first two years of the curriculum are very similar to all engineering students, but the next three years focus on specialization courses.

Yet, Chemical Engineering students differ, since their curriculum is also oriented towards a strong preparation in chemistry fundamentals during the first years.

There are physical phenomenon fundamentals that are important to Chemical Engineers as they develop and implement them in chemical processes. These are the following:

Mass and Energy BalanceDescribes how materials go in and go out of a process nd help determine how many materials are needed. At this point, process operations are not necessarily know.
Fluid MechanicsPipelines, valves, pumps, etc.
Heat TransferHeat exchangers, heaters, dryers, cooling towers.
Mass TransferFilters, membranes, destillation column, etc.
Kinetics and Catalysts Reaction Vessels: PFR, continuous stirrer tanks, batch tanks, etc.
Process Control, Economics and Process SafetyAutomation, costs, safe operations, etc.

Who are good Chemical Engineers?

Every professional career aims to contribute to the overall wellness of humankind and all of them offer great opportunities to qualified individuals. On Engineering, the selection of a specific discipline must be based on each individual aptitudes and interests and not in the benefits that each discipline offers.

If you…

  • Are curious to find explanations for the phenomena you observe around you.
  • Enjoy performing experiments, creating and building things with your hands.
  • Like thinking and solving problems. Have the ability to derive and make conclusions based on data and observations.
  • Enjoy to study science and mathematics.
  • Are responsible and discipline in your studies.

A program of study in engineering sciences is not easy as it requires a great effort to approve it successfully. There is not a fitted mold of qualities to become a Chemical Engineer, however, the above mentioned characteristics could indicate a potential successful candidate in this career.

Many students have to modify their study habits to be able to have the required dedication and discipline in their studies. However, this difficulties and changes are typical of college life transition and can be learned in order to succeed.

Those students who choose a discipline based on their interest and abilities, and that have dedication to study, are awarded by seeing the success of their efforts in every challenge.

If you have these qualities, you should consider Chemical Engineering as your profession of choice.

Types of Work

There are diverse areas in which chemical engineers can work and specialize:

Process EngineeringIt occupies of the operation of existing chemical processes, including quality control, environmental harmony, operation management, problem solving, safety and maintenance.
Design and construction of plantsDesign engineers formulate the equipment and plant specifications in order to implement the desired chemical process, it also evaluates its construction and startup.
Technical chemical products saleTechnical sale representatives work with potential buyers or existing products of a company to evaluate the client needs and match products that fulfill them.
Environmental EngineeringMonitor the process operations compliance with environmental regulations and implements measurements and processes to prevent the violation of those standards or to clean hazardous waste.
Fundamental ResearchTypically those with a doctorate degree, work in the barrier between science and technology to comprehend the fundamental processes that limit new technologies in order to create new and creative ways to overcome those limitations. 
Process Development ResearchDevelop and refine methods to produce chemical products of an existing or new market of products. They use mathematical models, laboratory experiments and pilot plant studies.

The performance of most of these activities varies greatly with the type of activity under consideration, thus having the chemical engineer a multitude of options.

Employment Opportunities

Having known in broad strokes the variety of work that the chemical engineer can perform, it is easy to classify the profession as one of the fastest growing today. The biggest known problems of our era: environmental pollution, lack of energy, food and materials, diseases and global market competition, represent a challenge to society and technology.

Currently, employment opportunities for Chemical Engineers in Puerto Rico are in: Pharmaceutical Industry, Chemical Products, Advanced Materials, Transportation, Bioprocesses, Bioengineering Medicine, Food Industry, Design and Construction, Process Design, Environment, Safety and Health, Pulp and Paper Industry, Process control, Microelectronics, Government Agencies. 

UPRM – Department of Chemical Engineering Facts & Figures

Offered Degrees

  • B.S. on Chemical Engineering
  • M.S. on Chemical Engineering
  • M.E. on Chemical Engineering
  • Ph.D. on Chemical Engineering

Department Certificates

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Bioprocess Engineering
  • Pharmaceutical Engineering


  • Pharmaceutical Engineering

Undergraduate Program Students

  • Total: 700
  • Female: 55%

Graduate Program Students

  • Total: 17 PhD/18 MSc
  • Females: 50%


  • 20 full time faculty members
  • Academic Range: 100% Ph.D.

Research Areas

  • Complex fluids
  • Supercritical fluids
  • Pharmaceutical Engineering
  • Synthesis and characterization of Nano-structured materials
  • Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering
  • Catalysis and synthesis of Nano-structure catalysts
  • Computational methods applied to catalysis
  • Adsorption and synthesis of Nano-porous materials

Where was Chemical Engineering born in Puerto Rico?

Researching through our archives we found that in 1918 the first Sugar Engineer graduated, tittle that remarked the decade and industry with most impact on Puerto Rico. That program was pioneer to the current decade Chemical Engineering program. On 1925, the first two students entered the Chemical Engineering Program, graduating on 1930. At that time the courses were: Organic Chemistry, Heat Engineering, Sugar Manufacture, Sugar Analysis, Physical Chemistry, Chemical Engineering I, Sugar House Practice, Sugar House Calculation, Sugar House Machinery, Industrial Organic Chemistry, Hydraulics, and Sugar Cane Production. As Puerto Rico progressed through the years, the program of Sugar Engineering transformed into the Chemical Engineering Program.

Historical Data

  • 1955- First female engineer graduated
  • 1957- First female engineer graduated in INQU

Nowadays, almost 55% of the students that entering and graduating from the Chemical Engineering Program are females.

The Chemical Engineer profession had a position of great prominence in the Puerto-Rican community becoming a symbol of technical excellence and trustworthiness.  In the 70s decade it was considered the backbone of the industrial economy of the island.

The interest of studying Chemical Engineering increased dramatically between 1965 and 1970 (almost 5 times). The need of a bigger and more qualified faculty alongside with better facilities were necessary.

The Chemical Engineering Program has been accredited since 1970 by the Engineering Council for Professional Development (ECPD), nowadays known as ABET. 

Until May 2020, a total of 4,539 bachelor degrees, 216 master degrees and 60 doctorate degrees have been granted.

During the past 10 years, around a 100 bachelor degrees have graduated annually, making the Department of Chemical Engineering of UPRM one of the biggest producers of Hispanic and Women Engineers in the United States. This position has been achieved by the academic progress, development, growth, and evolution of the Chemical Engineering profession during nine decades of tradition of excellence build by ex-alumni and faculty.

Contact for more information

  • Academic Counselor Office: IQ-205-E
  • Phone: (787)-832-4040 ext. 2553