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The Heart of Chemical Engineering at Caltech is Excellence in Graduate Education

Our central goal is teaching students how to conduct innovative research and communicate the results. Caltech students enjoy personal experiences in scholarship and independent inquiry, in which they play an active role in formulating the research to be undertaken, implementing the work, and carrying it to completion. Graduate research projects combine careful fundamental study with recognition of the practical and technological importance of the research. In pursuing these goals, you will have the opportunity to receive guidance and instruction from some of the leading chemical engineering researchers in the world, and, equally important, you will share the excitement, the hard work, the success, and the occasional frustrations of research with a varied and outstanding group of graduate student colleagues. Because of Caltech's small size and open and congenial atmosphere, your interactions in research will not be restricted to chemical engineering but may branch into pertinent related fields such as chemistry, biology, the engineering sciences, mathematics, and physics. The research environment in the chemical engineering department is further enriched by the participation of many postdoctoral research associates and visiting faculty members. These collaborators often bring backgrounds in related areas of science and engineering to expand the scope of research in the department.


Productive and dynamic interactions among graduate students and members of the faculty in chemical engineering and in other areas of the Institute are a natural and ongoing feature of research at Caltech. Interdisciplinary research collaborations occur frequently, a consequence of the openness, intellectual vitality, and curiosity of eas faculty and students, and of the direct connection between the fundamental chemical engineering research in the department and related areas of science. Such interactions arise spontaneously in this environment and may spring from unexpected sources -- for example, one major research project in chemical engineering was instigated by a conversation between students from different departments (and different teams!) at an intramural softball game. Research groups at Caltech are open to requests for help and for access to facilities from colleagues throughout the Institute, and many faculty members from other programs participate in the committees that regularly review and counsel chemical engineering graduate students on their accomplishments and plans for future research.

Research at the frontiers of modern chemical engineering requires sophisticated experimental instrumentation for observing the state and the dynamics of molecules, particles, cells, surfaces, and flows. Major experimental facilities in the department include a 300-MHz wide-bore nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer, a Raman spectrometer, X-ray diffraction facilities, vacuum systems, infrared spectrometers, gas chromatographs, mass spectrometers, thermogravimetric analysis systems, a materials testing system capable of the simultaneous measurement of dynamic stress, deformation, birefringence, and infrared dichroism in polymers, and a mercury porosimeter for the synthesis and characterization of catalysts, sorbents, and ceramic materials, and for related kinetic studies. Additional major instrumentation is readily available in other nearby laboratories on the compact Caltech campus. For example, departmental research groups currently use scanning and transmission electron microscopes, a high-performance XRD system, two 500-MHz NMR spectrometers, Raman and electron spin resonance spectrometers, and a microchemical facility for DNA synthesis.

Computational facilities at Caltech are among the best available anywhere. In addition to numerous desktop workstations in the department, students have access to supercomputers at the San Diego Supercomputer Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as well as parallel supercomputers at the Caltech Concurrent Supercomputer Facility. Caltech also organized the Concurrent Supercomputing Consortium (CSC), and is the home of the CSC's new Intel Delta supercomputer, as of this writing the world's most powerful computer.


A major gift from Arnold Beckman, founder of Beckman Instruments and a Caltech trustee, has established the Beckman Institute, an endowed laboratory on the campus that fosters research at the frontiers of chemistry and biology. Caltech faculty members can participate in the Institute's activities if their research falls into this category.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, located in Pasadena, is NASA's prime center for unmanned space exploration. NASA established a special fund, the President's Fund, to promote cooperative research between the academic faculty and JPL staff. A number of research projects in the department of Chemical Engineering at Caltech have been carried out in collaboration with JPL.

A measure of the quality of the graduate research activities at Caltech is the large number of major awards that the members of the departmental faculty have received. Five members of our faculty are members of the National Academy of Engineering. Three members of the Caltech chemical engineering faculty have received the Allan P. Colburn Award of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, given to honor outstanding research achievements before the age of 35. Four of the faculty have been Dreyfus Foundation Teacher-Scholars, five have been NSF (National Science Foundation) Young Investigators, and one is an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator. Also, one faculty member is the first engineer to win the prestigious NSF Alan T. Waterman Award. Departmental faculty members have received other major awards of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, including the William H. Walker, Professional Progress, and Wilhelm Awards, and have been recognized by research awards from the American Chemical Society, the American Society for Engineering Education, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

For more on research fields emphasized and the option visit our Graduate and Undergraduate Program pages and the Caltech Catalog Chemical Engineerning areas of research and option requirements.


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