What do chemical and materials engineers do?
You may have noticed that our world is not made solely of virtual reality, computer code and equations. As well as living beings, it is also populated with very real objects of greater or lesser technical complexity. These objects are made of matter, governed by the basic laws of physics and chemistry. Since the dawn of humanity, people have tried to master these laws in order to create objects and systems that will improve their lives (and their finances). Some recent examples of these objects are illustrated by the images on this page: prostheses and medical devices, electronic equipment, aircraft and other means of transport, sporting items, methods of communication (optical fibres, flat screens, inks, paper…), sensors and detectors, satellites, construction materials such as smart glass, steel beams and cement, protective packaging for food, information storage media (CDs, DVDs, hard disks), toys of varying levels of sophistication, tyres, high-voltage cables. The list is long – just look around you.
Chemical and materials engineers are trained to occupy leading roles in the design and production of advanced materials and material systems and the development and control of highly technical processes. Building on the core science and technology knowledge acquired up to and during the master's programme, they may be either:
- "systems" engineers, designing new products or objects with the desired properties and functions, such as an artificial mitral valve, an electroluminescent polymer for a flexible screen, a metal alloy or lightweight composite for aeronautical use, a nanomaterial able to function as storage memory etc.
- or "process" engineers, developing new production processes and improving or managing the operation of production units, such as a plastic extrusion line, a factory extracting a pharmaceutical compound from a plant, a water or waste treatment plant, a production line manufacturing electronic components, a unit producing an extremely pure chemical compound etc.
- or a combination of the two, such as a polymer material for automotive applications together with the synthesis and/or implementation process required for its industrial production.
Chemical and materials engineers are constantly faced with legal, ethical and economic constraints, values and rules in their work.
Their broad scientific and technical knowledge enables them to work independently, manage industrial projects and operate comfortably as part of a team. They communicate effectively, even in a foreign language, and especially English.
What are the opportunities for chemical and materials engineers?
Chemical and materials engineering graduates can be found in most industrial sectors, in both major corporations and a multitude of SMEs. Our versatile, modular courses in chemistry and materials science provide a foundation in an extremely wide variety of applications, ranging from chemical engineering and process engineering to nano- and biotechnology via environmental engineering, sustainable development, the synthesis, implementation, transformation, effective use and digital simulation of polymers, metals, ceramics and composite materials and the physics of advanced functional materials.