Should I become a chemical engineer?

  • Thread starter ChEtobe14
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  • #1
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Right now I am in chemical engineering, as a freshman, and am taking my first ChE course which involves material and energy balances. I am right now, on my spring break, still trying to understand the topics because its just not coming to me. I am working problem after problem and I usually keep getting things wrong! I have never had such a hard course like this its insane! I am very motivated but my patience is quickly running up as I have done over hundreds of practice problems to prepare for my next exam and I feel ill-prepared! Is chemical engineering right for me? I would hate to give up on it, but honestly idk if this is normal to be this overwhelmed in chemical engineering?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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When you say you're "getting things wrong," what do you mean? Looking back on the problems you have done, does it seem like there's a certain part of the problem that keeps derailing you, or a certain type of thinking that you keep missing? Once you have that narrowed down, you can focus on the real issue you're having, and possibly ask the professor or a TA about it if you're still having trouble. It's a lot easier to learn how to set up an equation or determine which method to use than to simply "learn chemE."
 
  • #3
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For example right now I am doing problems involving material balances with multiphase reactions. When I am asked to solve for the recycle stream I am always getting stuck. Also, when I read a problem I often have to stare at it for a while to decipher it. Then the hardest part is converting the words in the word problem into a flow sheet and then to the corresponding values. I just feel overwhelmed, when I have to look at the solution to figure out what I was doing wrong- usually I just miscalculated a number or simply did not understand how to solve for a particular part of the process.
 
  • #4
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Any course can be made hard or easy, it depends on how demanding the lecturer is! How are other students coping with the course? Hard courses whittle out those not prepared to work during spring break. Hard courses give you questions that are difficult to understand, at which you continually get stuck, with difficult calculations where trivial mistakes are easy to make. You're not in high school. The hand-holding is over,. unless you have a *very* easy going lecturer. If you pass the course then there is no reason you can't continue to aim to be a chemical engineer. Don't judge your suitability by how hard the work is, the department will judge you at the end of the year. Fail the course and you're out, pass it and you're still in the game. If becoming a serious, highly-paid professional was easy then everyone would have a serious, highly-paid professional career. So forget sun bathing and get grafting!
 
  • #5
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Don't be too discouraged. They make that class harder then it needs to be in order to weed people out. Also realize, this is one of your first engineering classes and first time trying to solve problems of this nature. You are also being exposed for the first time to a lot of the fundamental concepts for ChE, and many of them are abstract. You will become comfortable with them as you continue to use them throughout your curriculum. Your problem solving skills will increase and you'll look back and think Mass and Energy Balances is an easy class.
 
  • #6
danago
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Don't be too discouraged. They make that class harder then it needs to be in order to weed people out. Also realize, this is one of your first engineering classes and first time trying to solve problems of this nature. You are also being exposed for the first time to a lot of the fundamental concepts for ChE, and many of them are abstract. You will become comfortable with them as you continue to use them throughout your curriculum. Your problem solving skills will increase and you'll look back and think Mass and Energy Balances is an easy class.

This describes my experience pretty well. I first did material and energy balances in a chemical thermodynamics class, and at the time i thought it was the hardest class i had ever taken. With enough practice and study though, i found that it was very logical and not too bad after all, and i do look back on it now as an easy class. Now statistical mechanics and chemical thermodynamics has taken the part of the hardest class I've taken so far :tongue:

You will probably find that energy and material balances play a huge role in many of the classes you will take in the future, so it is important that you try to get a good grasp on them now. Somewhere along the line, for example, you will probably take a class on reactor design (or something similar) which will be very reliant on you being able to perform material balances.
 

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