By deciding to pursue a graduate degree, you are choosing to contribute new knowledge through research. This is fundamentally different from undergraduate education: the problems you will pursue are at the forefront of science / engineering and have no known answers.
This makes graduate education both more exciting and more challenging. The choice of graduate school involves finding the best match of research opportunities, atmosphere, and location based on your own personal interests. While we cannot adequately capture the atmosphere of our department in a webpage, we can convey the quality, breadth, and innovation of our research program.
Our students are involved in research that covers the entire spectrum of Chemical Engineering, with a particular focus on biomolecular engineering, alternative energy, and nanotechnology. Both computational and experimental approaches are applied with some groups combining both in a single project.
As a student in our department, you might design a better catalyst for a fuel cell, engineer a protein to perform a specific task, or manipulate forces to control the self assembly of nanoparticles. You might do this in a laboratory or using state of the art computational techniques. Our faculty generate a large number of research projects from which to choose: in 2007, an NSF survey ranked Penn State 3rd in the U.S. for total research expenditures in chemical engineering.
Both faculty and graduate students win prestigious awards: in the past few years, Antonios Armaou won the NSF Career award, and Susan Fullerton [graduate student] won the APS DPOLY award for best research.
Adam Mayernick and Joe McDermott [both graduate students] were selected through a national competition to attend the Nobel Laureates meeting in Lindau, Germany - we were the only Chemical Engineering Department in the U.S. that was recognized with 2 graduate student attendees.
Top quality journals such as Nano Letters, Physical Review Letters, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences feature the work of graduate students in the department. Please look through the rest of our website for more information on faculty research interests, graduate student recognitions, and Department highlights.
Chemical Engineering students have access to world class facilities for their research. In materials and nanotechnology, a state of the art facility in the Materials Research Institute provides a comprehensive array of characterization techniques and the foremost nanofabrication facility in the world. The Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences operates core facilities on DNA microarrays, x-ray crystallography, mass spectrometry, bioinformatics, among others.
Graduate students have full access to these facilities and can receive personalized instruction in the use of state-of-the-art equipment. Computational research is supported by the High Performance Computing Group. This group not only develops and maintains state-of-the art computational clusters, but also provides staff and support for research using specialized software in computational biology, chemistry, fluid mechanics, and other disciplines.
In addition to our standard graduate student assistantships / fellowships, we provide a number of unique opportunities specifically tailored to graduate students in our department. We have an awards program that recognizes outstanding graduate students with significant cash prizes based on excellence in a technical publication, a presentation at the Department's annual Graduate Student Research Symposium, or performance on the Ph.D. candidacy exam.
We offer the McWhirter Fellowship, a competitive Fellowship which provides a larger than normal stipend and the opportunity to design your own research project [please see the prospective students page for information on how to apply]. Both programs are supported by alumni and corporate gifts, including a $2 million gift from the Dow Chemical Company in 2006. This is the largest corporate endowment ever received at Penn State.
For graduate students interested in pursuing a faculty position after graduation, we offer the opportunity to serve as a Teaching Fellow, where you can co-teach a course with one of our faculty. This, combined with the McWhirter fellowship, provides talented graduate students with multiple opportunities to develop the skills needed for a successful academic career.
Please consider applying to our department for graduate studies. If we offer admission and you reside within the U.S., you will be invited to visit us during our graduate recruiting weekend, which is normally held in February. You will thus be able to experience first hand the atmosphere of our department and see the location frequently referred to as "Happy Valley".
View the prospective graduate student section for information about applying the the Department of Chemical Engineering at Penn State.