The Chemical Engineering course at Cambridge enjoys a reputation for excellence in its teaching and research, regularly topping national league tables. The department is small enough for everyone to know each other, but large enough to provide excellent facilities.
Chemical Engineering studied at Cambridge is a four-year course. However all students spend their first year at Cambridge studying Part IA of either the Natural Sciences Tripos or the Engineering Tripos. Each of these routes provides a suitable background and the choice between them is a personal one; Magdalene College expresses no preference for the route chosen.
In any case, the first year of the Part I Chemical Engineering course contains lectures on engineering topics for those who read Natural Sciences in the first year, and chemical topics for those who read Engineering. However, it is important for students intending to study Chemical Engineering to think carefully about whether they wish to spend their first year studying topics of a broad scientific nature or an engineering nature.
The Chemical Engineering course at Cambridge is a fully IChemE accredited 4-year undergraduate course leading to BA and MEng qualifications, with the option to graduate after three years with the BA degree. The Department has strong links with industry and graduates of the course are very much in demand.
Part I Chemical Engineering, read in the second year at Cambridge, introduces the basic concepts of the discipline. Part IIA taken in the third year covers much of core Chemical Engineering and is a preparation for professional practice. This part qualifies the student for a BA degree. However, almost all students continue to Part IIB which is taken in the fourth year.
Part IIB is an advanced course in Chemical Engineering and provides an opportunity to study the subject in greater depth, to consider recent advances and to undertake a major research project. Although, students may leave after Part IIA, with the BA Degree, those wishing to continue for a fourth year of study in Chemical Engineering, do not take their BA until after completion of Part IIB. The MEng Degree, in addition to the BA Degree, is awarded to those who obtain Honours in Part IIB Chemical Engineering. The MEng Degree satisfies the academic requirements for full membership to the Institution of Chemical Engineers, leading to Chartered Engineer status. Full details of the course content can be found here.
The majority of teaching (lectures, practical, project work) occurs within the Department of Chemical Engineering & Biotechnology. The Department moved to a new building on the West Cambridge site at the end of 2016.
College teaching takes the form of supervisions and Director of Studies meetings given by the Chemical Engineering Fellows of the College and additional supervisors. Undergraduates would expect to receive about two or three hours of supervision per week. Magdalene is particularly fortunate in having two Chemical Engineering Fellows. In addition, there is normally an annual dinner for all undergraduates reading chemical engineering at Magdalene.
Many Chemical Engineering graduates go on to work for international companies and the opportunities for travel and working abroad are widespread. Graduates from the Department have reached very senior positions in a wide range of companies; their achievements have clearly been based on technical expertise. They have the opportunity to play an important role in global issues such as energy, the environment and sustainable provision. Typical employment activities include oil and gas production, petrochemicals, food and personal goods, utilities and the environment, information technology and consultancy, pharmaceuticals, and contracting, whilst some continue in higher education to undertake research. The multi-disciplinary and quantitative nature of the subject has resulted in some graduates being successful in finance and the city including diverse fields such as journalism, banking and law.
Potential Chemical Engineers are encouraged to obtain industrial sponsorship and the College has an open attitude concerning taking a year off following school to gain relevant experience before coming up to Cambridge.
Chemical engineers develop processes for making, separating and recycling chemicals, biochemical, bioproducts and materials for the benefit of society. This requires skills in a wide range of scientific disciplines. We are looking therefore for applicants who can demonstrate a mature interest in such matters, and have taken appropriate steps to familiarize themselves with associated areas (energy, environment healthcare products, sustainability, risk and safety etc.). This is likely to involve some general knowledge of scientific areas in addition to those been studied at A-level. Chemical engineers need to size and cost processes, so a high level of competence in numeracy and order of magnitude is essential supported by skills in applied mathematics.
Chemical engineers need to solve new problems; so we are looking for people who can think “out of the box”, propose novel solutions to unfamiliar situations and make sensible approximations and assumptions when no data is available.
Finally we are looking for an eagerness and willingness to learn, openness to new ideas, and the intellectual curiosity to seek out more.
Applicants in chemical engineering are recommended to become familiar with the material on the Whynotchemeng website.
Prospective candidates should normally be studying Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry at A-Level (or equivalent), and although the College does not insist on a second Mathematics A-Level such a qualification is desirable as it demonstrates additional mathematical ability, which is important for success in this subject. It is most important that candidates who wish to read Chemical Engineering indicate on their application form, whether they wish to study Chemical Engineering via Engineering (UCAS code H810) or Chemical Engineering via Natural Sciences (UCAS code H813). Please see the Engineering and Natural Sciences pages for for detail of the subject requirements for each iof these entry routes.
The typical offer for entry to the Chemical Engineering course via either route is A*A*A at A-Level. Students taking the IB will typically be asked for an overall score of 42 with 7,7,6 at Higher Level.
Interviews and Written Assessment
Most candidates, including those from overseas, are invited for interview normally in Cambridge or, if suitable arrangements can be made, in their home country. The main function of the interview is to assess the applicant's aptitude to study this subject with a high degree of success. In particular, the multi-disciplinary nature of the subject suits a flexible and enquiring mind, whereas a number of aspects demand numerical skills. Candidates would be expected to have some background knowledge of the nature of chemical engineering and the range of areas to which the discipline can be applied. In addition, they would be expected to be conversant with the subjects they are currently studying and to impart enthusiasm for their academic studies and their associated activities. Candidates will also have an additional interview with those responsible for admissions in either Natural Sciences or Engineering, depending on which entry route has been chosen for entry into Chemical Engineering. It is important therefore to also consult the entries for Natural Sciences or Engineering for further information of the admissions procedures in those subjects.
Applicants are also asked to take a pre-interview written admissions assessment for either Natural Scences or Engineering (depending on the chosen route). Further information about this assessment, including practice questions can be found here (see entry requirements tab).