Improving our Curriculum: News from Chemical Engineering

by Arup Chakraborty, Chair

After the brief lull of the holiday season, the spring semester started on January 22, with all the hectic activity and excitement associated with the first week of classes. The beginning of the semester also coincided with the beginning of interview trips associated with our search for new faculty. We have almost finished interviewing all of the candidates, and I expect that we will make offers to some outstanding applicants. These talented individuals will undoubtedly also have offers from our competitors, and we will have to work hard to attract them to Berkeley.

I am pleased to report that the department has been accredited for the maximum duration of two years. The American Board for Engineering Training (ABET), which is responsible for accrediting engineering programs in the country, reviewed us last year. Kudos to Jeff Reimer, who did the bulk of the work in coordinating the ABET site visit. An internal campus committee also reviewed the department, and the report was very positive about the department’s teaching and research activities. The chemical engineering department was ranked second in the country again in the latest U.S. News and World Report survey of graduate schools. This simply means that our goal is clearly defined.

We are constantly improving our ability to educate students. Based on discussions at our annual faculty retreat in July, David Graves, Henrik Wallman, and Jeff Reimer have led the effort to make small but crucial modifications to our undergraduate curriculum. These changes add new elements that will better prepare our graduates for jobs in the biotechnology and materials industries, while preserving courses in all of the core subjects that define our discipline, in which we excel.

Additionally, Alex Bell is leading an effort to study the feasibility of adding a product development component to our graduate program. He, along with Doug Clark and Harvey Blanch, is establishing a committee consisting of alumni with leadership positions in industry to help us think about the pertinent issues that will arise.

The department is also improving the way we interact with students. The ChevronTexaco corporation has provided funds for our new advising program, which emphasizes more personal contact between faculty and their advisees. We hope that, once this program matures, our faculty will be more effective mentors to our undergraduate students.

As always, the research carried out by our faculty members continues to flourish. We have special strengths in biochemical engineering, catalysis and reaction engineering, soft materials, microelectronics processing, electrochemical engineering, and theory/simulation. Several faculty members are also involved in work at the crossroads of medicine, physical science, and engineering—a research theme that is the focus of the campus’ new institute for Quantitative Biology, Biomedicine, and Bioengineering (QB3).

As I mentioned in my last newsletter in detail, many of our faculty have been honored for their research and teaching accomplishments with awards this academic year. In addition, early this year, David Schaffer received a Whitaker Foundation Biomedical Engineering Research Grant to continue his work on innovative ways to improve gene therapy.

As we embark on making new plans to improve the department’s ability to continue to lead the discipline of chemical engineering through outstanding research and teaching, I hope you will stop by and provide much-appreciated input.


We are considering adding a product development component to the graduate program.



ChevronTexaco corporation has provided funds for our new advising program.