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Frequently asked questions about CBE name change

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Cal Science & Engineering Festival

By Jeffrey A. Reimer, CBE Department Chair | January 27, 2011

When did the name change become official?

The Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley was renamed the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, effective July 1, 2010.

Why did the department change its name?

The new name recognizes the department’s substantial research and teaching activities in the areas of biochemical and biomedical engineering, biotechnology, and synthetic biology. In changing the name, the department wants to signal to applicants, and to the general public, that the department is the nexus for research and teaching in the industrial applications of biology.

Will the degree name change?

The names of the undergraduate and graduate degrees issued by the department, and their requirements, will remain unchanged.

What’s the difference between biochemical and biomolecular engineering?

Biochemical techniques have been used by chemical engineers for decades. They were critical for the mass production of penicillin in World War II, the development of other antibiotics and pharmaceuticals, and the application of enzyme-based chemical processes.

Biomolecular engineering builds on these successes with the new techniques based on the biotechnology revolution of the 1980s. Many of the engineers who helped create this revolution received their formative education in Berkeley’s Department of Chemical Engineering.

What sort of biomolecular research takes place in the department?

Over the last several years, faculty research in the department has spawned a variety of biologically-related technologies, including new ways to synthesize biofuels and anti-malarial drugs, stem cell techniques for fighting neuro-degenerative diseases, microarrays of human enzymes that mimic the functions of the liver and replace animal testing, methods for producing hybridomas and monoclonal antibody therapeutics, and enzyme and surface science developments that have led to practical products such as better laundry detergent and safer contact lenses.