The Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering is changing its name to the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
According to Michael Harold, Dow Chair Professor and department chair, the change reflects the changing direction of the field of chemical engineering.
“We’re expanding into different areas, notably biotechnology. Biomolecular engineering is a reflection of one component of biotech where chemical engineers are making an impact,” said Harold.
Currently, the department has three faculty members who conduct bio-related research full-time and several others who do bio-research as part of collaborative efforts. A common feature of the bio-related research is the focus of activity at the molecular level.
With the name change the department hopes to attract more graduate students who are interested in this emerging area, and slowly incorporate more biomolecular content into its undergraduate curriculum.
According to Harold, the biological component to chemical engineering isn’t new; in fact, chemicaland biochemical engineering programs have been around for several decades. However, the biomolecuar field is fairly new.
“It really reflects what is happening to our field overall, and that’s an increasing focus at the molecular level. Chemical engineers have always studied molecular level phenomena in order to advance fundamental understanding in the development of new technologies. But it’s the advanced experimental and computational methods that are really accelerating the growth of bio-nanotechnology. ”The name change, therefore, is an indication of the expanding scope of the field of chemical engineering.
“It helps to make students realize that there is biotechnology within chemical engineering and that it is a growth area in the field. Chemical engineering students have the advantage of learning biotechnology within the larger subject of chemical engineering. This makes for a powerful combination,” said Harold.