Studying chemical engineering is no walk in the park, it’s dam hard. As a result we found that no matter what university or country you study chemical engineering, almost all students had the same 5 issues they faced. Unfortunately, these issues only make sense to fellow engineering students, so having a good rant about them can often be a good stress relief!
For the non-engineers reading this, hopefully, we can shed a light as to why us engineering students may act a little crazy, and deranged from time to time.
Why Is There So Much Maths?
For some reason, many students underestimate the importance maths plays in engineering. Maths is one if not the most fundamental part of studying engineering. From data processing, analysis, modelling, and optimisation, mathematics is at the core of engineering.
Many students struggle with maths for the sole reason they simply remembered the basics at high school and were determined to forget it when moving to university. However, for any STEM subject maths will be essential, especially in engineering.
As a rule and heads-up focus on calculus, matrices, and derivations to give you the best chance of passing your maths modules and applying these concepts to real problems.
It is, for this reason, we have produced a fantastic Engineering Mathematics course, that is used by several universities as an entry-level course to ensure students are capable of understanding the maths they will encounter on their academic journey.
What Happened To Chemistry?
One of the biggest misconceptions of chemical engineering is the volume of chemistry that is actually involved. the idea that chemical engineering is heavily weighted in chemistry is a huge misconception.
Granted there are modules of “hardcore” chemistry principles such as organic chemistry, however, we only take it to a certain point as any further and we would become a chemist.
The point of chemistry is to provide us with an understanding of the interactions of atoms and molecules within a reaction. This leads to the main point of chemistry in chemical engineering, and that is “reaction engineering”. This module is the main difference between chemicals and other engineering disciplines.
Chemistry is incredibly interesting and it opens up a whole new world and provides you with a unique perspective on the world. So as a heads-up, make sure you are confident with organic chemistry, and the basic calculations, as these are the core building blocks of chemical engineering chemistry modules.
Your Exam False Sense of Security
Is there anything more nerve-wracking than sitting an exam? Knowing that the outcome of this 3-hour endeavour will determine the progress and outcome of your hard work.
Mastering the art of studying takes years to master, and we have a dedicated post on how to study effectively. Studying chemical engineering is no easy task, especially when there is a mountain of mathematics and engineering concepts to get your head around.
Sometimes a chemical engineering exam can appear simple enough with a good amount of studying, however, more often than not, the actual exam can throw several curveballs and issues that students don’t account for.
A point to remember is while the derivations aren’t required within industry, if you are able to derive a set of important equations, such as Reactor Design’s, Clapeyron-Clausius Equation, fluid flow in pipes etc. By carrying out the derivations/modelling you understand the interaction between the different parameters and how the actual equation works. This makes problem-solving much easier!
Where Did My Social Life Go?
Now, this might not be limited to chemical engineering, as many degrees can take up a significant amount of socialising time. However chemical engineering students will know the extent the subject has on an active social life.
The saying, study hard, play hard can sort of apply here, however, you must have some serious self-discipline to get the balance right. As a general rule of thumb, especially from 3rd year onwards, your social life should be less than your study time. This doesn’t account for any part-time work you may do to support your income during your studies, so planning ahead and being prepared for a reduced social life is really important.
Try to remember that it won’t be forever! As part of my university career I would significantly reduce my social life for the 13 weeks of each semester (not completely ignore it) but I would limit it to only a few hours every other day. Because at the end of the day, the amount of time we get off at university allows us to make up for that lost social interaction.
So just remember that if your social life is suffering, then you are doing the right thing! If your social life has never been busier, then I would recommend re-evaluating your situation and asking yourself “am I doing enough, and is my grades reflective of my efforts”?
Why Are Dissertations So Hard?
Writing can be a difficult endeavour for many chemical engineering, and indeed many STEM degrees. This isn’t to say we aren’t capable, but it doesn’t come naturally to 90% of us. This means that often the idea of writing dissertations and report can be a frustrating task. This is why we put together a fantastic short free course on how to write a 1st class dissertation!
Sometimes it is easy to understand a concept in your head, but communicating your thoughts on paper can cause significant problems. This is normal, especially at the beginning of your studies, and being able to articulate your ideas in a scientific and engineering language can be frustrating.
If this sounds like you, then don’t worry you aren’t alone in your struggle. The more you worry about it the worse your writing will actually get. So consider any report or dissertation as a blank canvas, write everything you know, and then go back through it to refine and perfect your piece. Don’t stress over it being “perfect” as there is no such thing as a perfect piece of writing, focus on it being clear and concise from the reader’s point of view.