Questionable Path – Chemical Engineering at MIT Manipal

Sohan Ahmed | Guest Blogger

It is a common notion that Chemical Engineers deal with a lot of chemistry – organic and inorganic, and have lot of reactions and their mechanisms to understand and learn the synthesis of compounds as we did in +2 Chemistry, but that’s not all that Chemical Engineering has to offer. Infact, it constitutes a very tiny part of the course – 3 subjects at the most. The branch deals extensively about the chemical phenomena that takes place on a day to day basis and the various machinery in chemical plants, the design and control of reactors and entire process plants.

What is Chemical Engineering ?

Chemical Engineering is that branch of engineering that deals with the reasoning, operations and design of chemical process industries, food processing industries, oil and gas wells and reservoirs. In recent times biotechnological research has comes under the realm of this branch as well. Like Electrical, Mechanical or Civil, Chemical stands out as one of the core branches of Engineering, with Biotechnology and Polymer and Petroleum Engineering being its sub-domains. From understanding the flow of fluids and the transfer of heat and mass, to understanding microscopic thermodynamics and reaction phenomena and the control of all these, the four years of study gradually builds one up from scratch to be able to  understand the design and operation of an entire process plant. The subjects of Chemical Engineering are divided into two broad categories – Unit Operations and Unit Processes.  While Unit Operations deal with phenomena that does not cause any chemical changes, such as Mass Transfer, Heat Transfer, Fluid Mechanics, Unit Processes on the other hand deals with subjects that teach the chemical changes occurring, such as Chemical Reaction Engineering.

Chemical Engineering in Manipal

Manipal offers a plethora of opportunities for every aspiring Chemical Engineer. In terms of teaching, majority of the faculty staff is impeccable and the sail through most of the semesters is smooth, if one is an active listener and follows the professors well. Also being a department not too large in size, the department and the students are knit pretty close, and there is active and free communication from both the student and faculty end. Labs for a subject are conducted in the succeeding semester once the subject is taught in class, which provides for a wholesome grip and observation of concepts taught in the subject pertaining to the lab. Laboratories with state of the art facilities include the Mass Transfer Labs, Heat Transfer Lab, Reaction Engineering and Process Control Lab, Momentum Transfer and Mechanical Operations Lab, Computer Labs and Instrumentation and Analytical Techniques Lab.

For the Minor Specialization, as of now two options are offered by the department, Petroleum Engineering and Pollution Control Engineering, along with Business Management and Environmental Biotechnology offered by the Humanities and Biotechnology department respectively. Both Petroleum and Pollution offer a wide overview and in-depth study of the fields in the course of the four subjects you take up for the specialization.

Experimental research work is also much in vogue, and students who figure out what their interest lies in, after completing their second year of studies can work for these projects which span the fields of Biogas production, Water Treatment, Surface phenomena, Membrane Science, Energy Engineering, etc. Exposure to mathematical software packages such as MATLAB and design software such as Aspen Plus is provided as labs in the higher semesters. Industrial visits conducted also ensure exposure to the chemical world outside the college.

Scope

The scope of Chemical Engineering is vast and stretches it arms over several realms, from joining and industry, becoming an entrepreneur, pursuing higher studies and extensive research, becoming a plant commissioner etc. As for Manipal, the scope of studying Chemical Engineering opens up the prospects of ample number of both Core and Non-Core Placements as well as a number of students pursuing higher studies in some of the most reputed institutions abroad as well as the IITs. If one loves the field of study and is a good observer and listener, the prospects within the branch are numerous. For those looking forward to Management and Business studies too, Chemical Engineering is a fitting branch to go for since the field involves massive plants, large companies and global businesses, and a technical base with managerial skills takes one a long way ahead as well.

Some core companies visiting the campus include Reliance, Honeywell, Vedanta, Aurobindo Pharma, Jacobs Engineering, Suez Water, ExxonMobil and ABB. Companies with many other branches eligible along with Chemical as well include Goldman Sachs, Deloitte, KPMG, ZS Associates, Impact Big Data, etc.

Other than these the IT majors such as TCS, Wipro, IBM also visit campus for placements.

Student Activities

Indian Institute of Chemical Engineers, Manipal Students’ Chapter is an active students’ club that comes directly under the Department of Chemical Engineering and organizes industrial visits and symposiums where eminent speakers from industry and academia give talks, research paper and poster presentations are done by students and cultural events within the department take place.  Departmental tournaments such as the annual football and cricket tournament are also organized. Also any group of students wishing to pursue research work and having a strong proposal will always be guided and helped by faculty to utlize the lab machinery and equipment to fulfil the cause.

Pro Tips
  • Be attentive in class. Class teaching is a very important part of this branch and goes a long way in helping you do well in exams and labs as well as crack technical interviews for employment

  • Grades are not everything, but yes an 8+ CGPA is a golden gate to opportunities. But any grade point average whatsoever must be accompanied by clear understanding of concepts and some good internships / technical project work.

  • Love what you study. Do not take up this branch for the sake of studying some engineering, life would be tough and you would not understand all the concepts and enormous amount of mathematics in almost each and every subject unless you love what you learn.
Some Useful Books
  • Higher Engineering Mathematics, B.S Grewal – Right from the first semester, this book will take you through all the kinds of mathematical problems you shall encounter in the course of Engineering

  • Unit Operations of Chemical Engineering, McCabe and Smith – Provides vivid and picturesque understanding of fundamentals of Mechanical Operations and Fluid Mechanics

  • Mass Transfer Operations, Robert Treybal – The bible of Mass Transfer

  • Chemical Reaction Engineering, Fogler – A bit difficult of a read, but undoubtedly the best book to understand Reaction Engineering at depth

The author is an alumnus of MIT Manipal (Batch of 2018) and the former President & Secretary of the Indian Institute of Chemical Engineers Manipal Students’ Chapter. He is currently pursuing a research project at IIT Bombay as a part of his final semester project work and will soon be joining ExxonMobil Corporation. He is a traveler, foodie and a tech enthusiast and loves following both technical and financial developments in the Oil and Gas Market.
About Navaneethcrshna Upadhyaya 17 Articles
Mildly entertaining, occasionally funny, and something pretentious 'coz the first two are too mainstream...