What can you achieve with a degree in chemical engineering?

See what Iowa State chemical engineering alumni are developing, studying, inventing and innovating!

Andee B.

Graduate student, University of Alabama at Birmingham

“After graduating with a chemical engineering degree in 2019, I moved to Birmingham, Alabama, to pursue a Ph.D. in neuroengineering. In between starting graduate school and graduating from Iowa State, I was hired to develop a three-dimensional bioprinting protocol for creating glioblastoma tumors using patient-derived cells. My time at Iowa State and experience performing research in Nigel Reuel’s lab provided me with the foundation I needed to not only work as an engineer, but to now succeed in graduate school.”

Moises C.R.

Process development scientist, Mammoth Biosciences

“Mammoth Biosciences aims to develop gene editing technologies for broad applications in life science research and healthcare. As a process development scientist, I work with a tremendously talented team developing CRISPR tools from proof-of-concept to optimization phases. I help develop a variety of assays and processes to test at the bench scale, and turn them into high throughput workflows using automation equipment. My role has given me unique visibility into a broad range of projects, including protein discovery, genome engineering and next-generation sequencing. Although challenges continuously arise, my chemical engineering background provided me with the skills to critically analyze challenges and develop pragmatic solutions.”

Tina A.

Director of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, North Seattle College in Seattle

“After completing my B.S. in chemical engineering at Iowa State, I proceeded to work on my master’s in mechanical engineering, also from ISU. During grad school I realized that while I was passionate about becoming an engineer, I was more passionate about creating access to post-secondary STEM pathways for women and students of color. This passion led to me working as a pathway navigator for a couple of years and eventually landing a position as the director of the Puget Sound Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP). LSAMP is a national program that is funded by the National Science Foundation to support underrepresented minority students in STEM. My alliance’s primary objective is to increase the enrollment of students of color in STEM pathways and consequently increase the proportion of students of color that proceed to attain bachelor’s degrees in STEM. We are accomplishing this through academic empowerment, research opportunities and nurturing a STEM identity amongst our students.”

Andrew M.

Corporate lawyer, Cooley LLP Corporation

“As a corporate lawyer, I help provide companies in a variety of industries commercial legal solutions throughout their lifecycles –from formation all the way to IPO. The companies span across industries – from life sciences to agriculture, all the way to tech. Chemical engineering gave me a skill set that helps me systematically analyze challenges that arise in connection with complex corporate transactions – which come up all the time. And my engineering background taught me to be inquisitive and think on my feet to help achieve clients’ goals.”

Janani R.

Senior chemical engineer, Honeywell FM&T

“As a project lead at Honeywell FM&T, I lead our cross-functional team through technical challenges while maturing complex polymer products from development to full-scale production. I work in our Rubber & Plastics organization, and my Iowa State chemical engineering degree has given me a strong technical basis for polymer and composites manufacturing. There are always new challenges, but the skills and knowledge I developed at Iowa State have given me a solid problem-solving background.”

Baker K.

Postdoctoral researcher, Iowa State University

“I really enjoyed the research I performed as a Ph.D. student at Iowa State University so I am staying as a postdoctoral research associate. We also created our own start-up company based on the technology developed during my time as a student. In the future, I will be splitting my time as both a postdoctoral researcher as well as the chief research scientist for our start-up company.”

Ally E.

Quality assurance rotational engineer, Medline

“On a day-to-day basis, I work with analyzing complaints and setting up new product lines. I work with product managers to get new products ready for the market and ensure that all regulations, documentation and quality procedures are being followed. I work a lot with vendors, other quality-team members – even a team of quality engineers that are based in Shanghai! The one thing that I use every day in this job is a Gantt chart. Working to stay on schedule with my products is critical and a Gantt chart helps keep me accountable for the tasks that I need to complete. The thing I love most about my job is the rotational aspect. Over a two-year span, I will be able to complete four rotations in different divisions and locations. Currently I work at the headquarters, but come August, I might be across the country. I’m very excited to work with so many different people and develop a wide skill set for quality engineering.”

Alan G.

Scientist, Nanovox LLC

“I’ve always had the inclination to work on the research side. After graduating and working in industry for a couple of years, I decided the best path to find my niche was to get a graduate degree. Throughout my career as a scientist, I’ve worked on polymer syntheses and lithium ion batteries. Now, I’m at a start-up, helping my company develop its early stages of 3D printed electromagnetic composites for future RF antennas. Our ongoing research and development encompasses material synthesis/selection, plastic compounding, extrusion and 3D printing.”

Horaleo U.

Director of initiatives, Proctor & Gamble

“Find a mentor or mentors sooner rather than late in your company. There will be many challenges over the first few years and mentors help provide perspective. Take pride in what you learn and how you learned to solve problems because even though you may not be solving fluid dynamic equations in the industry, your diversity of thought and broad knowledge is valuable on every team!”

Sierra T.

Manufacturing engineering associate, General Mills

“The manufacturing engineering associate program is a two-year rotational program where I will spend time in a technical role, people leadership and plant planning. Currently, I am in my first rotation as a process lead in our cereal department. This role allows an individual to become a technical expert of their systems. I currently oversee two of our BowlPak lines, which produce both small and large bowls of cereal. My role is to help drive stability and performance on these lines, working directly with operators, mechanics and other members of my line team to make improvements. A lot of my work involves standardizing different aspects of the lines, implementing small improvement projects, and being involved in various capital improvement projects. While I have been able to apply many lessons I learned at Iowa State in my current role, one of the biggest learnings that I have applied is teamwork and communication. While working in a large manufacturing plant, it is critical that everyone is aware of changes happening and the work being done. Having strong communication skills, specifically technical, has been incredibly helpful.

Additionally, my role is part of a line team where I work with other members to monitor and improve several lines. Having a strong teamwork mindset has been crucial. I am most excited about my rotation in project planning. My interest in projects peaked during my summer internship when I was mentored by one of our plant’s project engineers. I found that role extremely interesting, and I have been looking forward to it ever since!”

Xun Ming C.

Senior process engineer, ImmunityBio

“After graduation, it was a challenge for me as an international student to pursue my career in United States, especially biotechnology industry. However, I never gave up and looked for company that was willing to provide visa sponsorship, then slowly transitioned to pharmaceuticals. There is always a way to what you want. It just takes effort and time for you to reach it.”

Ashley L.

Operations engineer, Chevron Phillips

“As an operations engineer, I oversaw the commissioning and startup of a new specialty chemical unit at one of our smaller plants. I now oversee the day-to-day operation of this unit. My role as an operations engineer is dynamic. I am in the plant for about 50% of the day troubleshooting the process and working with operations and maintenance. The other half of my day is typically spent reaching out to our technical experts to further expand my knowledge of the technology – and developing projects to make my unit more efficient and safe. At the end of the day, it is rewarding when I can go home having solved a complex problem.”

Kyle J.

Medical school student, University of Iowa

“I feel that studying chemical engineering at Iowa State provided me with such a strong foundation for the vast amount of material I have learned in med school. The chemical engineering principles that I learned show up in lectures, and I use my skills as a chemical engineer to partake in research opportunities. I recently developed an autonomous algorithm, using MATLAB that can analyze brain activity and be used to determine the efficacy of pharmacological agents preventing seizures.”

Emily R.

Project engineer, Emerson Automation Solutions

“As a project engineer at Emerson Automation Solutions, I am responsible for overseeing the physical vapor deposition processes in a manufacturing line. The parts made in our facility are used in the power, oil & gas, and chemical industries. As part of my job, I apply technical knowledge that I learned at Iowa State to help develop new processes, and to troubleshoot any production issues that may arise. Typically these activities involve setting up experiments, analyzing data, sharing results with my team, and making recommendations to management.”

Jordan W.

Graduate student researcher, Iowa State agricultural and biosystems engineering

“After graduation, I started a master’s degree in ag and biosystems engineering here at Iowa State. I am developing heat, mass, and momentum transfer modeling code for grain storage bins for an ag tech start-up as my thesis project, utilizing skills I learned in chemical engineering. When I graduate I currently have an offer to work at Post Consumer Brands in research and development making and improving breakfast cereals.”

Erika H.

Process engineer, Cargill Corn Processing Plant

“As a process engineer for Cargill’s Corn Processing Plant, I split my time between continuous improvement projects, larger capital projects, and other tasks, such as obtaining environmental permits and ensuring safety. It is a very dynamic position, and I enjoy the daily challenges.”

Carson R.

Power and recovery process engineer, International Paper

“As a power and recovery process engineer for International Paper, I am responsible for all the evaporators boilers, and other process equipment in my area. My area provides the paper mill with steam, water, power and Na2Co3(Sodium Carbonate)/Na2S (Sodium Sulfide) for kraft process (which turns wood into pulp). I work on optimizing the performance and process controls of the equipment and evaluate and determine potential cost savings. In addition, I have worked on installing new capital projects, such as a new recovery boiler and high solids concentrator.”

Wheaton S.

Postdoctoral scholar, Pennsylvania State University

“My research experience and connections I built at Iowa State opened many doors for me upon graduation. After ISU, I completed the Ph.D. program in chemical engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, specializing in systems biology. I am now a postdoctoral researcher in one of the top groups in my field of research and part of the Center for Bioenergy Innovation, working as part of a large group of researchers on the issue of transforming plant mass into Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). In my research, I create models of metabolism (the set of chemical reactions which occurs in a living organism) to answer questions about the biology of that organism. I apply chemical engineering principles and skills (including mathematical programming, mass and energy balancing, numerical methods, and technical writing, to name a few) daily.

Communicating research is key, including presenting at technical conferences and technical writing. Examples of the latter include articles for scientific journals and proposals to funding organizations, such as the NIH, NSF, and DOE, to address problems of national or global concern. As postdoc, I am also called upon to be a leader, mentor and educator to new researchers. A research career is challenging and engaging every day, with huge potential to serve the common good.”

Madelynne G.

Production supervisor, Cargill

“Upon graduation from Iowa State, I began with my career at Cargill as an associate engineer, where I worked on a variety of capital and continuous improvement project. In June, I received a promotion as production supervisor. In this role, I manage the finishing unit working on engineering projects, curating data to drive process improvements, and work directly with a team of operators.”

Bailey M.

Process engineering specialist, BASF

“I started as a production engineer at Dow Chemical in their specialty silicones business. We made dozens of products, from makeup wax to electronic coatings. My responsibilities included process optimization, capacity improvement, environmental compliance and day-to-day troubleshooting. I was also able to step in to manage our logistics technicians as well as production coordination for our area.

I’m glad I chose chemical engineering as I was flexible enough to make a personal move while not sacrificing my professional development. At BASF, I am working with engineered materials that are used in automotive. This change allowed me to expand my scope by coordinating new product trials for four plants in North America. We are working with all the major automotive players to drive sustainability and make electrification a close reality. I like being able to have a strategic influence while still solving plant issues at a different level.

My education allowed for a great start in operations and continues to influence how I approach problems. Learning is a lifelong experience, and I encourage everyone to keep trying new hobbies to stay curious. Iowa State helped spike my curiosity and passion for change. I am starting to look forward to business school and plan on an international assignment in Mannheim, Germany shortly after.”

Marlie Q.

Global quality customer request specialist, CP Kelco

“After graduating from Iowa State, I started my professional career in nutritional analytical testing. After relocating to Atlanta, I began my career in quality and food safety. In my current role, I help answer FSQA related questions for our customers, communicate with our certifiers, and work with our manufacturing plants to ensure our quality culture is maintained throughout our company. The educational foundation I received at Iowa State is what helped me get to where I am today.”

Jared K.

Applications engineer, CERAM USA

“My role as an engineer in the emissions control industry gives me an exciting blend of ‘boots on the ground’ field work and offsite technical analysis. While at Iowa State I was able to get a lot of valuable and diverse work experience through internships and co-ops that gave me a great opportunity to head down the career path that best suits me. Through ISU and the work experience gained while in school, I really fell in love with engineering that involves a blend of both hands-on applications and offsite technical assessment. Ten years after graduation, I am working with people I met during one of those internships in a varied role that entails consulting, sales and field service for catalyst systems.”

Spencer W.

Ph.D. student, University of Delaware

“As a first-year grad student, I am in the process of choosing a research lab and learning about chemical engineering topics in extensive depth. When I started college, I had no clue what it meant to conduct research, let alone make it your career. Through the strong culture of undergraduate research at Iowa State, I participated in research all four years. These experiences created a passion for creating new knowledge through research.”

Emily E.

Operations engineer, University of Iowa Health Care

“After graduation, I began working as a process engineer at Procter & Gamble. I was responsible for the quality, safety and efficiency of several systems that produced large-quantity, FDA-regulated consumer products. I then took on the role of a team leader over one of these systems. Following this role, I became the module QA leader for one of the business units in the plant. I then realized that I was interested in healthcare, so I decided to pursue my current role as an Operations Engineer for the University of Iowa Health Care. While this is a completely different role and industry than those of my previous experiences, one constant across all these roles has been that an education in chemical engineering at Iowa State has provided me with so many opportunities and has made me well-equipped to handle challenges and learn in vastly different settings.”

Denver L.

Quality scientist II, Zoetis

“I perform quality control work in a leading animal health company that produces small molecule and biopharmaceuticals. Our team performs bacteriological, PCR and immunochemical assays on in-process materials and final container products to determine fitness for market. We sell product to many international markets and are compliant with many regulations ranging from the EU to Australia, China, and the US Code of Federal Regulations. We make medicines for companion animals and livestock animals. Thanks to my chemical engineering education, the wide array of assays we perform are easily learned because of the wide applicability of the concepts taught in Iowa State’s undergraduate chemical engineering program.”

Amy M.

Control systems project lead, Novaspect

“It’s often said that a position in control systems gives you the equivalent of five years of project experience for every one year spent in the field. I was in it from right after graduation and quickly picked up a variety of roles, ranging from loop tuning to design assistance. Ten years later I am leading projects!”

Charles F.

Ph.D. student, University of Delaware

“After completing my undergraduate degree at Iowa State University, I moved to pursue my Ph.D. in chemical engineering at the University of Delaware. The CBE department at Iowa State equipped me with a strong background to succeed in a fast-paced environment where creative thinking and mastery of chemical and biomolecular engineering fundamentals come together to produce cutting-edge research. In August, I passed my qualifying exams to gain Ph.D. candidacy, and I am excited to continue my research. My project operates within the Center for Plastic Innovation hosted at UD and the Renewable and Recyclable Polymers NSF EPSCoR to synthesize recyclable diesters derived from biomass to aid in the transition from non-renewable plastics to a more circular and sustainable economy.”

Christina G.W.

Senior quality engineer, General Mills

“My chemical engineering background allowed me to get my foot in the door with General Mills and build a career with a variety of experiences. I spent over four years as a quality engineer across manufacturing sites, providing day-to-day support on product lines and investigating quality and food-safety issues. I then had the opportunity to work remotely and spend two years in our Blue Buffalo pet food business, providing quality and regulatory program expertise as the team continued on its integration journey after being acquired by General Mills. Currently, I am an external supply chain quality manager and support anything related to quality and food safety with 11 external partners. The role allows me to be remote and to travel to my sites as the need arises. Chemical engineering helped hone my technical problem-solving skillset that can serve me well in any role.”

Sam H.

Chemical engineer, Honeywell FM&T

“As a product engineer at Honeywell FM&T I owned the flow down of product requirements and the development of processes to build and accept them. Recently I was developing additive manufacturing techniques to replace traditional manufacturing processes like compression molding. Currently I am on a residency at Sandia National Labs and will return to FM&T at the top of my field. A chemical engineering degree can take you to places you never considered if you’re open to it.”

Asif P.

Sterilization engineering manager, Sanofi

“In my final semester at Iowa State, I took ChE 440, which broadened my perspective on chemical engineering applications and sparked my interest in the pharmaceutical industries. Post-graduation, I entered the pharmaceutical industry as an engineer focusing on validation and development of cleaning and sterilization processes. These processes are critical to pharmaceutical manufacturing sites as they form the basis for product and patient safety from a process equipment standpoint. Additionally, cleaning and sterilization processes tend to be scrutinized during FDA and internal audits. Strong technical skills and project management are required for success in such roles. Currently as a manager of a sterilization engineering group, communication and people management skills play a larger role in my day-to-day responsibilities. The Iowa State chemical engineering curriculum provided me with ample opportunities to develop both my technical and soft skills needed for post-graduation success. I take pride in knowing my profession plays a critical role in the manufacture of vaccines to prevent worldwide disease.”

Megan H.

Law clerk, Davis Brown Law Firm

“As a current law student and future patent attorney, I take the technical background from my chemical engineering studies and apply it to my knowledge of the legal system to help companies and entrepreneurs protect their inventions by acquiring and maintaining patent protection. Every day is different. My tasks range from drafting patent applications, working with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to get patents issued, creating licensing agreements, and doing research for litigation when clients’ patent rights are infringed. Law school has opened up a variety of career opportunities for me, including working as a patent prosecution or litigation attorney in a law firm, serving as in-house counsel for a single company, or even working in a technology transfer office at a university.”

Jessie D.

Large volume sample coordinator, Wisconsin State Laboratory

“As a large volume sample coordinator for Wisconsin State Laboratory, I concentrate 100L samples of well water to 1L, and measure the concentrations of indicator organisms. They are a group of bacteria called ‘total coliforms’ that have been identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as an indicator of waterborne bacteria that cause disease. Based on results of the microbiological tests, and other information gathered about the specific well characteristics, I write a report to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and the well owner on corrective actions, further recommendations, and systems operations to improve the waterborne bacteria problem. This position not only requires microbiology knowledge but engineering as well. I calculate flow rates and purge times for well pumps, analyze water transport in soils/ground and piping/distribution systems, and determine how this all contributes to a well becoming contaminated.”

Kianna E.

Principal R&D engineer, Boston Scientific

“I pursued a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at the University of Minnesota to gain confidence and experience in this specific field of engineering. This led to unprecedented gains, in terms becoming a holistically better scientist, leadership and networking opportunities, and having more time to attend a variety of career building seminars. I studied in a lab focused on cancer bioengineering, and I have been able to continue pursuing cutting edge cancer research at Boston Scientific since graduating. My specific team is now tackling glioblastoma and prostate cancer.”

Brett H.

Associate investigator, Catalent Pharma Solutions

“After graduating from Iowa State, I had the opportunity to work at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as a patent examiner. At the USPTO, I reviewed patent applications of inventions involving batteries and fuel cells and determined the patentability of the inventions. Now, I am working at Catalent where I conduct investigations into any deviations from standards and implement solutions to maintain compliance with FDA regulations and ensure the quality of our products. Getting a degree in chemical engineering from Iowa Stare has given me the skillset to succeed in a variety of fields in my career.”

Luke H.

Process/project engineer, Hydrite Chemical

“I worked with Eric Cochran’s group at the pilot plant from January-June 2017. I started at Hydrite in January 2018 as an engineer-in-training, working as an operator for six months and then moving into my engineering role. I have worked on projects up to $4.7 million, and I am becoming a subject matter expert on tank design and our Peractic acid processes.”

Kofi O.

R&D engineer, Campbell Soup Company

“As an R&D Engineer, I am responsible for leading trials to translate kitchen batches to manufacturing scale, as well as commissioning equipment and confirming parameters needed to handle ingredients. I am traveling to manufacturing plants in the USA, Canada and Mexico about 50% of the time, troubleshooting the process and working with the operation teams. The other half of the time is typically spent working with product developers on new innovation products. My role is extremely interesting, I get the opportunity to travel to different places, learn new things, and work with people with different backgrounds.”

Christopher P.

Vascular surgery fellow, Minneapolis Heart Institute

“I took my engineering foundation from Iowa State University to medical school and, eventually, a general surgery residency and vascular surgery fellowship. I spend my day as a vascular surgeon opening patients arteries and veins, restoring flow to limbs and organs.”