About Iowa State Chemical and Biological Engineering

The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE) at Iowa State University is an academia of faculty, staff and students immersed in nationally and internationally recognized chemical and biological research. It was formed in 1913 as one of the first chemical engineering departments in the country.

Orland Russell Sweeney, Department Head of chemical engineering at Iowa State from 1920-1947, said “Chemical engineers can solve all the world’s problems.”

The challenging field of chemical engineering combines the disciplines of chemistry, physics and math and is a growing area that encompasses a wide variety of specialties such as petrochemicals and gas, agricultural products, biomedicine, pharmaceuticals, and foods and beverages. Some college students use a chemical engineering major as a springboard to medical school or law school.

  • The department holds more than 47,000 square feet of modern laboratory and office space where 29 faculty members teach and work in both traditional and emerging areas of chemical engineering.
  • Undergraduate enrollment has increased more than 100 percent since 2008. For the Fall 2019 semester 627 undergraduate students and 72 graduate students were enrolled.
  • CBE boasts the largest number of female undergraduate students in Iowa State’s College of Engineering, 44% as of the fall 2019 semester. The department also has one of the highest enrollments of female graduate students, at 34%. At a figure of 35%, the department has one of the highest number of female faculty members in the United States.
  • Chemical engineering graduates from Iowa State earn some of the highest salaries among all ISU engineering grads. The average CBE B.S. graduate salary is close to $70,000 per year.

The department had direct research expenditures of $9.86 million in calendar year 2018. Through the CBE department, Iowa State University is nationally recognized for its initiatives in bioinformatics, biomaterials, bioproducts, metabolic/tissue engineering, multiphase computational fluid dynamics, advanced polymeric materials and nanostructured materials.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded faculty many accolades, including Young Investigator Awards. In 2019 assistant professor and Herbert L. Stiles Faculty Fellow Matthew Panthani received the prestigious NSF Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) Award. About 70 Iowa State CBE alumni hold faculty positions in chemical engineering or related fields nationally or internationally.

For more insight, view a Powerpoint of the department.

Chemical and Biological Engineering department governance document

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