About CBE

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.

  • 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 2018 semester 697 undergraduates were enrolled.
  • In the 2018-19 academic year 87 graduate students, a new record, are pursuing their advanced degrees.
  • CBE boasts one of the largest female undergraduate enrollment in the College of Engineering, and one of the largest numbers of chemical engineering female faculty in the nation. As of 2018 the department had nearly 30% female undergraduates, 40% female graduate students and 35% female faculty.
  • Chemical engineering graduates from Iowa State earn some of the highest salaries among all ISU engineering grads. For the 2016-17 academic year the average CBE B.S. graduate salary was close to $70,000 per year.

The department had direct research expenditures of $9.2 million in fiscal year 2018 in areas such as biocatalyst and separation engineering, reaction engineering and catalysis, crystallization, transport phenomena and thermodynamics. 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 the CBE Department six NSF Young Investigator Awards. And, 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 here.

Chemical and Biological Engineering department governance document

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