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Pre-Health Planning

Chemical engineering is a broad major that can prepare students for a wide variety of careers. Some of our alumni have pursued health professions such as medicine or pharmacy after completing the B.S. ChemE. Many students following in this path decide they are interested in health professions after beginning their ChemE degree. In this case, an extra year of supplementary coursework may be required to complete pre-health prerequisites and apply to professional schools. However, students who know that they are interested in both ChemE and medical school early in their studies can complete the degree and all pre-requisites within four years. It is a challenging path requiring planning, but ChemE can be an excellent preparation for the health professions.

Why ChemE and pre-Health?

Many of our alumni have gone onto professional school in the health professions, each with a different reason for choosing studying a combination of chemical engineering and pre-health. For some, it was enough that they were interested in both engineering and medicine. Others wanted to keep their options open and plan ahead knowing that engineering and medicine were both of individual high interest. Others wanted to study chemical engineering and, after getting involved in biomedical related research, found a passion for the health professions that they had not realized before.

Whether you come to the combination purposefully or through a meandering path, it's clear that ChemE can provide an excellent and unique preparation for a variety of health professions. The B.S. ChemE degree trains you to break down a system into its fundamental components, analyze and evaluate these fundamentals, then build back up to a whole system-level understanding. This is an excellent and valuable approach to medicine, where treating disease requires an awareness of the collective system (the body) and the underlying principles that influence its health.  

When you eventually apply to professional school, you'll need to explain how your path through chemical engineering prepared you to be an excellent doctor, pharmacist, or other health professional. There isn't just one right answer, and you don't necessarily need a clear idea before starting your B.S. ChemE degree.

Planning for the B.S. ChemE and Pre-Health 

Pursuing graduate study in a pre-health professional school is a major decision that requires planning and a substantial commitment of time, energy, and eventually money. ChemE Faculty Mentor Elizabeth Nance and the undergraduate advisers are here to help! 

Volunteering & Shadowing

All students considering this path, including students who are clear on their goals, should seek opportunities to volunteer and shadow professionals as early as possible. Many professional schools require this kind of activity, but it can also be far more valuable than simply another requirement or recommendation. Exposure to the real, daily life of someone in a professional role helps students to collect valuable information about the field and their interests, test their predictions about their futures, and prepare more thoroughly for those futures. 

Plan of Study

As both pre-health studies and the bachelor’s degree in ChemE have a lot of requirements, completing both will require extensive planning and hard work, as well as possibly an additional year of post-graduate study. This Plan of Study is designed to help communicate how students might fit all the requirements into the structure of the B.S. ChemE degree. Since students have such a wide variety of starting points and constraints, any student considering an application to a health professional school should see a ChemE academic adviser or the ChemE Faculty Mentor for assistance in planning a personalized plan of study. 

Engineering Electives

Students planning a career in health professions may want to consider particular engineering electives to tailor their educational experience toward those interests. Recommended engineering electives include: 

CHEM E 355 (3) Biological Frameworks for Engineers
CHEM E 467 (3) Biochemical Engineering 
BIOENG 488 (4) Computational Protein Design
CHEM E 490 (3) Engr. Materials for Biomedical Appls. 
CHEM E 491 (3) Controlled Release Systems
CHEM E 458 (3) Surface Analysis
CHEM E 493 (3) Advanced Surface Analysis
CHEM E 534 (3) Physiology & Nanomedicine
M E 414 (3), M E 416 (3), and M E (495)

Engineering Innovation and Medicine and Mechanical Engineering Design Series
(M E 495 replaces CHEM E 486)

Other Coursework

In addition to tailoring engineering electives, pre-health students should plan to complete all other requirements for the target professional schools. Students should confirm the requirements for their specific target health professional schools when planning their class schedules. These courses often include some combination of the following: 

  • Organic Chemistry: 1 additional quarter of lecture and both organic chemistry labs
  • Biology: 1 full year of biology with labs
  • Biochemistry: 2 quarters
  • Genetics: 1 course
  • English: 2-3 courses
  • Courses in behavioral sciences, such as psychology and sociology, and social sciences and humanities, including a health disparities course

Careful planning allows students to use many of these courses to count toward VLPA, I&S, and DIV requirements. Students are also encouraged to take GEN ST 297 H - Applying to Health Professional School during the year they are applying to health professional programs. Class time includes group work, short lectures, and visits from experts, including admissions officials and health professionals.