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ChemE, Data & Digital Technologies

data science conceptual illustration

What do chemical engineers working in computing, data, and digital technologies do?

Chemical engineers employ and design data science methods to visualize, analyze and predict chemical and biological properties. Data is obtained in a multitude of ways, ranging   from high throughput instrumentation, gene sequencers, to computational simulations. Data science methods include the use and development of software, numerical analysis methods and machine learning amongst others. These approaches enable ChemEs to  better understand how systems work, to improve the visualization of scientific data and lastly to solve problems and predict properties more efficiently. Innovations made by chemical engineers cut across computing, data, and digital technologies. ChemE’s have long been involved in creating the essential components of computers like memory and processing chips, as well as advancing quantum communication and computing opportunities. The founder of IBM was a ChemE!

What do chemical engineers bring to the computing, data, and digital technologies field?

Data science is the idea of taking large amounts of data and extracting knowledge and actionable information from those data. The data can come from a variety of sources, such as robotic high-throughput instrumentation, supercomputers and simulations, or gene sequencers and data often needs to be synthesized from multiple sources. A chemical engineer can use knowledge of data science together with the ChemE toolbox of understanding how systems work to create data-informed engineered processes. “For example, chemical plants are highly automated settings in which sensor networks provide continuous streams of data. However, traditional model predictive control techniques often fail due to process complexity or a mismatch between the speed of computation and the response rate required for high performance.  In such instances, Machine Learning methods can be used to learn process control rules with a high level of accuracy and millisecond run times. “ For more, see Enabling Chemical Engineering with Data Science

Where do ChemE alumni go in the field of computing, data, and digital technologies?

ChemE alumni are involved in data science, structures and scalability as well as the manufacture and development of semiconductors, microprocessors and memory. 

Common employers:
  • Intel
  • Micron
  • IM Flash
  • Amazon Web Services
  • Zillow
  • Google
  • Cascade Data Labs
  • Tata Consultants
Common titles in industry:
  • process engineer
  • project engineer
  • test engineer
  • mechanical engineer
  • manufacturing engineer
  • materials engineer
  • quality engineer
  • procurement engineer
  • data scientist
  • software engineer
  • consultant

Student opportunities & project examples in ChemE

Options, Focus Areas, and Curriculum Plans

See the Data Science and Computation, Statistics and Modeling focus areas in our curriculum. Students interested in going further can complete an M.S. in Chemical Engineering – Data Science Track and capstone project. 

Undergraduate Research

Participate in undergraduate research with a faculty member advancing solutions in data science & molecular simulation or join the summer REU in data-enabled science & engineering

Student Projects & Competitions

C-HACK: Solving chemical engineering one line of code at a time
Over two weeks in January, undergrads complete a Python tutorial and team up to solve a chemical engineering problem with code. In 2021, hackathon participants analyzed, visualized and predicted impurities using DOW reactor data.

Undergraduate ChemEs join the MS Data Science capstone program over 2 quarters to complete data science related capstone projects. 

Related News

plastic bottles

Thu, 08/26/2021 | WSU Insider

NSF grant supports work to address waste plastics

A WSU–UW ChemE team will design catalytic processes that improve plastics recycling and make it more cost-effective

Tue, 04/06/2021 | University of Washington Magazine

Quantum leap

As part of the QuantumX initiative, Jim Pfaendtner is collaborating with physicists, materials scientists, and electrical engineers to advance quantum computing and envision what problems it could be used to solve

Mon, 03/22/2021 | UW College of Engineering

Unlocking data for engineers

Faculty and students explain why engineering students should add data science to their toolbox

Tue, 02/23/2021

Meet the hackmasters of ChemE

Undergraduates learned to code and tackled a real-world chemical production problem in first annual department hackathon