ARCHIVED CATALOG: Visit to view the 2023-2024 General Catalog.

UC Santa Barbara General CatalogUniversity of California, Santa Barbara

Chemical Engineering

Engineering II, Room 3357;
Telephone (805) 893-3412
Chair: Rachel Segalman
Vice-Chair: Mike Gordon and M. Scott Shell


We live in a technological society which provides many benefits including a very high standard of living. However, our society must address critical problems that have strong technological aspects. These problems include: meeting our energy requirements, safeguarding the environment, ensuring national security, and delivering health care at an affordable cost. Because of their broad technical background, chemical engineers are uniquely qualified to make major contributions to the resolution of these and other important problems. Chemical engineers develop processes and products that transform raw materials into useful products.

Mission Statement

The program in Chemical Engineering has a dual mission:

  • Education. Our program seeks to produce chemical engineers who will contribute to the process industries worldwide. Our program provides students with a strong fundamental technical education designed to meet the needs of a changing and rapidly developing technological environment.
  • Research. Our program seeks to develop innovative science and technology that addresses the needs of industry, the scientific community, and society.

Educational Objectives for the Undergraduate Program

  • Our graduates will be innovative, competent, contributing chemical engineers.
  • Our graduates will demonstrate their flexibility and adaptability in the workplace, so that they remain effective engineers, take on new responsibilities, and assume leadership roles.
  • Our graduates will continually develop new skills and knowledge through formal and informal mechanisms.

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon graduation, students from the Chemical Engineering program at UCSB are expected to have:

  1. Fundamentals – the fundamental knowledge of mathematics, computing, science, and engineering needed to practice chemical engineering, and the ability to apply this knowledge to identify, formulate, and solve chemical engineering problems;
  2. Laboratory – the ability to design and conduct experiments and to analyze and interpret data;
  3. Design – the ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired specifications, while recognizing, assessing and mitigating potential hazards; the ability to use modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice;
  4. Advanced Training – knowledge beyond the basic fundamentals in chemical engineering and/or related technical fields as preparation for a continuing process of lifelong learning; a recognition of the need for and the ability to engage in lifelong learning;
  5. Teamwork/Communication – the ability to function productively in multidisciplinary teams working towards common goals; the ability to communicate effectively through written reports and oral presentations;
  6. Engineering & Society – the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global/societal context; a knowledge of contemporary issues; an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility.

Degree Programs

The Department of Chemical Engineering offers the B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in chemical engineering. The B.S. degree is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET,

At the undergraduate level, emphasis is placed on a thorough background in the fundamental principles of science and engineering, strongly reinforced by laboratory courses in which students become familiar with the application of theory. At the graduate level, students take advanced courses and are required to demonstrate competence in conducting basic and applied research.

The B.S. degree provides excellent preparation for both challenging industrial jobs and graduate degree programs.

Interdisciplinary B.S./M.S degree programs are also available which result in M.S. degrees in other fields. Students who complete a major in chemical engineering may be eligible to pursue a California teaching credential. Interested students should consult the credential advisor in the Graduate School of Education as soon as possible.

Under the direction of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies, academic advising services are jointly provided by advisors in the College of Engineering, as well as advisors in the department. Each undergraduate also is assigned a faculty advisor, to assist in selection of elective courses, plan academic programs, and provide advice on professional career objectives. Graduate students are assigned a thesis advisor in the area of their research interest. Undergraduates in other majors who plan to change to a major in the Department of Chemical Engineering should consult the department academic advisor for the requirements.
Several publications are available from the department office describing the undergraduate and graduate programs.

Education Abroad Program (EAP)

Students are encouraged to broaden their academic experience by studying abroad for a year, or part of a year, under the auspices of the University of California Education Abroad Program See the section under “Additional Academic Programs” or the EAP
Web site:

Laboratory Facilities

  1. Computational facilities. The College of Engineering maintains computing facilities open to all students within the college. These facilities include state-of-the-art workstations. Individual research groups also maintain significant PC and workstation facilities.
  2. Process dynamics and control laboratories. Key concepts in the process control courses are introduced using four experiments: two stirred-tank heating systems an interacting four tank liquid storage system and an inverted pendulum/cart system.  The experimental equipment is controlled by industrial computer control systems.
  3. Mass transfer and separation processes laboratory. This facility contains well-instrumented equipment for studying mass transfer and separation processes. Some specialized research apparatuses that have been constructed for this laboratory include: a laminar-liquid jet absorber used for gas/liquid chemical kinetics measurements; a wetted-sphere gas absorber used for diffusion coefficient measurements and gas/liquid chemical kinetics measurements; a modified Zipperclave‘ reactor used for gas solubility measurements at pressures up to 200 bar; a stirred-cell absorber used for experimentally testing mass transfer models; a supported-liquid membrane apparatus used for testing diffusion/reaction models of facilitated transport; a diaphragm cell apparatus for liquid phase diffusion coefficient measurements. Data acquisition software and hardware are used where appropriate. Current research projects focus on acid gas treating using alkanolamines and advanced oxidation kinetics studies for refractory organics in water.
  4. Multiphase systems laboratory. Interfacial instabilities, breakup and mixing/dispersal of liquids (both Newtonian and visco-elastic) in high speed gas flows are studied in a Pulse, Supersonic Wind-Tunnel, and a Shock-Tube/Catch-Chamber Facility, by high speed visualization instrumentation, including Laser-Induced Fluorescence, at exposure times down to 10 nanoseconds. The wind-tunnel provides Mach 3 flows for up to 100 milliseconds at pressure levels that can range from 0.1 MPa down to 10 Pa. The shock tube provides flow speeds of up to Mach 1.7 at dynamic pressures of up to 2 MPa, for 4 milliseconds. In addition to high speed digital video cameras (Phantom 7, up to 150,000 frames per second), the laboratory features a unique distributed visualization system assembled from a large scale array of still, high resolution cameras and a corresponding LED-based lighting system.  Auxiliary equipment include a high speed infrared camera, an ultra-high-speed gas gun (liquid jets of  km/s), viscometry instruments, a Direct Numerical Simulation code (MuSiC), and a 40-node computer cluster.
  5. Materials research facilities. The department shares with the Department of Materials extensive laboratory facilities for materials research. These include a microscopy and microanalytical facility with transmission electron microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, atomic force microscopies, as well as dynamic secondary ion mass spectroscopy and x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. Laboratories for metallography, x-ray diffraction, mechanical testing, materials processing and polymer characterization are also available. The latter includes state-of-the-art facilities for molecular, rheological, and rheooptical characterization of polymer melts, solutions, and gels. The rheological characterization equipment includes two Arcs Rheometrics Mechanical Spectrometers (one for fluids and the other for polymer melts), a constant stress rheometer, and various capillary viscometers. The rheooptical measurements are carried out on a Phase Modulated Flow Birefringence device. Static and dynamic light scattering is performed on a Brookhaven Laser Light Scattering Gonimeter. In addition, there is a wide range of facilities available for polymer synthesis and characterization which is shared with other laboratories. These include: Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC); Gel Permeation Chromatography (GC); Infrared Spectroscopy (IR and FTIR); and optical microscopy at elevated temperatures.
  6. Catalysis and surface chemistry laboratories. These laboratories contain apparatus for the study of catalysts over a large range of pressures and conditions.   Small scale packed bed reactor units as well as mini- and micro-reactor assemblies are available for the study of heterogeneous catalyst activity at high and moderate pressures.  Characterizations systems include GC, GC-MS, Fourier transform infrared reflection-absorption spectroscopy, quadrupole mass spectrometry, and optical spectroscopies. Several ultra high vacuum systems are used for detailed surface science studies with capabilities for atomic and molecular beam scattering, thermal desorption spectroscopy, low-energy electron diffraction, Auger electron spectroscopy, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopies.
  7. Interfacial sciences laboratories. This laboratory in chemical engineering contains state-of-the-art equipment necessary for detailed measurements of the forces and structures at and between fluid-fluid and fluid-solid interfaces. The instruments include four versions of the surface forces apparatus designed to measure the interactions between surfaces such as biomembranes, polymers, and crystalline solids across liquids such as water or oils. The newest variations of the instruments can be used to measure dynamic forces important to lubrication and friction at the molecular scale, and do in situ x-ray and fluorescence imaging. The lab also includes a cryogenic sample holder for direct imaging of low temperature specimens in the TEM. This lab is one of the few in any chemical engineering department that contains or has direct access to confocal optical, cryo-electron, scanning tunneling and atomic force microscopes which can provide atomic resolution images of colloids and interfaces. The lab also has access to an environmental SEM, XPS, SIMS, Langmuir troughs, contact angle measuring cells, and other surface characterization instruments.
  8. Magnetic resonance characterization facilities. State-of-the-art facilities in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and electron spin resonance (ESR) spectroscopy are available to support a wide range of materials and engineering investigations at a molecular level. UCSB College of Engineering instrumentation includes a variety of high resolution NMR spectrometers operating at fields of 800 MHz (19 Tesla), two at 500 MHz (11.7 T), a 300 MHz (7.0 T), and a 200 MHz (4.7 T) for solution- and solid-state investigations. Extensive support equipment exists for the performance of non-routine experiments, such as ultrafast magic-angle spinning (MAS), double rotation, multiple-quantum MAS, pulsed-field gradient, laser-enhanced NMR, and multi-dimensional NMR techniques.
  9. Complex fluids laboratory. This laboratory combines a series of unique experimental systems for investigation of viscous and viscoelastic flow phenomena involving polymer liquids, suspensions, and other complex fluids. These include birefringence, dichroism, and light scattering systems for polymeric liquids; a pair of minaturized computer-controlled four-roll mills for studies of drop breakup, coalescence, and particle dynamics; LDV and PIV systems applied to suspensions and multiphase liquids,  miniaturized shear cells with inverted microscopes for colloidal systems, and a opposing micropipette system for investigation of the interactions between growing bubbles for foam formation studies, and for studies of vesicle interactions.
  10. Imaging science laboratory. This laboratory features facilities for studying basic problems in materials and biological systems using a variety of imaging methods. Capabilities include scanning tunneling electron microscopy (STM), and atomic force microscopy (AFM). Image processing workstations and software systems are interfaced to each device.
  11. Light scattering laboratory. This laboratory is equipped with light scattering equipment for characterization of complex fluids such as emulsions, colloidal suspensions, surfactant solutions, and polymer solutions. Included are commercial and custom-designed gonimeters for measurements of the static structure factors at equilibrium and under a variety of shear flows. Dynamic light scattering is performed with a fast Brookhaven BI-9000 correlator. Both static and dynamic light scattering capabilities are integrated with controlled stress and controlled strain-rate rheometers for simultaneous light scattering and rheological measurements.
  12. Biomaterials and Bioengineering Laboratory. This laboratory includes facilities for synthesis and testing of novel biomaterials for applications in drug delivery, biosensors, and tissue engineering. Equipment is available for synthesis of polymeric micro and nanoparticles for drug delivery, synthesis of self-assembled biomaterials, and engineering of biomaterial surfaces. The laboratory also includes facilities to measure cell-biomaterial interactions and transport of molecules as well as particles in biological tissues. Various analytical tools for measuring transport including scintillation counter, HPLC, spectrophotometers, and fluorescence microscopy are available. Facilities for mammalian cell culture and in vivo transport measurements are available. Equipment for functional characterization of biological molecules, cells, and tissues is also available.