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About Our Students

Students who choose Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering come to Penn eager to tackle real-world problems. They relish the challenges posed by math, chemistry, physics, and the biological sciences.

A major in chemical and biomolecular engineering opens a wide range of opportunities. The Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering program teaches them to think across length scales that span from the molecular to the macroscopic. It enables them to move from studying chemical reactions at the nanoscale to designing industrial plants. Our graduates may move on to discover a unique molecular reaction in a cell, or they may develop a method to deliver a drug to that cell. Both our undergraduate and graduate students are uniquely positioned to influence the worlds of business, medicine, industry, and the environment and to advance to the highest levels of research and academia.

Undergraduate Spotlight

Andrew Parsons, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Class of 2016
CBE junior Andrew Parsons didn’t spend his summer in a typical internship with a local industry. Instead, he managed to combine his chemical engineering studies with one of his extracurricular interests: the Russian language. Parsons interned with the U.S. Embassy in Moscow for the Environmental, Science, Technology, and Health Division.

"Russian was always a mysterious, beautiful language to me," Parsons says. Once he learned the Cyrillic alphabet in high school, he moved on to basic grammar and eventually mastered enough to read Russian-language news articles.

Last year, Parsons applied to the State Department in hopes of finding an opportunity that aligned his educational and personal pursuits and was offered the internship with the ESTH section in Moscow. His projects included following developments in Russia’s pharmaceutical industry and infectious disease treatments under import substitution, meeting with contacts and diplomats from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and helping to increase U.S.-Russian nuclear cooperation.

Every day was “new, exciting. I am very grateful I got the chance to be part of such a great team,” he says.

He gets the same sense of novelty from his studies of chemical engineering, which he likens to solving puzzles because it involves fitting pieces together, testing new approaches, and pulling from interdisciplinary fields. “It keeps me on my feet,” Parsons says.

Learn more about the BSE in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

Graduate Spotlight

HahnSarah Hann, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Ph.D. student

Fourth-year Ph.D. student Sarah Hann has always had a penchant for math and chemistry. She completed her undergraduate degree in chemical engineering at the University of Delaware, where she spent two years researching polymers. Her research led to her decision to pursue a graduate degree at Penn immediately after finishing her bachelor’s.  

“I initially applied to Penn because of its high-caliber materials research and the diversity in research focus among the tight-knit faculty,” she says.

In addition to the wide breadth of research topics available in Penn’s chemical engineering program, Hann saw that the department promoted a work-life balance and a strong collaborative environment. The graduate students are “happy and supportive.”

Hann says she experienced the collaborative nature of the program from her first day when she started her research project, which is co-advised by Kate Stebe and Daeyeon Lee. Hann’s research focuses on interfacial assembly at water-water interfaces.

“The goal of this project is largely exploratory in determining the capabilities of these historically finicky water-water systems. The potential impact on green engineering, bio-friendly material processing, as well as food science is considerable,” Hann says.

In her first few years, she was able to identify and experiment new arenas for application of these systems.  One exciting finding is that she can grow bacteria at these interfaces-with implications for food and probiotics. Her advisors Stebe and Lee have provided steady support and guidance, which have helped expand her studies as a graduate student.

“I get a good amount of fundamental understanding of basic interfacial phenomena balanced with pragmatic approaches to possible applications, while learning a myriad of lab techniques,” she says.

When her research takes her outside of either lab’s expertise, Hann has found it easy to collaborate with different professors across departments. This easy collaboration between laboratories is a hallmark of research at Penn.

“As a graduate student, my experience at Penn so far has been a very positive one and I am proud to do my research here,” she says.

Learn more about the Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering.