Concentration in Biochemical Engineering
For chemical engineering students who are interested in the interface of engineering and the life sciences
The Concentration in Biochemical Engineering is an ideal track for students majoring in Chemical Engineering who would like to pursue careers or graduate studies in biotechnology, bioengineering or the pharmaceutical industry.
Prof. Lauren Andrews
About the Concentration in Biochemical Engineering
How will the Biochemical Engineering Concentration prepare me for a career in biotechnology?
Students who have completed the Biochemical Engineering Concentration often reflect that it was a highlight of their academic studies and prepared them to be highly competitive for positions and careers in biotechnology. The specialized training and curriculum make our graduates ideally suited to work in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors, which are a large proportion of the Massachusetts and New England jobs for chemical engineers. Our graduates who complete the concentration often go on to work in bioprocess engineering, jobs at biotech companies, or to pursue post-graduate studies related to biological engineering.
Why choose the Biochemical Engineering Concentration rather than a degree in bioengineering?
Students with core training in a traditional area of engineering and a specialization in bioengineering have a very high job placement rate and are well prepared to work in biotechnology. This feedback has been echoed by our Departmental Advisory Board members, including representatives from Bayer Healthcare, Amgen, Merck, Pfizer, AbbVie and Millennium Pharmaceuticals. The Chemical Engineering B.S. degree is a highly versatile and well respected degree that offers a wide range of career opportunities, extending far beyond the biotechnology sector. This concentration gives students the opportunity to enhance their rigorous chemical engineering training with formal biochemical engineering study listed on their transcript. Our program has a track record of excellent placement after graduation. For examples of student placement and experiences, please see the Student Spotlights of Recent Graduates below.
What will I learn?
Students in the concentration will learn:
- How to engineer and operate systems that contain living cells and biomolecules
- How to design and operate a bioprocess to manufacture biomolecules, drugs, and therapeutics
- How to apply biological principles to the engineering of living cells
- Foundational knowledge of basic molecular biology and cellular biology that enables engineering cells
- The chemical principles underlying the molecular components and the networks of reactions in living cells
- How to apply chemical engineering principles to the design and operation of bioprocesses, including the biotechnology, food, and pharmaceutical industries as well as industrial biomanufacturing
- Cutting-edge areas in bioengineering, gained through research or bioengineering special topics courses
Will I need to take extra credits to fulfill the Concentration and the Chemical Engineering B.S.?
The concentration is set up to fit into the requirements of the major without the need to take any extra courses. Normally, students pursuing the Biochemical Engineering Concentration from the beginning of their studies do not need to take additional credits beyond those required for the Chemical Engineering B.S. degree. Completing the concentration requires a specific subset of elective courses that will also fulfill the advanced chemistry and engineering elective requirements for the Chemical Engineering degree. Students who join the concentration later may need to take additional courses, depending on their prior courses completed.
Will I get hands-on experience?
Students have the opportunity to perform biological engineering research with faculty through independent study projects and senior theses. Faculty members associated with the concentration are widely recognized in their fields. For more information on faculty research, see the faculty directory. Students may also be able to take a specialized laboratory course focusing on biochemical engineering lab techniques in their final semester.
Can I complete the Biochemical Engineering Concentration if I am not a Chemical Engineering student?
No, this concentration is only available to students majoring in chemical engineering at this time.
Student Spotlights of Recent Graduates of the Biochemical Engineering Concentration
Chemical Engineering, B.S. 2018
While at UMass: Biochemical Engineering Concentration, AIChE, SWE, Intramural volleyball, Summer internship at Confer Health (start-up company), REU at UMass Amherst, Co-op in upstream process development at Bristol Myers Squibb
After graduation: Associate Data Scientist, Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS)
“The courses in the biochemical engineering concentration helped build the foundation of my knowledge in the biopharmaceutical industry. It was so interesting to me to see how the biochemical engineering principles were applied in every day work when I started at BMS.”
Chemical Engineering, B.S. 2019
While at UMass: Biochemical Engineering Concentration, Disciplinary Commonwealth Honors (senior thesis in synthetic biology), Researcher in Prof. Lauren Andrews’ Lab, Chancellors Undergraduate Advisory Council, Engineering Honors Society (Tau Beta Pi), National Society of Leadership & Success (NSLS) Alpha Sigma Pi, Association of Woman in Science (AWIS), AIChE, and Summer & Winter Internship at Thermo Fisher Scientific
After graduation: Operations Leadership Development Program, Thermo Fisher Scientific
“The Biochemical Engineering Concentration opened several doors for me, whether it was the opportunity to do hands-on research at UMass or entering the biotechnology industry. The concentration paired with a major in chemical engineering truly gave me an expansive and highly marketable education.”
Chemical Engineering, B.S. 2019
While at UMass: Biochemical Engineering Concentration, AIChE, Commonwealth Honors College (completed honors thesis in Prof. Shelly Peyton’s lab), Bioprocess Engineering Intern at AbbVie, New Student Orientation Leader, UMass Synchronized Figure Skating Team
After graduation: Associate Scientist I in Manufacturing Sciences, AbbVie (PhD deferred) and then PhD Student, MIT Department of Biological Engineering
“I can confidently say that I would be on a very different career path if I didn’t have the courses and networking opportunities provided by the biochemical engineering concentration. This program opened so many doors for me and allowed me to pursue work that I am truly passionate about.”
Chemical Engineering, B.S. 2020
While at UMass: Biochemical Engineering Concentration, Undergraduate Research: Nitrogen-Fixing Symbiosis, Thesis: Applying CRISPR/Cas9 to Unveil the Role of the Early Nodulins in Nitrogen-Fixing Symbiosis, Goldwater Scholar, Noble Research Institute Intern, American Society of Plant Biologists Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow, CAFE Summer Scholar
After graduation: PhD Student, MIT Department of Biological Engineering
“The biochemical engineering concentration offers the incredible opportunity to broaden the scope of the traditional chemical engineering degree to comprehensively encompass the biological sciences. I am immensely proud to be an alumnus of the program and feel that the knowledge I gained during my undergraduate studies has prepared me exceptionally well to accomplish my future academic and career ambitions.”
Chemical Engineering, B.S. 2020
While at UMass: Biochemical Engineering Concentration, Prof. Sarah Perry lab researcher, Honors thesis, UMass Amherst Rising Researcher, Amgen scholar, Young Scholars Summer Research Program, AIChE Academic chair and treasurer, Commonwealth Honors College
After graduation: PhD Student and NDSEG Fellow, UC Berkeley Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
“Through the biochemical engineering concentration at UMass Amherst, I was able to develop essential critical thinking and laboratories skills that have allowed me to pursue a research career on the frontier of emerging nanotechnology.”
Chemical Engineering, B.S. 2021
While at UMass: Biochemical Engineering Concentration, Engineering Management Minor, Engineering Intern at Adaptas Solutions, Project Engineering Intern at AbbVie, Global Engineering Intern at AbbVie, Intramural Sports, Student Employee in the Engineering Career Center
“The Biochemical Engineering Concentration gave me the opportunity to tailor my education to exactly what I wanted to do. Working in industry, I use the information and skills I learned in my courses for the concentration daily, proving the classes to be extremely useful and applicable.”
Chemical Engineering, B.S. 2021
While at UMass: Biochemical Engineering Concentration, Undergraduate researcher & senior thesis in Prof. Sarah Perry’s Lab, Internship at MilliporeSigma, iCons (sustainable bioenergy), and part-time teaching/tutoring as an undergraduate TA and with the Learning Resource Center
“The biochemical engineering concentration was a great way for me to learn more about molecular and cellular biology that I otherwise would not have with the standard chemical engineering curriculum. I especially loved the biochemical engineering senior lab, which ended up being one of my favorite courses at UMass since it provided practical, hands-on experiences that would prepare me to conduct research on living systems during graduate school.”
Chemical Engineering, B.S. 2021
While at UMass: Biochemical Engineering Concentration, Internship at Amgen, Sales Internship at CreateMyTee, Engineering Peer Mentor, and Phi Sigma Kappa Alpha Chapter
“The biochemical engineering concentration provides an excellent foundation for pursuing a career in life sciences – industry or research!”
Curriculum for the Biochemical Engineering Concentration
The required courses for this program fulfill the Advanced Chemistry elective and Technical Electives that all Chemical Engineering students are required to take. See the Concentration Recommended Course Sequence in the Biochemical Engineering Concentration Guide below.
Students must take a total of 15 credits as outlined below to fulfill the Biochemical Engineering Concentration.
The following 3 courses (9 credits) are required:
- BIOCHEM 275 – Molecular Biology1 or BIOCHEM 285 - Cellular and Molecular Biology1 (3 credits)
- CHEM 423 – Biochemistry2 (3 credits)
- CHEM-ENG 592 – Introduction to Biochemical Engineering3 (3 credits)
An additional 6 credits of advanced coursework in bioengineering are required. Approved electives are listed below. Additional courses may be used to meet this requirement, but advance approval of Prof. Andrews is required.
BIOCHEM 657 – Drug Design
BIOLOGY 383H – Gene and Genome Analysis
CHEM-ENG 220 – ChE Principles of Biological Systems
CHEM-ENG 510 – Immunoengineering
CHEM-ENG 535 – Microfluidics and Microscale Analysis in Materials and Biology
CHEM-ENG 575 – Tissue Engineering
CHEM-ENG 589 – Nanostructured Biomaterials
With approval, students may fulfill ONE 3-credit coursework requirement with an independent study or thesis in a relevant research area. Approval of the research topic by Prof. Andrews is required before enrolling for credit.
CHEM-ENG 296, 396, 496 – Independent Study in Bioengineering
CHEM-ENG 296ISH, 396ISH, 496ISH – Honors Independent Study in Bioengineering
CHEM-ENG 499Y, 499T – Honors Senior Thesis in Bioengineering
Download the Biochemical Engineering Concentration Guide
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I sign up for the Biochemical Engineering Concentration?
You may sign up any time after you become a Chemical Engineering major. Students are strongly encouraged to sign up early in their undergraduate studies. It is best to sign up in the fall semester of the sophomore year. Students that wait to sign up may not be able to complete the concentration curriculum requirements within the typical chemical engineering degree course sequence. It is important to sign up early so that you and your academic advisors can check that you are completing all requirements in SPIRE.
How do I sign up for the Biochemical Engineering Concentration?
You can sign up for the concentration by emailing Tami Paluca (paluca [at] ecs.umass.edu) with your request to join the concentration. Requests are evaluated to ensure students can reasonably complete the concentration in their remaining studies. It can take up to two weeks for requests to be processed and approved. Then students should see the Biochemical Engineering Concentration requirements on their Academic Requirement Report (ARR) in SPIRE under Degree Requirements.
When do I need to start following the Biochemical Engineering Concentration course sequence?
Starting in the sophomore year, students are encouraged to follow the recommended course sequence for the concentration to ensure that they have completed the necessary prerequisites for each required course (see the Biochemical Engineering Concentration Course Guide). If you develop an interest in the Biochemical Engineering Concentration at a later time, please speak with your academic advisor or Tami Paluca to determine if there are alternative routes to complete the concentration.
What if I change my mind and do not want a career in biotech when I graduate?
Students who complete the concentration and chemical engineering degree still have earned a BS degree in Chemical Engineering from our ABET-accredited chemical engineering program. They can pursue a career in any area of chemical engineering (e.g., chemical, petroleum, energy, and materials engineering industries), just as any other bachelor’s level chemical engineer. The concentration broadens students’ opportunities in bio-related areas.
What should I do if I have more questions about the Biochemical Engineering Concentration?
Please contact us!
If you have any questions, please contact:
- Prof. Lauren Andrews, Advisor for the Biochemical Engineering Concentration (lbandrews [at] umass.edu) or
- Tami Paluca, Undergraduate Advisor in Chemical Engineering (paluca [at] ecs.umass.edu)