Faculty in the Department of Chemical Engineering direct internationally recognized research efforts in many frontier areas of engineering science and technology, including:

  • Air quality and climate
  • Biotechnology and pharmaceutical engineering
  • Catalysis and surface science
  • Energy, decarbonization, and sustainability
  • Process systems engineering
  • Soft materials and complex fluids

Many chemical engineering students take advantage of undergraduate research opportunities to reinforce and extend what you learn in courses. While traditional courses emphasize existing knowledge and problem-solving methods, research experiences emphasize making discoveries and creating new approaches to solve problems.

Watch CMU ChemE's world-class faculty talk about their research


Research experiences often help students focus their career interests. If you are interested in graduate school, research opportunities can offer early exposure to the type of work you'll encounter at the Ph.D. level. However, undergraduate research isn't only for students headed to graduate school. Students planning to enter industry can also benefit by experiencing chemical engineering specializations you may wish to pursue after graduation. The Department of Chemical Engineering offers several flexible options for undergraduates to join its research efforts.

Meet ChemE undergrad researchers

Interested in doing undergraduate research? Here's how.

How to find a project

In Chemical Engineering, we encourage students to contact faculty members directly when you are interested in their research area and joining their research group. Students can email the professors directly, express your interest in doing research with them, and schedule a meeting to discuss further.

If you need advice or further guidance, please reach out to Professor Ana Torres or Nora Siewiorek, Undergraduate Academic Advisor.

How to register for research

If research is done in the fall or spring semesters, students typically register for research units. If it's done during the summer, it's typically a paid position, and the ChemE department has the Chemical Engineering Summer Scholars (ChESS) program. ChESS is run in partnership with the university's Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program, and students normally apply for both programs simultaneously. The deadline for ChESS and SURF applications is typically in February. All students will receive an announcement at the appropriate time. Students who are currently sophomores or juniors in the spring semester are eligible for ChESS.

First-year students who wish to pursue research during your first summer are encouraged to apply for the university's Summer Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship (SURA) program. SURA allows students to receive academic credit for summer research without having to pay tuition for the units. SURA deadlines are typically in late May.

If research is done for academic credit, the units are variable. Students can sign up for an appropriate number of units (typically either three, six, or nine units, where the expectation is one hour of effort per week for one unit of credit). Students should discuss these details with the faculty member with whom you are doing research. It will depend on how much space is available in your course schedule and also the size and scope of the project you are working on.

Students should register for the research course number based on the department affiliation of the faculty member you are doing research with. Students working with a ChemE faculty member should sign up for 06-200 (for sophomores), 06-300 (for juniors), or 06-400 (for seniors). Students doing research with a BME professor should register for a BME research course number and contact the BME advisor, Kristin.

Invited seniors can also earn academic credit for research through the College of Engineering honors research program.

Chemical Engineering Summer Scholars (ChESS)

ChemE sophomores and juniors are eligible to participate in ChESS, our annual summer research program.

Participating students receive a $4,500 stipend to conduct research with a ChemE-affiliated faculty member over an eight to ten week period in the summer. The ChESS program is conducted in partnership with the university's Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program.

Normally, faculty will offer projects and explain the goals of the project. You do not need to think up your own research problem to participate.

The application is available for the upcoming year starting early in the spring semester. Students will receive an announcement with eligibility details, application criteria, and a link to the application Google form. The application deadline for summer 2024 is February 21, 2024 and the same as the SURF deadline. The first step is to identify a potential research advisor who will offer project ideas for you. Advice for doing so is included in the announcement.

Annual John Berg Chemical Engineering Undergraduate Research Symposium Poster Session

Other research opportunities

Additional summer research opportunities are available through NSF-funded REU programs, which offer a stipend, housing, and numerous professional development opportunities.

Some students also choose work-study positions in faculty laboratories.

The Undergraduate Research Office has information on Small Undergraduate Research Grants (SURG) for student-initiated research projects and summer research fellowships. Each year, the Undergraduate Research Office also sponsors "Meeting of the Minds," an undergraduate research symposium that provides students a chance to present research formally.