Ask a first year - Chemical Engineering

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University of Bath
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Hi everyone!

My name is Leah and I am currently in my first year of chemical engineering at the University of Bath.

I am really enjoying both my time here at Bath and my course. I love that the university is a campus uni and I am currently living in Westwood on campus, so if you have any questions about that let me know! I have visited the majority of the other accommodation on campus so will be able to answer any questions you have!

I am enjoying my course so far - we study a variety of modules from the core chemical engineering principles to biology to maths. We also have first year labs and at the end of my first year, I also have a design project. I am more than happy to answer any questions about my course!

Looking forward to hearing from you all and good luck with your studies and applications!

Leah
1st Year Chemical Engineering
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zabzab123
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Hi Leah, would you advise that we revise A level content in subjects such as maths and chemistry before we actually start university? Also, how much physics really is there in the course? Thanks.
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Texxers
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Hey Leah, I'm applying for Chem Eng 2018 entry. If you had to divide the course into a proportion of Maths, Physics and Chemistry what would you say it was? A lot of people say it's all physics or all maths or whatever, It'd be nice to see what you think!
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(Original post by zabzab123)
Hi Leah, would you advise that we revise A level content in subjects such as maths and chemistry before we actually start university? Also, how much physics really is there in the course? Thanks.
Hey, thanks for your question!
Personally, I did no recap of my A levels before I started university and I know of very few people on my course that did. I think the most helpful subject to go over would be maths, particularly if you did not do further maths. At Bath, they do go over all of the key A level maths skills at the start of the first semester but they are teaching it as if you already know it, and the pace of the new content is quicker than how A levels are taught. Further maths is not a requirement so they teach everything from that course from scratch, but it is quite fast paced. I would recommend going over anything from A level that you struggled with - particularly calculus.

To be honest, there is not a lot of chemistry or physics in the course as you would know it at A level. The content is there but it is presented in a very different form. The chemical engineering principles module has some physical chemistry you study at A level, such as rate of reaction and Hess's law, but I wouldn't worry too much about going over this in depth before you start again. I have found that everything you need comes back to you very quickly.

I only did AS physics before I started the degree, not A2, and that was because I didn't really like physics in school. The degree does have a lot of physics but not really what you cover in A level. There is quite a lot of mechanics and the skills learnt there are very transferable - mechanics modules in maths are very useful. We had 4 lectures of physics at the start of the semester to bring everyone up to the same level, and this was purely mechanics. We also study thermodynamics and our physical chemistry module is heavily equation based, so it is more like physics than physical chemistry at A level. We also have organic chemistry and general chemistry sections of on our modules, which is exactly what you would expect it to be in terms of chemistry, but with an engineering application.

To conclude, reviewing maths A level would be really helpful but I would not worry too much about anything else! There is physics in the course but it is presented in a different way to how it is in school, which I personally find much more interesting and accessible.

Hope that was helpful - anymore questions please do not hesitate to ask!

Leah
1st Year Chemical Engineering
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(Original post by Texxers)
Hey Leah, I'm applying for Chem Eng 2018 entry. If you had to divide the course into a proportion of Maths, Physics and Chemistry what would you say it was? A lot of people say it's all physics or all maths or whatever, It'd be nice to see what you think!
Hi! It's great to hear you're applying for chem eng!

If I'm honest, that is a tough question!
We have a separate maths modules that we study throughout first year, which recap A level maths, as well as teaching concepts covered in further maths A level and slightly beyond that. If you haven't done further maths, not to worry, as a large number of students haven't. The skills you learn in this course underpin future maths modules, as well as the maths in other modules. Maths is present in every single module and varies from basic calculations to calculus. I would say the most difficult aspect is not the maths itself, but being able to correctly apply to engineering.

I'm sure you will have heard this before, but there is not a lot of chemistry in the course, or at least not in the way you met it at A level. There is a lot of physics but again, not in the same way you met it at A level. We have a science for chemical engineering module, which covers physics (a few lectures of mechanics), physical chemistry (which is more the physics side of chemistry - lots of equations), biology (there is a surprising amount of biology in this course, at least in first year), organic chemistry (which is mechanisms and the basic organic chemistry required for an engineer working in a workplace using chemistry), as well as general chemistry and material science, but unfortunately I cannot give much information about these sections as I will study them next semester.

The other main module that we study is called chemical engineering principles. You might say this is a fusion of physical chemistry and physics, but really it is a new subject and new concepts. We look at how reactors operate and the reactions, energy and material balances associated with them. You use the theories studied in physical chemistry and thermodynamics of physics but in a new application.

I am not sure if that 100% answers your question, but it is very difficult to split the course as we do not study chemistry and physics like it was taught at A level because we take an engineering approach, rather than a scientific one.

Any more questions, please let me know!

Leah
1st Year Chemical Engineering
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dasistnumberwang
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Hi Leah, I'm in year 13 at the moment and applied (wrongly, I think) for mathematics this year, back in September. However I'm really put-off by how dissimilar a mathematics degree is to A-level maths, particularly the more abstract pure side of it. I realise now that I would be better suited to a course involving all applied maths, such as engineering or physics.

I'm studying both maths and further maths A-levels at the moment, and I absolutely love doing both, especially the core, further pure and mechanics units. I'm also doing A-level chemistry, which I find bearable and do pretty well at, but don't enjoy anywhere near as much as A-level maths. Having said that, do I sound like I'd enjoy chemical engineering? Everybody says that the course will be almost all applied maths, like everything from core/further pure/mechanics I assume, which is ideal for me. Would you say that this is definitely the case? Roughly what percentage of the course is maths (not just simple arithmetic but of A-level or higher standard), and what percentage isn't? Also, in what ways is the style of maths taught and used in chemical engineering similar/different to that of A-level maths & further maths?

Another thing is that I find it difficult to visualise how the maths you learn can be used in an engineering context. For example, could you give any specific cases in which matrices would be of benefit, or complex numbers, or calculus, and so on? On that note, do you learn more and more (new) mathematical methods year by year as you progress through the modules, i.e. does the maths go very far beyond what A-level further maths contains?

Sorry for there being so many questions! I really appreciate you doing this AMA anyway as it has been very difficult for me to get answers to these sorts of questions. Thanks!
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(Original post by dasistnumberwang)
Hi Leah, I'm in year 13 at the moment and applied (wrongly, I think) for mathematics this year, back in September. However I'm really put-off by how dissimilar a mathematics degree is to A-level maths, particularly the more abstract pure side of it. I realise now that I would be better suited to a course involving all applied maths, such as engineering or physics.

I'm studying both maths and further maths A-levels at the moment, and I absolutely love doing both, especially the core, further pure and mechanics units. I'm also doing A-level chemistry, which I find bearable and do pretty well at, but don't enjoy anywhere near as much as A-level maths. Having said that, do I sound like I'd enjoy chemical engineering? Everybody says that the course will be almost all applied maths, like everything from core/further pure/mechanics I assume, which is ideal for me. Would you say that this is definitely the case? Roughly what percentage of the course is maths (not just simple arithmetic but of A-level or higher standard), and what percentage isn't? Also, in what ways is the style of maths taught and used in chemical engineering similar/different to that of A-level maths & further maths?

Another thing is that I find it difficult to visualise how the maths you learn can be used in an engineering context. For example, could you give any specific cases in which matrices would be of benefit, or complex numbers, or calculus, and so on? On that note, do you learn more and more (new) mathematical methods year by year as you progress through the modules, i.e. does the maths go very far beyond what A-level further maths contains?

Sorry for there being so many questions! I really appreciate you doing this AMA anyway as it has been very difficult for me to get answers to these sorts of questions. Thanks!
Hi, thanks for your questions! Uni is a big decision and I was very indecisive when choosing courses and universities, so don't worry about not being sure about what you want to do.

Being in first year, it is difficult for me to give a detailed account of how the maths progresses throughout the course, as obviously I haven't studied it yet, but I will try my best. I have spoken to a few students in older years studying chemical engineering, so their thoughts will be part of my response!

I have some friends doing maths in first year at Bath at the moment. From what I have seen, the maths they do is quite abstract and different to A level. They have one module which is mathematical methods, which is an extension of calculus etc. and this is the closest to A level maths.

Not having a love for chemistry will not be a massive issue when it comes to chemical engineering, as there is not much pure chemistry in the course. However, you need to have an interest for science and applying it. We look a lot a thermodynamics, reaction engineering, fluid mechanics and mass balances. It is an applied degree, so even though it is taught from first principles, the focus is on the application to chemical plants and processes.

I did the same A levels as you last year, but my real interest was in chemistry and science. I loved maths, but mostly because I liked how it was methodical. I did not really enjoy learning about maths from first principles or why mathematical theories were true. I liked learning a method and applying it, which is what you need to do with chemical engineering.

In terms of percentage of mathematics in the course, that is very difficult for me to say. In first year, you study mathematics 1 in first semester and mathematics 2 in second semester. In years after that, you have no pure maths modules as such. What you learn in these maths modules is mostly A level maths and further maths, with a bit of an extension. The only applications of the maths I have come across so far is calculus. This is used a lot in every module that we study. We use differential equations to look at the change in a reactant over time. Obviously there are more applications but I have not yet encountered them. Talking to older years, the difficultly of the maths is barely extended beyond A level - it is the applications of it to chemical engineering circumstances which makes it more challenging.

The style of teaching in our mathematics modules is probably quite similar to what you are used to. The lecturer goes through the theory behind the method and then gives us examples. We have problem sheets every week related to the content. These modules are examined in a way that is purely mathematical; there are none or very few applications. However, this is very contrasting to maths in every other module, where the concepts are introduced with assumed mathematical knowledge and you must use that to work through the engineering problems.

So to conclude, there is lots of maths in the course but the level of difficulty of the concepts does not extend much beyond A level - the focus is on the applications and the difficulty of them. If you are much more interested in maths rather than science/engineering, you may want to keep searching for a course that may be better suited. I would recommend researching more into maths and engineering degrees, maybe try some taster sessions, and try and get a real feel for what the modules contain.

I hope that was helpful - please feel free to quote me if you have anymore questions.
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