Exploring this Job
Join science clubs and participate in other extracurricular activities while in high school. Get involved in professional associations for engineering and science, for access to mentoring programs, science-project contests, and career development resources. Read publications such as the American Chemical Society's ChemMatters, which is geared to high school students.
College students learn more about the science field through student affiliate memberships to associations such as the American Chemical Society (ACS), AIChE, the Biomedical Engineering Society, and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. Explore the Web sites of these organizations for articles, publications, and industry news.
Another way to get direct insight into biochemical engineering as a career is to conduct an informational interview with someone working in the job. Your school's career services office can help you with your search for potential interviewees.
A mentor can also offer helpful information and guidance. The Society of Women Engineers has a mentor program that matches students with SWE member mentors located in their area.
Biochemical engineers work in a variety of industries because of their knowledge of biochemistry, chemistry, math, physics, and other sciences. They are employed in manufacturing, food manufacturing, agri-technology, pharmaceutical companies, and health organizations, to name a few. Many work for chemical industries, which convert raw materials into products.
They work in laboratories that may be corporate or part of a research institution. They may work as metabolic engineers, using molecular genetics tools to improve production of metabolites and proteins. Other job specifications include enzyme engineers, who create chemicals and biochemicals from biocatalysts. There are also tissue engineers, who focus on combating disease through living cell transplantations.
Biochemical engineers work with research engineers to develop new processes and products, or they may improve on methods to make existing products. The company's marketing department may come up with product ideas. The next step is laboratory studies and experiments for the product's biochemical process. If the process is deemed to be not viable, the project stops here.
Biochemical engineers may work at pilot plants, which are small commercial plants used to develop and refine products. Biochemical engineers run tests on the product's processes and make modifications as needed, with the goal being to improve safety, reduce waste, and streamline production time and costs. The development stage entails detailed record keeping of the tests and findings.
Process design engineers work on processes that are deemed viable. They create process plans for efficient, large-scale manufacturing of the product while retaining the product's high quality. They factor the following into their plans: process requirements and cost, operator convenience and safety, waste minimization, legal regulations, and environment preservation. Process design engineers also help design the equipment used in the process, working closely with mechanical, electrical, and civil engineers.
Biochemical engineers have an understanding of all aspects of biochemical, chemical, drug, and other types of product manufacturing. They know the effects that the manufacturing process has on the environment and the importance of safety for workers and consumers.
Depending on the type of company they work for, some biochemical engineers may work as project engineers, overseeing the construction of new plants and installation of new equipment. They may work in construction as field engineers, involved in the testing and initial operation of equipment and other areas of plant start-up. Production engineers oversee daily operations, including rate of production, scheduling, worker safety, quality control, and other important operational concerns.
Biochemical engineers may work in environmental control, focusing on air and water pollution control, waste management, and recycling. They work closely with other engineers in areas such as research and development, process design, equipment and plant construction, and production, making sure environmental protection measures are incorporated into the biochemical engineering process.
Biochemical engineers with years of experience in the field may work as technical sales engineers, helping customers find the manufactured products that match their needs, such as finding products that can be used more economically. Some biochemical engineers work as biomedical engineers, collaborating with physicians to develop systems that track critical chemical processes in the body or studying methods that are best for administering a particular drug to a patient.