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Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology

Students working on laptops in the department tea room

Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology (BA/MEng) course structure

Disclaimer: Some details of the syllabus are provisional and may change. It is expected that the topics listed will be covered in the course, but not necessarily at exactly at the time stated below.

The Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology BA/MEng will give you the skills that meet the needs of today’s process and biotechnology industries. The course teaches chemical engineering and biotechnology together, in an integrated fashion.

The course begins by building a broad base of scientific knowledge, moves on to the core principles behind chemical engineering and biotechnology, and then looks at modern applications in these areas. You’ll also complete a major design project in the second half of your third year. 

You can graduate with a BA degree after year 3, however, the majority of students stay on for year 4 which leads to a BA and MEng degree.

Year 4 contains a range of options and a substantial research project as well as some compulsory material.

In a typical week, you'll:

  • attend 10 lectures
  • have 2-3 supervisions – these provide teaching, usually in groups of 2 or 3, to clarify lecture material and review homework
  • complete approximately 2 practical classes
  • work on projects and coursework

Assessment is by a combination of coursework and written examinations. Progression from one year to the next is dependent on satisfactory performance.

First year (Part IA)

You’ll be taught mainly fundamental principles. This knowledge is a necessary building block to applications in chemical engineering and biotechnology in the following years. You’ll also be introduced to concepts in product design and mechanical design.

In your first year, you'll study modules covering these topics:

  • Fundamental scientific topics such as cell biology, materials science and engineering principles.
  • Introductory chemical engineering and biotechnology principles such as sustainability, process calculations, fluid mechanics, and chemical and biochemical product design.
  • Chemistry from Part IA of the Natural Sciences Tripos.
  • Mathematics from Part IA of the Natural Sciences Tripos.

You will also undertake an engineering design and manufacturing workshop, and complete the chemistry practical laboratory class of Part IA of the Natural Sciences Tripos.

Second year (Part IB)

You’ll be taught the principles behind chemical engineering and biotechnology, building on the previous year, and be introduced to some applications.

In your second year, you'll study modules covering these topics:

  • Fundamental principles such as biotechnology, process thermodynamics, fluid mechanics and heat and mass transfer.
  • Introductory applications such as reaction engineering, separations and solids processing.
  • Supporting topics such as engineering maths, data science, and safety principles.

You also take laboratory classes in chemical engineering and biotechnology, undertake assessed exercises, and have classes in computing skills including process simulation.

Third year (Part II)

In the first term, you study further applications such as biotechnology applications, equilibrium thermodynamics, reaction engineering, separation technology and process dynamics and control.

In the second and third terms, you study process design and undertake a design project. This involves working in a team to design a plant making a particular chemical or biological product. You consider all aspects of engineering design including specification of equipment, control procedures, safety, environmental impact and economic assessment.

You can graduate with a BA degree after year 3 because you will have covered core chemical engineering and biotechnology – however, the vast majority of students stay on for year 4 if they have performed to sufficient standard.

Fourth year (Part III)

You’ll study some compulsory topics; these are currently energy technology, sustainability and advanced design.

You’ll study research skills such as data acquisition and data analysis and undertake a substantial research project. This might involve experimental, theoretical and/or computational work. Some projects support ongoing Department research, while others are ‘blue sky’ investigations leading to new research programmes.

You choose further topics from a list of optional papers, which changes every year to reflect the research interests of academic staff. Past examples include pharmaceutical engineering, adsorption and nanoporous materials, fluid mechanics and the environment, interface engineering, optical microscopy, biophysics, bionanotechnology, biosensors and bioelectronics, and healthcare biotechnology.

Successful students graduate with both BA and MEng degrees at the end of year 4.


The course is accredited by the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) at both bachelors and masters level. After completing the MEng degree, once you have several years of relevant work experience, you can apply for the Chartered Engineer (CEng) qualification without taking any more academic exams. Accreditation is subject to satisfactory performance in essential components.

Industrial experience

Industrial experience is not an essential part of our course, but it is actively encouraged. Most undergraduates who want to are able to get a vacation placement in a relevant industry in the summer between years 3 and 4. Such positions are facilitated by members of the department. A smaller, but still significant, number of students are successful in getting vacation placements in industry in earlier years.

We do not offer sandwich degrees in which a student spends a year in industry in the middle of the degree course.

Key information

Visit the main course page on the University of Cambridge Undergraduate Admissions website to find details on entry requirements, how to apply and life at Cambridge.

Contact us


Telephone: +44 (0)1223 748 999 

Address: Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, West Cambridge Site, Philippa Fawcett Drive, Cambridge, CB3 0AS 

All photos © Martin Bond