Since its founding in 1938, the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering has trained many of the nation's leaders in the practical use of chemistry for the benefit of society. Cornell chemical engineers are currently employed throughout academia, government, and industry in research, engineering, and management positions.
The origins of the School predate its formal founding. As long ago as 1870, Cornell offered some courses in industrial chemistry. But it wasn't until 1930 that Fred H. "Dusty" Rhodes set up a true chemical engineering curriculum which flourished to become own School within College of Engineering.
The School's early focus on undergraduate education and professional training expanded broadly into a vigorous research program. Faculty research interests have led to extensive interdisciplinary associations with other research centers and programs at Cornell. The student body has changed, too. The first woman earned a PhD in chemical engineering from the School in 1967. Now, nearly a third of our students are women.
The School of Chemical Biomolecular Engineering is housed in Olin Hall, which has about 108,500 square feet of offices, laboratories, classrooms, and other facilities. The laboratory wing of the building was completely renovated in 1989 at a cost of $6.3 million. Included in the renovation were special facilities for research in biotechnology, materials studies, thermodynamics, polymer studies, and fluid mechanics. Olin Hall also houses a research computing center, with sophisticated computers and computer graphics equipment. Equipment for animation, advanced graphics, and visualization is also available to support research.
The School's faculty of 18 includes two members of the National Academy of Engineering, one fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and four National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigators. In the past fifteen years, five faculty members of the School have received awards for excellence in engineering teaching, which recognize the best teachers from among the College's two hundred member faculty. Recent additions to the faculty have expanded the School's research in emerging technologies such as advanced materials and bioengineering.
Now, nearly forty per cent of our undergraduate students and 25% of our graduate students are women. The percentage of under-represented minorities is small but on the rise: they comprise roughly 6% of the undergraduates and 10% of the graduate population.
Some Origins of Biotechnology
Prof. R.K. Finn, School of Chemical Engineering, SWISS BIOTECH 7 (1989)
"From our vantage point fifty years later is it difficult to appreciate the radical implications of the submerged culture of molds. The basis for this methodology was laid by Kluyver and his student Perquin in their 1933 paper from Delft on the use of shake–flasks for physiological studies . Nevertheless there was grave doubt that sterile air and sterile seals on rotating shafts could be maintained over week–long periods on an industrial scale–not just in the controlled environment of the laboratory. Consequently surface culture continued in use during the first three years of penicillin production in the United States; it was simply an extension of the method used for citric acid production..."
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"Reynolds Number Song" was written in 1978 by Professor Peter Harriott to help students remember and honor the work of Sir Osborne Reynolds. It was published in Chemical Engineering Education in 1979. As an Emeritus Professor, Peter Harriott continues to perform the song for Cornell students each year. The recording below was done at home by Harriott's grandsons, Mark and Greg Harriott.