ChemE Major

I’ve completed my second semester here and I’m alive!! Gosh, I never have studied with a more competitive batch of students in my life. Anyway, with this I complete my core-course requirements that gives me a Chemical Engineering major. When I think about it, I tend to go a long way back in time.

Unlike my peers (most of them) who had no idea about what major to choose in college unless they were sitting in the counseling seat, I was pretty sure I wanted to do electronics. Computers didnt excite me as much as that motherboard did. I was fascinated by what I was seeing then, technology shrinking everything and all because of a chip. Gee, I would wishfully glare at the TV whenever those (then-rare) Intel ads popped up on screen. A bad entrance exam and all that confusion-that-follows-a-typical-12th-standard-pass-out later, I was doing my Bachelors in Chemical Engineering.

I read up a lot about it since now I was supposed to become one (see, this is a MAJOR loophole in Indian education) and was convinced that it had a lot of potential. After half the world had mistaken me to be a chemistry major and me clarifying “Nooo…its not chemistry, its more like Mechanical engineering”, and all the Oh-that-branch-aint-great treatment from everyone in college, I had given up. I joined in mocking my degree and the awful placement prospects my college had for that branch (apart from a few who landed up in the best jobs) and virtually grew accustomed to everyone imagining that the only hope of chemical engineers was to either do an MBA or join politics (i’m not kidding, this was told in class by a faculty!). All that was until I came to grad school.

Chemical engineering, folks is simply not respected much in India because it is difficult. Simple. If you need to know it, you NEED to study. The jobs in the field are not as comfortable (albeit very high paying) as the ones you do sitting in those buildings..atleast most of the jobs are not. And the consequences are simply not crashing a system (which is actually a big problem) or some such mild glitch. You can lose lives, millions of dollars and make a company go bankrupt just by turning the wrong knob! I am amazed to see the difference in perspective when I tell people I am a Chemical Engineering major here. They go like ” Oh! You must be smart, I never can do those things”. Which is the truth. It is a tough thing. Very tough.

After completing what would be perhaps the most advanced level of chemical engineering courses here, I feel good.I might not have topped the courses or been exceptionally good at them but still I seem to like it so much now. I learnt so much and strengthened my core sciences in addition to successfully designing equipments and predicting phenomena that happens on such a large scale. I feel like I’ve climbed a mountain and am sitting on its summit. Though the mountain I need to climb (my research) is still awaiting me and the mountain I wanted to climb (electronics) sits beside me.

More than anything, grad studies has re-instated the most important thing – respect for my field. Though, Intel ads still make me drool , I realized they do need a huge chunk of chemical engineers as well. And I feel proud. And happy. 🙂