Chemical engineering has grown out of a combination of chemistry and engineering associated with industrial processes. Today, it comprises knowledge used in processes that change the physical state or composition of materials. Chemical engineers hold key roles in the design, development, production, and purification of materials that are considered essential to human life and well-being, such as food products, fuels and lubricants, pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, synthetic fibers, microelectronic components, and plastics. Chemical engineers are involved in reducing the use of energy to make these products in safe and sustainable ways. They are responsible for minimizing environmental effects of chemical production on the environment.
Petroleum engineering is concerned with the drilling, recovery, production, and distribution of petroleum and natural gas. Petroleum engineers use knowledge of fluid and rock properties in subsurface environments with methods of producing oil and gas safely and economically. At KU, the focus is on reservoir engineering, improving production from oil and gas reservoirs. Reservoir engineers use geological detection with computerized mathematical analysis to produce these valuable raw materials. Through such techniques, petroleum engineers continue to extract oil and gas from reservoirs that were considered uneconomical only a few years ago. Petroleum engineering is uniquely challenging in that the raw product must be recovered far from physical observation.