Beyond the bachelor of science, PhD students typically complete the program in five years. Beyond the bachelor of science, PhD students typically complete the program in five years.

Graduate Study
Chemical & Biological Engineering (PhD)
Curriculum & Requirements

Graduate students holding BS or BE degrees in chemical engineering must complete 10 courses according to the distribution below. Students entering with a MS or graduate coursework in chemical engineering or a related field may have some course requirements waived or be allowed to substitute, on a case-by-case basis. If you entered with a BS or BE in another engineering or science discipline, then see “Non-chemical engineering BS students” below. For more information about the PhD in chemical and biological engineering, download the following PDF:

PhD in chemical and biological engineering handbook


Our department’s course requirements for the PhD degree are:

Courses in the department (six total, no P/N allowances)

Two transport phenomena courses. Choose from:

  • CHEM ENG 421 Fluid Mechanics
  • CHEM ENG 422 Heat and Mass Transfer
  • CHEM ENG 437 Selected Topics in Fluid Mechanics
  • CHEM ENG 462 Viscoelasticity and Flow in Polymer Systems

One reaction engineering/kinetics course. Choose from:

  • CHEM ENG 408 Chemical Engineering Kinetics and Reactor Design
  • CHEM ENG 409 Advanced Reactor Design
  • CHEM ENG 410 Principles of Heterogeneous Catalysis
  • CHEM ENG 414 Modern Analytical Techniques for Chemical Engineering
  • CHEM ENG 463 Polymerization Reaction Engineering

One thermodynamics course. Choose from:

  • CHEM ENG 404 Advanced Thermodynamics
  • CHEM ENG 406 Selected Topics in Thermodynamics

Two electives

Electives must be taken in the department.

Other electives (four total, with three P/N allowances)

At least two must be non-departmental electives: Choose from 300- or 400-level courses in other science and engineering departments. Note that most 300-level courses required for the BS degree at Northwestern in other science and engineering departments cannot be taken for credit toward a graduate degree. CHEM ENG 341 Process Dynamics and Control is the only exception, if this course does not duplicate a course taken for a previous degree.

Non-chemical engineering BS students

You will have to take up to six additional undergraduate chemical engineering courses for credit: CHEM ENG 210 or 212; 211, 307, 321, 322, and 323; in order to prepare you for the required courses listed in (a). These graded classes will not contribute toward your other graduate degree course requirements.