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History

The program in Chemical Engineering at Drexel University began in 1923 with a four-year co-op. It differed from Civil, Electrical, and Mechanical Engineering in that the students were required to take a chemistry course each term of study. A five-year co-op for chemical engineers was introduced in 1925. In 1927 the state of Pennsylvania granted an amendment to the charter and the first four students graduated with a BS in Chemical Engineering. In 1930 the first international student graduated. The first Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering was Prof. Leon D. Stratton who led the new department beginning in 1940 for most of the 1940’s. In 1947 there were nine women enrolled in the program and that year Alice E. Maven became the first woman to graduate with a BS in Chemical Engineering from Drexel. Prof. Frank A. Fletcher became Department Head in 1948 and initiated the first undergraduate research program. In 1964 Prof. Charles Huckaba became Department Head.

In 1967 a more modern era of the department began when Prof. Donald Coughanower become Department Head and initiated the graduate program in Chemical Engineering. The first MS student graduated in 1969, and the first PhD student graduated in 1971. In 1980 a graduate program in Biochemical Engineering was pioneered by Prof. Raj Mutharasan. In 1994 the department moved to new laboratories known as the CAT building where it resides today. In 1988 Prof. Charles Weinberger became Department Head and in 1991 the first student graduated from a new MS/BS program. In 2004 the department changed its name to the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Prof. Giuseppe Palmese became Department Head. A “bio-track” for undergraduates was initiated in 2006 and it became an officially recognized Concentration in 2012. In 2006 faculty members in the department were awarded an Army Materials Center of Excellence in Polymers that is still active. The department holds the distinction that all faculty members who have been eligible have been awarded prestigious young investigator awards. A pictorial representation of the department’s history is shown in Figure C.1

The largest change in the last decade has been the complete transition from a department with large undergraduate program to a research-intensive department with a large undergraduate program of higher quality. The clearest evidence of this is shown in Figure C.2 that summarizes PhD graduates over the past 33 years and publications by department faculty members in peer-reviewed journals during the past 15 years. This transition has been accomplished with a faculty size that has not changed over the past decade and with a growing population of undergraduates that has nearly doubled in this time period. This has been possible in large part because of a very collegial atmosphere that has allowed for the hiring, mentoring, and development of excellent young faculty.

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cbe history

Figure C.1: A pictorial representation of the department’s history – the blue background “mountains” represent conferred BS degrees in Chemical Engineering.


cbe history

Figure C.2: Historical indicators of graduate program activity, PhD graduates (left) and publications (right) showing large growth during the last decade as discussed in Section H of this report.