Technical Electives for Biomolecular Concentrations


By Emily Joyce, SCS Advising LeaderĀ 

At the University of Illinois, the official major title for all chemical engineering majors is chemical and biomolecular engineering. This allows students in the major to choose around the time of their Sophomore and Junior years whether they want to concentrate on Chemical Engineering or Biomolecular Engineering. This choice will dictate the topics of the technical electives they take in their Junior and Senior years.

As a senior in chemical engineering, I chose around the second semester of my sophomore year that I wanted to pursue a biomolecular concentration. In this article, I will outline what the biomolecular engineering concentration entails and I hope younger ChBE students will find this information informative.

The first requirement for completing the biomolecular concentration is that rather than taking CHEM 436, organic chemistry 2, around their sophomore year, biomolecular students must take MCB 450, which is introductory biochemistry. I find that both Orgo 2 and biochemistry cover the same course requirement, however, it is preferred that biomolecular concentrations take Biochemistry as this course covers topics more closely relating to what the concentration will cover in later semesters. I took MCB 450 because I knew I might be interested in the biomolecular concentration early on. I chose this concentration because I had always had an interest in both the medical field and gene editing techniques/DNA topics. If you have similar interests or are interested in other biology-related fields such as pharmaceuticals or food/beverage, then the biomolecular concentration may be right for you.

Collectively throughout my Junior and Senior years, I have taken six technical electives that have all counted towards my Biomolecular Engineering requirement:

ABE 488- Bioprocess Biomass for Fuel

ChBE 476- Biotransport

ChBE 472- Techniques in Biomolecular Engineering

FSHN 414- Food Chemistry

ChBE 471- Biochemical Engineering

ChBE 473- Biomolecular Engineering.

I have enjoyed each of these classes in different ways, and I especially enjoyed how I have noticed a lot of them relate to and build off of each other, covering similar topics in different ways. One of my favorites was ChBE 476 with Professor Kong, as I enjoyed his style of lecturing as well as the final project at the end of the year where we researched and wrote about a biotransport technique. While Professor Kong gave us topics to select from to write about, he also also allowed us to reach out to him if there was something relevant to the class that we were interested in. I reached out to him to get permission to research the closed-loop system for insulin delivery that is new for Type 1 Diabetics and was very fascinated to have the opportunity to learn more about this technology and how it related to topics we learned in the class.

Another course that I enjoyed was ChBE 472 with Professor Leckband. I enjoyed this course because not only did I find it interesting to learn about biomolecular engineering principles, but we also learned how to apply these principles to designing systems or devices. We talked about a range of design applications that went from a simple band-aid to the Covid detection system that a team at the university designed. I am glad I chose this path in the biomolecular concentration for my college career, and I am happy to answer any questions any younger students may have about what this path entails or advice on any courses to take! My email is