History of the Department

Princeton University offered its first courses in chemical engineering in 1922 under the direction of Sir Hugh Stott Taylor.

In 1930, Sir Hugh Stott Taylor helped create the Department of Chemical Engineering, which separated from the Department of Chemistry in 1934 and awarded its first Ph.D. in 1948.

In recognition of the increasing role of biotechnology in the chemical engineering discipline, and in our department’s research and curriculum, the department officially became Chemical and Biological Engineering on July 1, 2010.

Princeton's program in chemical engineering is part of a distinguished tradition of graduate education and scientific research at the University. Formal graduate study at Princeton was initiated in 1869 when three fellowships were established. In 1900, the Graduate School was formally chartered within the University, and 12 years later the first residential graduate college in America was dedicated.

Through the decades, the department's leaders have attained international stature: Joseph C. Elgin for research on liquid-liquid extraction, Richard H. Wilhelm for chemical reactor analysis, Leon Lapidus for the application of modern computational techniques to chemical engineering problems, William R. Schowalter for contributions to non-Newtonian fluid mechanics, William B. Russel for research on colloidal dispersions, and Pablo G. Debenedetti for the understanding of metastable liquids.

Research topics range from the applied to the fundamental, from cutting-edge experimentation to elegant and rigorous theories to sophisticated molecular simulation. Key research advances have been recognized through major awards to our current faculty from leading professional societies, including the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the American Chemical Society, the Society of Rheology, the American Ceramic Society, the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the American Physical Society.

The current faculty includes three members of the National Academy of Engineering, one member of the National Academy of Science, a MacArthur Fellow, an HHMI Investigator, two Guggenheim Fellows, three winners of New Faculty and Teacher-Scholar awards from the Dreyfus Foundation, and three members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.