Undergraduate Program

Frequently Asked Questions

    We are here to answer your questions about the molecular engineering major and minors offered by the College. If you can't find the answer to your question, please contact us.

    The molecular engineering undergraduate program at UChicago is for highly talented and ambitious students who are passionate about developing new ways to understand and exploit the molecular-level nature of materials, devices, and systems. Our students receive a robust engineering education that builds upon a strong background in mathematics and the physical and biological sciences, offered within the University's rigorous liberal arts environment. Unlike many traditional engineering programs, there are extensive opportunities in our program to individualize your engineering education towards advanced coursework and research in the areas such as quantum information sciences, immunoengineering, polymers and soft materials engineering, computational molecular engineering, and many others. Our molecular engineering graduates leave UChicago at the forefront of these rapidly evolving fields ready to be risk-takers and assume leadership roles in developing the next generation of technologies that will address the challenges facing today’s society.

    The flexible curriculum empowers you to tailor the molecular engineering program to your strengths and interests, with the help of faculty advisers. Not only do you select from the bioengineering, chemical engineering, or quantum engineering tracks in molecular engineering, but you can also deepen your education by choosing to add on minors in molecular engineering in specialized topics such as immunology, sustainable energy and water resources, or quantum information sciences.

    Students adopting this approach can experience individualized pathways and better position themselves for engineering careers or graduate school. For example:

    • A student interested in bioengineering and a career in cancer-related fields can position themselves successfully by majoring in the biology track and minoring in immunoengineering in molecular engineering.
    • A student interested in materials genome approaches to the design of sustainable energy platforms can major in the chemical engineering track and minor in computational molecular engineering. Armed with a foundation in machine learning and molecular simulation, such students may be better prepared for graduate study in chemistry or chemical engineering than if they had just majored in either discipline along traditional curricula.

    The major in molecular engineering prepares you for a variety of careers in a technology-based society. Our graduates have become practicing engineers, scientists, consultants, programmers, and entrepreneurs, to name a few career paths. Other graduates leverage the quantitative and problem-solving skills gained in their training as engineers towards careers in finance, public policy, or big data. You will also be well-positioned for further study, and some recent molecular engineering graduates have chosen to attend medical school, business school, or graduate schools for advanced degrees in diverse fields including bioengineering, chemical engineering, materials science, and physics or applied physics.

    The three tracks we offer—bioengineering, chemical engineering, or quantum engineering—prepare you for your selected area of molecular engineering. The tracks require distinct coursework, as follows:

    • Bioengineering track requires courses in organic chemistry, biochemistry, quantitative physiology, systems biology, and cellular engineering
    • Chemical engineering track requires coursework in organic chemistry, kinetics and reaction engineering, molecular modeling, and thermodynamics of mixtures
    • Quantum engineering track requires courses in electricity and magnetism, optics, electrodynamics, quantum computation, and laboratory instrumentation

    The outcomes and specific requirements for each track are detailed in the College Catalog.

    The undergraduate program in molecular engineering is a major within the liberal arts curriculum of the College of the University of Chicago. If you are a high school student interested in pursuing the SB in molecular engineering, you should apply for admission to the College. We also encourage you to learn more about the major by reviewing the College Catalog.

    No. There is no application to declare the molecular engineering major and there is no limit on the number of students who may pursue the major. However, students interested in the molecular engineering major are encouraged to meet with Director of Undergraduate Studies Mark Stoykovich to discuss opportunities within the program and their potential four-year plans. 

    Don’t worry – you are not alone! It is common for molecular engineering and University of Chicago students to be interested in many opportunities and unsure about their specific path. Fortunately, you have some time to decide once you arrive at UChicago. Students typically select the track in molecular engineering that they intend to pursue during their second year at UChicago. This is the point in the curriculum when the coursework in the molecular engineering tracks begins to diverge and you start to take more specialized courses, for example electricity and magnetism for the quantum engineering track and organic chemistry for the other tracks. 

    All students in molecular engineering are therefore encouraged to use their first few quarters at the University to explore the major and gather more information about each track. Talk to the departmental advisers, faculty, and other students. Consider the research activities and summer opportunities. Strategize about how the tracks would fit into your career plans. Then, armed with this additional information, you will be able to make an informed decision about the ideal track for you.

    The major in molecular engineering requires you to have a strong and broad background in mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology. You must satisfy the general education requirements in the mathematical, physical, and biological sciences at or above a specific level. These requirements are detailed in the College Catalog

    Students planning to pursue the molecular engineering major should register for Engineering Principles I (the first course in the engineering sequence) as soon as they have completed the chemistry, physics, and mathematics prerequisites for that course. Most molecular engineering students register for the Engineering Principles I course during the Autumn Quarter of their second year, while other students take that course and start their engineering sequence during the Autumn Quarter of their third year.

    We recommend that most matriculating students plan on immediately starting to satisfy their mathematics, general physics, and general chemistry requirements during their first year at the University. Taking these courses simultaneously during your first year will allow most students to access the first course in molecular engineering during the Autumn Quarter of their second year. Students should also register for a humanities sequence in their first year. 

    One exception to this recommendation is for matriculating students placed into MATH 13100 by the Mathematical Placement Test. These students are recommended instead to register for the mathematics, general chemistry, and humanities sequences during their first year and, in their second year, to complete the math and general physics requirements. Students following this schedule will take their first course in molecular engineering during their third year.

    Most molecular engineering students are recommended to start in MATH 15200 or the highest-level mathematics course in which they are placed. However, if you plan to double-major in mathematics, we recommend that you take the honors calculus sequences and start with a course in the MATH 16100 sequence.

    Prospective majors should have mastered the content in the prerequisite STEM courses (i.e., general chemistry, general physics, biology fundamentals, and the mathematics sequence) as part of their background. There is a minimum GPA required to complete your SB degree in molecular engineering, as well as minimum grade requirements for all courses required in the major. See the College Catalog for details.

    Yes, undergraduate students are encouraged to conduct research with PME faculty or in research labs across campus. Almost all molecular engineering students participate in research, with most students performing research for longer than one year and some students for all four years on campus. Some research experiences involve laboratory benchwork, whereas others may involve computational and modeling projects or even fieldwork.

    We encourage interested students to take the time to familiarize themselves with our faculty and their specific areas of research. Students should then inquire directly with individual faculty members about research opportunities in their labs. The recommended approach for such email inquiries is to introduce yourself, provide a curriculum vitae (CV) and some background about your experience/preparation, and to explain your motivations for doing research.

    No. While an undergraduate research project is not required for the major, many students choose to gain advanced experience by electing to pursue research projects.

    Yes. We encourage students who pursue a substantive research project with a PME faculty member to write and defend an honors thesis based on their work. For detailed information and eligibility requirements for receiving honors, see the College Catalog.

    Molecular engineering students can receive 100 units of credit for one-quarter research experiences by enrolling in the course MENG 29700. Students interested in MENG 29700 should contact the director for undergraduate studies in molecular engineering and complete a “College Reading and Research Course Form” available from the College advisers. Review the Reading and Research procedures on the College Advising Registration page for more information. 

    There are no specific College advisers assigned to the major, but every College adviser is trained to discuss our major requirements with students in the College. Students may also be directed to Director of Undergraduate Studies Mark Stoykovich for specific advice or questions regarding the undergraduate program in molecular engineering.