Auburn first offered courses in chemical engineering in 1913. Our graduate program began early in the department’s history with the first class of chemical engineering graduate students receiving their degrees in 1919. Our doctoral program started in 1974.
Our female students and alumni have been instrumental in the growth of our department. Women have been earning chemical engineering degrees at Auburn since the early days of our program. Esther Thompson Spencer was one of our first female graduates, earning a bachelor's and master's in chemical engineering in 1918 and 1919, respectively.
Since our program began, we have consistently attracted a large undergraduate class and our graduate program has grown substantially since the 1950s. Enrollment of graduate students began to rise as the popularity of chemical engineering graduate degrees increased and as extramural funding became more available.
Energy research was a major focus for the department in the 1970s and 80s. The 80s also brought in new research expertise in areas of catalysis, materials engineering, and biotechnology, surface science and space‐related research programs through the Space Research Institute.
In 1985, at the request of pulp and paper industry leaders, the Department of Chemical Engineering established the Pulp and Paper Research and Education Center (PPREC). This center has subsequently been renamed the Alabama Center for Paper and Bioresource Engineering (ACPABE). The mission of the center is to conduct research on improving productivity and profitability in the pulp and paper industry, and to provide highly skilled engineers for the industry.
Expertise in process systems engineering, supercritical fluid technology, molecular thermodynamics, environmental transport and separations were added to the department in the 1990s. In 1996, the Center for Microfibrous Materials Manufacturing (CM3) was established and focused on a unique Auburn technology to produce microfibrous materials that have wide ranging applications in catalysis, filtration, fuel cells, etc. The 2000s represented another period of tremendous growth and expansion for the department including the addition of expertise in process and product design, biomedical engineering and drug delivery systems, micro‐and nano‐technology, advanced process dynamics and controls and systems biology.
Major renovations to our facilities have also greatly enhanced our department. Wilmore Laboratories was updated in 2002 and Ross Hall had a complete renovation and addition in 2006. These extensive renovations have resulted in a significant improvement in the quality and quantity of the facilities available to our faculty and students and have positively affected our function, including enrollment and retention of both students and faculty.