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Catalysing life
Hindustan Times
New Delhi, January 01, 2013
First Published: 15:12 IST(1/1/2013)
Last Updated: 15:17 IST(1/1/2013)
Matter of fact: Chemical engineering is not just about the design and operation of chemical plants, it also involves the academia and research that support innovation

The lowdown

From the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the cars we drive and the medicines we take, chemicals contribute significantly in improving the quality of life. The chemical industry is critical for the economic development of every country, providing products and enabling technical solutions to all sectors of the economy. Despite the economic slowdown, the Indian chemical industry will grow at a healthy rate of 13% to 15% to touch $290 billion by 2017. Chemical engineering is not just about the design and operation of chemical plants, but it also involves academic and research aspects. Other than the core chemical industries, chemical engineers find jobs in process equipment/health care equipment, design/manufacturing and R&D centres. They also find employment in management, IT, knowledge process outsourcing, and finance

A chemical engineer works in shifts at least for the first five years of his career. If one joins design or research organisations, the role will be entirely different. The average morning shift of an operations officer at an oil refinery is as follows:
7.45am: Check in
8am: Put on boiler suit, protective shoes, gloves and helmet. Check that all the technicians are manning the respective positions in the plant
8.15am: Meeting with the head to discuss tasks and jobs to be done. Allocate work to people in the different teams
8.45am: Have breakfast in the office
9.15am: Go for a round of the plant to ensure everything is functioning normally
10.30am: Return to office. Follow up on the tasks
12.30pm: Lunch
1pm: Go to the control room to monitor operations of the plant
2.30pm: Ensure that the work during the shift is done
3pm: Enter all tasks, both completed and continuing, in the log book
3.30pm: Make a list of operators for the next shift. Hand over charge to the officer in the evening shift. Brief him about the remaining tasks and changes made on the control panel. Change into everyday clothes
4pm: Call it a day

The payoff
Salaries largely depend on one’s academic proficiency as well as on the reputation of the college one is from. For example, at the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Mumbai, pay packages for fresh engineers are over Rs. 4 lakh per annum and that of IIT Bombay BTechs joining a PSU or a good private company is Rs. 5 lakh - Rs. 8 lakh per annum. The average salary for beginners in India is Rs. 1.5 lakh - Rs. 4 lakh per annum. In a career span of about 35 years, one can also rise up to become a CEO or start his/her own firm (manufacturing or supporting)

* Interest in physics, chemistry, maths (and even biology)
* Should enjoy working with chemicals, machinery and software tools
* Analytical skills
* Innovative approach

Getting there
Take science with physics, chemistry and maths at the plus two level. After this, you need to clear a written test for entry to a BE programme in chemical engineering

Institutes and URLs
*       Institute of Chemical Technology (formerly University Department of Chemical Technology)
*       IITs Bombay, Kanpur, Madras, Kharagpur, Roorkee, Delhi, Guwahati and others
*      National Institutes of Technology, Warangal, Surathkal,
*      Indian Institute of Chemical Engineers, Kolkata    
*      Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai

Pros and cons
* Innovative creation of assets
* You get a chance to improve the quality of life
* Exposure to dangerous chemicals as well as high temperature and noise

Care for the living and the planet, enhance the quality of life with chemicals, research chemical engineering concepts and explore chemical engineering -- P Vijayaraghavan, president, Indian Institute of Chemical Engineers, Kolkata

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