FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions by New and Transfer Students
- What's special about CHBE at Montana State University?
- Does the Department require me to have my own computer?
- What calculator should I buy?
- What is the difference between undergraduate majors in Chemical Engineering and Biological Engineering?
- Can I earn a minor in Chemical Engineering or Biological Engineering?
- Can I get a scholarship?
- Is there a required internship program?
- Where do CHBE grads go to work? What kind of job will I get when I graduate?
- Should I apply for the engineering academic theme floor in the residence hall?
- Who is my advisor?
- I have AP (advanced placement) or IB (International Baccalaureate) credits from my high school. Will those credits apply to my CHBE degree?
- Am I exempt from College Writing I (WRIT 101/ENGL 121)?
- I took the MSU Math Placement Exam but I didn't place into M-171 (Calc I). Can I still be a ChE or BioE major?
- What are the Core and Elective course requirements?
- I'm not from Montana: how do I qualify for resident tuition?
- I'm a transfer student. How do I register for classes?
- I already have a two-year A.S. degree. Do I need to take General Education Core classes?
- I have previously taken university courses that I would like to transfer to MSU. Will those credits apply to my CHBE degree?
The Chemical and Biological Engineering Department at Montana State University provides you with many advantages compared to other universities:
- Exceptional opportunities for hands-on learning. Our programs emphasize hands-on laboratory work from ECHM/EBIO 100 through graduate programs. Many of our students gain cutting-edge research experience as undergraduates working in faculty research laboratories. This includes work on genetic engineering, biofuels, carbon sequestration, magnetic resonance microscopy, computational biofluid dynamics, fuel cell research, and many other areas. Our department has an excellent track record for peer-reviewed scientific publications co-authored by undergraduate researchers.
- Learn from outstanding faculty. All CHBE classes are taught by experienced professors, not by teaching assistants. Our award-winning faculty are recognized leaders in their areas of expertise, with graduate degrees earned from some of the best engineering programs in the world.
- Accredited by ABET. The Chemical Engineering Program is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET. http://www.abet.org.
- Undergraduate involvement in research. Annual CHBE faculty expenditures on competitively funded research typically exceed $1M, and a good portion of that funding provides assistantships and stipends for students who work part time in research labs and other creative activities that build new knowledge. Don't just read about it--do it!
- Spectacular adventures await you, both in and out of class. MSU-Bozeman is minutes away from public trails and blue ribbon trout streams, less than an hour from Big Sky and Bridger Bowl ski resorts, and just 90 miles from Yellowstone National Park. Bozeman also is the home of more than 100 small high-tech businesses and 650 non-profit community organizations. Why settle for a dull college town when you can live and study in the fresh air of the northern Rocky Mountains?
Learn more about Student Life in the MSU College of Engineering.
The MSU College of Engineering does not require each student to own a computer, although an increasing number of our incoming students do arrive on campus with a personal computer. Some students and faculty choose to buy Macintosh hardware, while others choose PCs running Microsoft Windows or Linux. The CHBE Department computer labs and most of the other labs on campus are currently equipped with Windows-based PCs. Most of the CHBE faculty use Windows-based PC’s so students should only email documents that can be opened on a Windows-based PC (e.g., *.doc or *.docx are acceptable, but *.pages files are not).
For the first couple years of college the major software usage will be general word processing, spreadsheets, and internet access, so if you want to buy a computer or laptop before you come we would simply suggest getting Ethernet/wi-fi connectivity, a USB flash drive, and Microsoft Office for compatibility. In general, if you have a computer with internet, word processing, and spreadsheet software you should be in very good shape for essentially all computer needs for the first couple years of the CHBE program.
Several specialized software packages for engineering process design and engineering mathematics are used in our more advanced courses, but this software is available in the CHBE computer lab and does not need to be purchased by students. Some of those packages have student versions that can be purchased at a reasonable cost, but the versions get updated every year or so, so our suggestion would be to wait until the time comes to consider buying a copy of those packages.
We don't have any exclusive requirements or recommendations regarding calculators, but aiming for something with good scientific support (sin, cos, tan, exp, etc.) and basic graphing should be sufficient. Models like the TI-83, TI-84, and similar calculators from HP and Casio fit this category and would certainly get you through any of the required courses in CHBE.
At the upper level it is pretty common to do more computation using Matlab, MathCAD, Maple, or another PC-based symbolic software package rather than a hand calculator.
Looking way ahead to your senior year, the required national Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam currently has restrictions on what calculators are allowed in the exam room. The current list allows only a few very basic calculators (like the TI-30X) with few features to ensure that no one can cheat on the test. We simply recommend waiting until the time comes before worrying about the FE exam calculator, since the allowable models are relatively cheap--and the list of acceptable calculators may change between now and the time you take the FE exam anyway.
The over-simplified summary is that the ChE focuses on traditional methods for chemical production and purification and BioE focuses on newer, microbially facilitated production processes.
The Chemical Engineering major follows the traditional emphasis on unit operations (fluid dynamics, heat transfer, and separations) thermodynamics and reactor design. Requirements include mathematics (4 semesters of calculus and differential equations), basic science/engineering topics (physics and chemistry), material science, and advanced chemistry.
The Biological Engineering program options emphasize biology, microbiology, biochemistry, biotransport, and bioprocessing. The BioE degree has many of the same requirements for mathematics and physics.
Some students elect to pursue either a dual major or a dual degree in ChE and BioE. The dual major option (a B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering and Biological Engineering) typically requires one extra semester (4.5 years total) and the dual degree option (a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and a second B.S. in Biological Engineering) typically requires an extra year (5 years total).
Both degree programs at MSU require fulfillment of the University Core 2.0 requirements for breadth of knowledge in the arts, humanities, social sciences, diversity, and creative research--all the things that educated people need to know.
No. The CHBE Department does not currently offer a minor in either program.
MSU, the College of Engineering, and the CHBE Department award scholarships on a competitive basis for both new and continuing students. See the online information about the College of Engineering Scholarships (this same information is used by the CHBE department), and the Montana State University Scholarships programs.
Internships are not required, but we highly recommend that you plan to seek meaningful engineering employment during the summer, part time during the school year, or perhaps by spending an academic term away from school. Employers who visit our campus increasingly emphasize the importance of work experience to complement your academic studies in engineering. Having some real-world experience on your résumé—and a letter of recommendation from an engineering supervisor—can be a great step on the way to landing an ideal post-baccalaureate position.
The CHBE Department and MSU Career Services post information about internships that have been announced by a sponsor, or a student may identify a sponsoring company individually through on-line research, personal contacts, or referrals.
CHBE career placement is one of the highest on campus. ChE and BioE Bachelor's degree graduates from MSU find numerous professional employment opportunities, including careers with large, multi-national corporations, local and regional companies, entrepreneurial start-ups, government agencies, or continuing their formal education trajectory in graduate school. Pre-med students also choose the ChE and BioE programs because they can be good options for preparing for medical school.
Students studying engineering face a challenging academic environment. Many students find it beneficial to be around others with similar academic interests, course projects, and exam schedules. The engineering "academic theme" floors in Langford Hall (men) and Hannon Hall (women) can help you become part of a close community of students who are facing similar educational challenges.
The academic theme floor features 30-50 students majoring in engineering, regularly scheduled in-hall academic advising and study sessions, and access to peer tutoring and additional faculty support.
CHBE students come from a wide variety of backgrounds and interests and can find great academic success whether or not they get their start on an engineering floor in the residence halls. But if the engineering theme floor sounds interesting to you, by all means check it out!
Here is an MSU news article about the Women In Science and Engineering (WISE) academic floor in Hannon Hall.
If you are a brand new incoming student, you can get academic advising information by contacting the main CHBE Office, 306 Cobleigh Hall, (406) 994-2221. Once you have been admitted to the ChE or BioE program and your paperwork has been processed by the campus registrar, you will automatically be assigned an CHBE faculty member as your regular academic advisor based on your last name.
I have AP (advanced placement) or IB (International Baccalaureate) credits from my high school. Will those credits apply to my ChE/BioE degree?
If you took AP or IB courses during high school, and passed the AP exam with a score of 3 or higher or the IB exam with a score of 4 or higher, that's excellent! These courses can appear on your MSU transcript, and may fulfill some CORE and/or major requirements. See AP course equivalencies and IB course equivalencies to determine what AP and IB courses MSU will accept for degree credit.
Some common AP equivalencies are:
Calc AB = MSU M-171 (Calculus I) (4 credits)
Calc BC = MSU M-171 & M-172 (Calculus I and Calculus II) (8 credits)
Physics C/Mechanics = PHSX 220 (Physics I w/calculus) (4 credits)
Physics C/Elect & Magnetism = PHSX 222 (Physics II w/calculus) (4 credits)
AP Physics B (non-calculus) does not fufill the ChE and BioE physics requirement.
AP Chemistry with a score of only 3 does not fulfill the CHMY 141 requirement
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If your English Composition Advanced Placement (AP) score is a 4 or higher, MSU will accept your AP credits for College Writing I (WRIT 101/ENGL 121W), and those credits will appear on your MSU transcript.
If you don't have AP English Composition credits, but you scored 27 or higher on the ACT English test or received 640 or higher for your SAT Verbal score, you do not have to take the introductory WRIT 101 class. Instead, you must cover the 3 required credits by taking some other course that includes a writing component and is agreed upon by your advisor and the ChBE Deparment.
I took the MSU Math Placement Exam (MPLEX) and I didn't place into M-171 (Calculus I). Can I still be an ChE or BioE major?
Yes, but be sure to note that the ChE and BioE curricula are built upon a four semester prerequisite sequence of calculus and differential equations. If you are placed into College Algebra (M-121) or Precalculus (M-151), you will need to pass the sequence of math courses necessary to reach Calculus I (M-171) as soon as you can.
The math classes you take prior to M-171 will appear on your official transcript, but cannot be counted toward your ChE/BioE degree requirements.
29 credits of elective courses are required for both the ChE and the BioE programs. The elective requirements include:
- 18 credits of University Seminar (US), writing (W), humanities (H), social science (S), diversity (D), and arts (A) classes as part of the combined university and COE core requirements*;
- 11 credits of technical elective courses selected from the approved list;
*NOTE that ChE and BioE students automatically fulfill the Quantitative (Q), Research (R), Contemporary Issues in Science (CS), and the Natural Science Inquiry (IN) university Core requirements simply by taking the required courses for the major.
If you are not a Montana resident, state government rules require the University to charge you the non-resident tuition and fees rate--unless you are enrolled in the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) Scholarship program.
If you are a domestic (U.S.) student you can apply to become a Montana legal resident if you follow the mandatory residency guidelines. Note that the residency qualification process takes twelve months and you cannot enroll for more than 6 credits in any term during the twelve month period. You also cannot leave the state for more than a total of 30 days during the qualification year.
International students are always considered non-residents: there is no process to obtain Montana residency without being a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
First, make sure the Office of Admissions has completed your application process and performed the official Transfer Equivalency review.
Next, spend some time reviewing the MSU policies, degree requirements, and procedures applicable to your particular transfer situation. Then attend the regularly scheduled formal group orientation offered before each term, or make an appointment with the CHBE Department to schedule an individual advising appointment.
To make the advising process quick and efficient, please be sure to bring a copy of your grade transcript, ACT/SAT scores (for math placement, if necessary), and complete course syllabi and content details from previous schools to show your previous engineering/math/science course experience.
Once your advising/orientation session is complete, you will be given the online personal identification number (PIN) needed to register for your classes.
If you already have an Associate's degree (or Bachelors degree) that included a complete General Education Core requirement (~30 semester credits), you do not need to take any additional lower-division Core classes as part of your MSU degree program. The ChE and BioE program requirements of basic math and science courses still must be fulfilled, but the Core category A, H, S, D, US, and W are considered covered by the prior General Education Core taken as part of the A.S. degree.
If you have an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree, General Education Core classes were likely not included in your degree requirements, so you will need to earn the MSU Core 2.0 credit requirements.
I have previously taken university courses that I would like to transfer to MSU. Will those credits apply to my ChE/BioE degree?
This is a very reasonable and appropriate question, but the answer can be a bit complicated. In general, college-level classes taken at an accredited college or university will be transferrable to MSU degree programs if the course content and prerequisites are equivalent. However, keep in mind that different universities may offer courses with essentially the same name but with differing content, credits, and grading scheme, or you may have taken a course at another university that has no direct equivalent at MSU. It is also possible that you have taken a course that does not fit the specific list of required and elective classes comprising the ChE or BioE degree curriculum, and therefore can't apply directly toward the MSU degree program. Each transfer case is different, and we will work with you to ensure that all the equivalent course credits can be transferred under MSU's rules.
Here are a few notes regarding course credit transfers:
- An UNOFFICIAL self-evaluation of course work can be accessed through the Transfer Course Equivalency Guide (available online). The equivalencies listed are updated from time to time, but nevertheless it is a good place to start. If you find that your transfer institution or a particular course is not listed in the Equivalency Guide, it does not necessarily mean that the course will not transfer, just that the information is not yet in the system.
- OFFICIAL evaluations of transfer credits will be processed by the Admissions Evaluator in the Office of Admissions only after ALL FINAL and OFFICIAL transcripts have been received. A final transcript is one that posts ALL graded coursework through your final term of attendance at each institution. Your Admissions Evaluator will determine the equivalency of the transfer course work to MSU in Bozeman. The Office of Admissions also determines which courses fulfill University Core requirements. Courses generally matching in credit amount, level, and content are considered equivalent. Courses not matching are granted elective credit or elective credit with core, and appear on the transfer evaluation with the designation "ELEC."
- Equivalencies for transferring engineering/computer science classes are generally determined by the CHBE Department. Once the Office of Admissions has prepared the official transfer credit evaluation, you should make a transfer advising appointment with the Department and bring a detailed syllabus for each engineering course, listing the course topics, textbook used, prerequisites, and any other information that will allow the Department to assess the equivalence.
- The most common transfer equivalency problem for engineering classes lies in the mathematics prerequisites. Specifically, the fluid dynamics class and energy balances courses taken during the second year require two semesters of calculus (through M-172), and the subsequent CHBE classes (ECHM 307, ECHM 322, ECHM 328, EBIO 324) all require math prerequisites through differential equations and/or Calc III.