As a fresh PhD graduate from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1988, Lili Deligianni joined IBM to tackle what was deemed unsolvable. She went on to develop several industry standards, including solder bumps used to join silicon chips to packages.
Deligianni first arrived at the university as a master’s student. In 30 years, the Greece native has gone from working on semiconductors and microelectronics to renewable energy, biomaterials, and now, brain-computer interfaces. Recently, she was admitted to the National Academy of Engineers — one of the highest professional honours an engineer can obtain.
Hers is a true story of an enduring engineering career, evolving in line with professional interests and industry demands. Many eager minds seek a postgraduate education at the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (ChBE) within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in hopes of kickstarting a similar trajectory.
Calling it “one of the top departments in the country,” Deligianni said the department has given her an excellent education. “The department has expanded multidisciplinary research and collaboration in new and emerging areas. As it happens, the department’s research is converging with my interests too,” she added.
World-class graduate training for ambitious engineers
ChBE’s graduate programme is consistently recognised among the top chemical and biomolecular programmes in the US. What’s behind it? For one, opportunities to perform high-impact research in a variety of areas.
“I chose the University of Illinois because of its highly collaborative atmosphere, and top-ranked chemical and life sciences programme. All groups on campus have access to the Materials Research Lab Central Research Facilities, with its expensive and complex cutting-edge research instruments,” said graduate student Erfan Mohammadi.
Whether in Energy and Sustainability; Biomolecular Engineering, Soft Matter and Advanced Materials; or Computational Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, students in all programmes are immersed in a collaborative environment that facilitates academic and personal growth. Engineers seek to solve health, energy, and environmental challenges by applying their knowledge in new ways, both in and out of the lab.
For example, the PhD programme has equipped several graduates to positively influence their industry; think former General Electric CEO Jack Welch and former Dow Chemical Company CTO Bill Banholzer. Today, chemical and biomolecular engineering PhD holders stand to earn a starting salary of US$102,000 annually in industry or government.
Guidance and mentorship in a diverse environment
Diversity contributes greatly to the rich postgraduate experience at the university. Faculty members come from a range of countries spanning five continents, while international students make up 46% of the graduate student body. With that, the university boasts the largest international student population among US public institutions.
This dynamic energy immediately won graduate student Mai Ngo over. “Faculty members were really enthusiastic, excited, innovative, and passionate about research and mentoring. The students were also friendly, down-to-earth, and genuinely excited about recruiting me into the programme,” she shared.
Fellow graduate student Daniel Bregante concurs, adding, “It’s exciting to be a part of a programme where the professors are more engaged and invested in everyone doing great work.”
The faculty goes above and beyond in guiding graduate students, even offering personal mentoring and insights to advance their postgraduate exploration.
Pursue the experience of a lifetime at the University of Illinois
Besides the clear academic and career advantages, there are many other factors drawing talented applicants to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. For one, the twin cities of Urbana and Champaign offer a small-town feel with big-city resources. They boast a low cost of living and diverse population, where you’ll find a vibrant arts community as well as a thriving tech and start-up scene. Plus, you can find some of the best food in the Midwest here; it’s no wonder Urbana-Champaign is one of the best college towns in the US.
Whether it’s the Annual Graduate Research Symposium or the Graduate Student Advisory Council, chemical and biomolecular engineering students are exposed to all sorts of activities that complement their academic pursuit. They also find spaces to strengthen social connections, including GradSWE (Society of Women Engineers) and NOBCChE (National Organisation for the Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers). There are over 60 engineering-specific student organisations to choose from.
When you join this university, you’re joining the legacy of accomplished graduates who have gone on to create significant social impact in the world. Their work have been recognised with Nobel Prizes, Pulitzer Prizes, and National Medals of Science.
Pursuing a PhD at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is about more than just obtaining a qualification — you’re signing up for an experience that will stay with you for life.
Secure your spot here.