A Week In the Life of a Chemical Engineering Student

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By Emma, Chemical Engineering
College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Birmingham

As a third-year chemical engineering student, my week can get quite busy. Most of my learning is independent, with around 13 contact hours per week. This semester, I completed my design project in the first 5 weeks and started 4 optional modules afterwards.


Since my first lecture is at 10am on a Monday, I decided to review some of the content from before the Easter break. Most chemical engineering lectures are two hours long, so it’s ideal to make sure I’m up to date with the content. I usually have two lectures on a Monday: petrochemical engineering at 10 am, and energy economics at 1 pm.  During the lunch break, I usually make sure to catch up with my friend who takes the same modules as me, so that we can head to the second lecture together. After my lectures are done, I usually either continue studying on campus, study at home, or run errands in the afternoon.


On Tuesdays, I have a petrochemical engineering tutorial at 9am, followed by a lecture for introduction to healthcare technologies, and then another lecture for efficient use of energy at 2pm. The tutorial for petrochemical engineering varies between a lecture and a tutorial, where we may gain feedback and guidance from our lecturer on the tutorial questions for the week.

On Tuesdays, I sometimes have meetings with my academic tutor, where I can review my progress and receive all the information I need about my course. These meetings usually happen between 1 and 2pm and have been around this time throughout my years at the university.

Wednesday/ Thursday:

On both Wednesdays and Thursdays, I do not have any contact hours. Sometimes, depending on the timetable layout, you may have days where you have no contact hours and days which are much busier. On days where I do not need to move around campus, I like to bring a lot of food and stay in one of my favourite study spaces all day. This is usually the Teaching and Learning building, as I like the architecture, but I like to go to quieter study spaces during busier times, such as the Garner Suite in the chemical engineering building.


On Fridays, I have a tutorial for efficient use of energy at 10am, followed by another energy economics lecture at 1pm. The tutorial for efficient use of energy gives us guidance on the calculations and methodology we will need to complete our coursework for the module, which evaluates reducing the energy consumption of our home by 70%. I usually attend this tutorial with the members of my coursework group, as it allows us to ensure we are on-track with our project. After my lectures end, I usually study on campus for a few more hours before ending my week, as it allows me to wrap up any loose ends.


At the weekend, I try to make sure I limit the amount of work I do, but I do try to maximise my time studying during exam season. Most of the time, however, I spend the weekends with my friends and family to make sure I’m ready for the following Monday.

Third year at university has certainly had a higher workload than I had experienced in first and second year, but it has managed to be my best year of university yet.