Frequently Asked Questions - CBE Grad FAQ

Graduate studies in Chemistry

FAQ's for prospective chemical and biomolecular engineering graduate students:

Need financial assistance to apply?

We understand the financial difficulties associated with application to graduate programs and the University offers Fee waivers to US Citizens and current permanent residents. There are two ways in which you may qualify for an application fee waiver:

What are the admission deadlines?

The application deadlines are:

December 14, 2020 (Ph.D)
January 7, 2019 (Professional M.S.)

Decisions on completed files will begin as soon as possible, with the process continuing through February.

The online application is available starting in September at the Graduate Division Website. Applicants can check the status of their application online as well as review if there are any missing items. Should you have questions please contact chegrad@cchem.berkeley.edu.

I am interested in receiving financial aid during my studies. Is aid available?

Admissions decisions are made independently of financial aid, and students are generally supported by a variety of fellowships and research and teaching assistantships during their time in residence. These appointments pay fees, tuition, and a competitive stipend. Students are encouraged to seek outside fellowships to help finance their graduate studies. Many of our students are supported by NSF, Whitaker, NPSC, Hertz, etc., as well as other governmental and corporate sponsorships.

What are the application fees?

Admissions application fees are $120 for domestic applicants and $140 for international applicants.

I am interested in working for a specific faculty member. Should I send my application directly to them?

Admission decisions are made by a departmental committee. Students apply to the department, rather than to a professor, and decisions are made on overall qualifications, independent of research interest. Upon entering our graduate program, the faculty present the research projects that are available, to allow for an informed advisor selection process. Students are also encouraged to meet with a number of faculty members before making a choice of thesis advisor.

What kinds of research projects are pursued by graduate students in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UC Berkeley?

In broad terms, research in the department can be divided into the following areas:

  • Biochemical Engineering
  • Catalysis and Reaction Engineering
  • Complex Fluids: Polymers and Colloids
  • Electrochemical Engineering
  • Electronic Materials
  • Environmental Engineering and Energy
  • Molecular Theory and Simulation

List of CBE faculty sorted by subject area

In addition, some of our students choose to work with a broader set of faculty ranging from Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories to the Department of Chemistry (for example: Alivisatos, Francis, Geissler, Groves, Majda, Mathies, and Tilley) and the College of Engineering (for example: Arkin, Dejonghe, Healy, Howe, Kumar, and Liepmann) on campus.

My undergraduate degree is not in chemical engineering but I would like to pursue a M.S. or Ph.D. in chemical engineering. What are my chances of being admitted to your program?

Admission to the graduate program in chemical engineering at the University of California at Berkeley is highly competitive. While an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering is not a formal requirement for admission, we expect students to have completed the equivalent of our own undergraduate required curriculum. This includes (number of semester units in parentheses):

  • General Chemistry (8)
  • Organic Chemistry (5)
  • Inorganic Chemistry (3)
  • Physical Chemistry (6)
  • Physical Chemistry Laboratory (3)
  • Introduction to Chemical Process Analysis (3)
  • Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics (3)
  • Chemical Kinetics and Reaction Engineering (3)
  • Transport Processes (6)
  • Separation Processes (3)
  • Chemical Engineering Laboratory (3)
  • Chemical Process Design (3)
  • Dynamics and Control of Chemical Processes (3)

I am thinking of applying but I am worried that my background and qualifications are such that I won't be accepted. Is there someone I can call who can tell me if I'll be accepted before I apply?

As much as we would like to offer pre-screening, regrettably we do not have the resources to offer this service. We recommend that you contact the advising staff at your own undergraduate institution for an evaluation of your current record and suggestions regarding where to apply for graduate school. Your undergraduate record, performance on the GREs, any undergraduate research experience, letters of recommendation, and your personal statement are all considered in our final decision regarding admission.

I've been working several years since I graduated from college. Do I need references from faculty members?

Yes, get at least two academic references. You may add one or two professional references if you wish.

My undergraduate degree is in chemical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. I have such happy, fond memories of the department that I cannot bear the thought of pursuing graduate studies away from Cal. Can I go to Berkeley for graduate

Although nearly all of the best chemical engineers are Berkeley graduates, this department, like most other top chemical engineering departments, feels strongly that its undergraduates are better served by pursuing graduate studies in a new and different environment. Thus, unless you have obtained a degree elsewhere or have substantial industrial experience since you graduated from Berkeley, we will not admit you to the department for graduate work.

Do I need to take a Subject (e.g., Engineering or Chemistry) GRE exam?

NO. The faculty of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (CBE) at UC Berkeley have determined the Graduate Records Exam (GRE) is a proven identifier of race and socio-economic status. Its association with successful completion of the doctorate is minimal, and its fulfillment is an economic burden on applicants. CBE will no longer consider it for admission.

I am an international student and I would like to apply for admission to the graduate program. Do my chances of being admitted differ from those who can establish permanent residency?

Unfortunately, recent changes in the University of California budget make it difficult for this department to accept students who are not citizens or permanent residents of the United States. As a result, the department is able to accept only a small fraction of the many highly qualified international students who apply. The MINIMUM requirements for admission include: a grade point average of 3.0 and minimum score for the TOEFL is at least a 90 on the (Internet-based test) iBT. The Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering requires that applicants be able to demonstrate an A- or better undergraduate record. All applicants must have an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering or equivalent training.

I will be in town and I would like to stop by and tour the department. Can I drop in on a few faculty members and research groups at that time?

While everyone is welcome to take the Berkeley campus tour, regrettably the department cannot accommodate the many students who wish to make drop-in visits prior to being formally admitted to the department. Students who are admitted to the graduate program are invited to visit the department, meet with faculty and current graduate students, and tour labs and facilities at the department's expense in the early spring. During those visits, faculty and graduate students make every effort to clear their schedules of the many obligations and appointments which may make them unavailable at other times. We strongly urge you to plan to visit the department during one of our scheduled "recruiting weekends". The dates and details of these will be included in our offer of admission.

What is the Personal History Statement?

The Personal History Statement is required from all applicants and should be 1-2 pages long. Please note that the Personal History Statement should not duplicate the Statement of Purpose.

Please describe how your personal background and experiences influenced your decision to pursue a graduate degree. In this section, you may also include any relevant information on the following:

  • How you have overcome barriers to access higher education
  • How you have come to understand the barriers faced by others
  • Your academic service to advance equitable access to higher education for women, racial minorities and individuals from other groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education
  • Your research focusing on under served populations or related issues of inequality
  • Your leadership among such groups