Founded in 1983, UMBC’s Department of Chemical, Biochemical & Environmental Engineering was one of the first in the country to focus its graduate program exclusively on biochemical engineering. From the beginning, this specialization attracted a great deal of attention, particularly from prominent biochemical engineering faculty at other institutions.
One of the most exciting moments in its young history was when Professor Daniel Wang of MIT spent half of his first sabbatical year at UMBC, with the other half spent at CalTech. The department learned much during its early years from such distinguished visitors as Dr. Wang and Professors Arthur Humphrey and Michael Shuler. A common thread of advice was to stay the course and continue to build the program while resisting the temptation to move into non-bio areas. The collective opinion was that the concentration of faculty in the bio area combined with UMBC’s unique location in a bio-dense region would eventually result in a strong and vibrant department.
The department’s more recent history has proven this strategy to be a sound decision. Experiencing the typical growing pains and challenges, the end result has been a strong and stable department with exceptional facilities and equipment and outstanding faculty, staff and students.
A great asset of being a high-profile department at a relatively small research institution is an unusually close connection with administration. UMBC’s culture is tremendously supportive and responsive to departmental needs. An additional asset is the close ties the department has with the biological sciences and chemistry departments, which result in many common research interests.
We are fortunate to be at the leading edge of a revolution. Biotechnology has become a dominant aspect of the U.S. economy and the department shares a sense of excitement and anticipation about its future.