Biochemical Engineering Concentration

Biochemical Engineering Concentration

Biochemical engineering is one of the fastest-growing segments of the economy. Biochemical engineers design and develop equipment, methods and systems for the efficient environmentally sound manufacturing of medicines, vaccines, diagnostics and biologically based products. The ECU biochemical engineering concentration leads to careers ranging from pharmaceutical manufacturing to biofuels, foods and environmental engineering.

Do you want to make a real difference in your world? Would you like to improve quality of life, protect the environment and help meet the needs of a growing world population? For the student who enjoys science and math, the biochemical engineering concentration offers a unique opportunity to provide food, fuels, pharmaceutical and environmental systems without degrading or depleting our natural resources.

The ECU biochemical engineering concentration offers a unique and valuable educational experience. Coursework includes the ECU engineering core, micro biology, and organic chemistry, complemented by topics such as fermentation, separation, plant design and biochemical quality. The breadth of the biochemical engineering concentration experience means that graduates have many career options, from ecosystems protection and food safety to bioenergy, biofuels, and human health.


Bureau of Labor Statistics website on biochemical engineering related career fields:


Dr. Loren Limberis, Program Coordinator

Chris Cone

Dr. Kurabachew Duba


What is Biochemical Engineering?

Biochemical engineering doesn’t seem to carry the same household name recognition as other engineering disciplines, such as electrical, mechanical and biomedical engineering. Most everyone has heard and perhaps has an understanding of these more common engineering disciplines, but biochemical engineering is more familiar than most would expect. One of the best ways to describe biochemical engineering is to consider this discipline as the biological version of chemical engineering. Live organisms and enzymes are used in production processes rather than organic or inorganic chemicals and catalysts. Biological products, such as vaccines, insulin and biotherapeutic drugs, cannot be produced using conventional chemical engineering techniques. Chemical and biochemical engineering are parallel disciplines in terms of processes for the manufacture of products, but they use different methods and conditions that are required to produce products for different purposes. Overall, biochemical engineering is a specialized version of chemical engineering dealing with the design and development of equipment and processes for large scale commercial manufacture of a variety of biological products, such as biopharmaceuticals, industrial enzymes, biofuels, biopolymers and other materials.

Why does ECU offer a Biochemical Engineering concentration?

There is a critical need for biochemical engineers in North Carolina. North Carolina is the third-largest state in the United States for the number of biotechnology companies. According to NC Biotech and labor statistics, more than 70,000 people are employed with nearly 800 life sciences companies across the state. Job growth was at 13.4%, including the addition of more than 10,000 jobs in eastern North Carolina alone since 2020. The largest North Carolina biotechnology industry is the development and manufacture of biopharmaceuticals, such as new vaccines and other biological medicines. To sustain this pace in growth, North Carolina critically needs biochemical engineers. The biochemical engineering concentration is ECU’s commitment to help sustain the growth, fulfill the needs in the industry, and provide opportunities for our students to engage in exciting, meaningful and professional careers.

What do Biochemical Engineers do?

Engineers with a concentration in biochemical engineering are central to the field of biotechnology. Biochemical engineers solve problems using biological systems, such as bacterial and mammalian cells, enzymes and other biochemical products. In essence, biochemical engineers design, supervise, and troubleshoot equipment and processes for the biochemical and biotechnology industries. They contribute to improving quality control and production efficiency in highly regulated sectors such as the pharmaceutical industry.

Where do Biochemical Engineers work?

Like many other engineering subdisciplines, biochemical engineers may choose careers in industry, government and academia. Engineers in the industry may also work with regulatory agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration, European Medicines Agency and other international regulatory agencies. Biochemical engineers may also be working with customers and even investors. In academia, engineers research new technologies in all aspects of manufacturing. In any area biochemical engineers chose to work, they will always be involved with the technological aspects and processes of biotechnology in terms of designing, operating, improving, regulating and supervising bioproduction processes. More specific areas include genetic engineering of microorganisms and cells, design of scale up manufacturing systems, process design and development, and biomolecular engineering to produce biological tools for the manufacture of biological products.

What are the educational highlights of the Biochemical Engineering Concentration at ECU?

The biochemical engineering concentration curriculum was developed using novel approaches to engineering education based upon proven educational techniques designed to engage the students and improve their mastery of concepts. Our curriculum was developed through grants from the National Science Foundation and the North Carolina Biotechnology Center with the goal of challenging our students to develop and apply critical thinking skills. Our approach was to apply “How People Learn” theory to the development of our curriculum. Based on this theory, we develop an integrated curriculum by thematically linking the courses and the laboratories to more effectively enhance the educational experience. Our curriculum ensures students apply related materials based on themes as they progress through the curriculum. This helps the students make connections between seemingly unrelated materials and reinforce selected concepts. Our graduates are able to apply their experiences in the integrated curriculum to tackle challenges, generate ideas, use their resources, and test hypotheses and ideas culminating in a successful approach to managing and solving problems.

The curriculum is also laboratory intensive. Five of the seven concentration courses contain laboratories. It is our belief that students gain more knowledge with greater impact and can apply that knowledge through hands-on experiences in the laboratory. These laboratory experiences include, among other projects, designing and optimizing benchtop bioreactor culture conditions for the manufacture of firefly luciferase (the protein used by fireflies to produce the familiar greenish/yellow light) and the design of purification processes to isolate and characterize the bioluminescent enzyme. Our students also participate in two 2-day short courses in the Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center (BTEC) in the Centennial Campus in Raleigh. BTEC is a unique, state-of-the-art biochemical training and education facility serving regional, national, and international industries and agencies. The courses ensure the students gain even further understanding and gain new skills needed in the biomanufacturing industry. Our students also tour several regional biopharmaceutical and biotechnology facilities as part of their coursework.

What students are doing while matriculating:

It is not only courses and labs our students engage in during their matriculation in our program. Most students land competitive internships with regional companies over the summer and occasionally during the school year. Other students perform research with faculty members during the summer and even during the school year. Our students are also heavily engaged in professional development activities and attend conferences as members in the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering. These are the most effective ways our students are developing and honing their engineering, communication and critical thinking skills while at ECU.

Is Biochemical Engineering a good concentration for me?

If you want to create novel solutions to many of our world’s problems with food, medicines and alternatives to fossil fuels, then you should seriously consider biochemical engineering as a career. You may be involved with producing hardier crops, better foods and healthier animals. You may also be involved with the development of vaccines, biopharmaceuticals, new treatments and faster diagnosis. Perhaps you are interested in developing alternatives to fossil-based fuels for cleaner air, water, and soil. A career in biochemical engineering contributes to serving society’s needs in agriculture, biofuels, biomanufacturing, human health, regenerative medicines, bionanotechnology, vaccines and biotherapeutics.

Other factors you may consider are job salaries and career stability. In North Carolina, the average salary in the industry is $97,000 in 2021. (Note: it takes some years of experience to reach and exceed the average salary.) Most students receive multiple job offers well before graduation. In terms of stability in the biotechnology industry, consider the industry has weathered two recessions from 2001 to 2012 and still has grown 30.9%. This is a growth industry with many opportunities for long-lasting and enriching careers.

Where are the recent places of employment, internships, and capstone projects for ECU’s Biochemical Engineering students?

  • Avoca (Merry Hill, NC)
  • Biogen Idec (RTP, NC)
  • CAI (Covington, GA)
  • DSM Dyneema (Greenville, NC)
  • Fujifilm Diosynth (Durham, NC)
  • Hospira (Rocky Mount, NC)
  • Integrated Project Services (IPS) (Morrisville, NC)
  • Mangan Biopharm (Cary, NC)
  • Merck (Durham, NC; Elkton, VA)
  • Metrics (Greenville, NC)
  • Novartis (Holly Springs, NC)
  • Patheon (Greenville, NC)
  • Pfizer (Sanford, NC)
  • Pharmaceutical Calibrations and Instrumentation (PCI) (Raleigh, NC)
  • PPD Immunochemistry (Richmond, VA)
  • RTI Surgical (Greenville, NC)
  • Sequence (Raleigh, NC)
  • West Pharmaceutical Services (Kinston, NC)



UNC-TV video:

ECU media services and Daily Reflector articles:

Professional Societies

International-Society-of-Pharmaceutical-Engineers logo

International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineers


Institute of Biological Engineering

American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers

American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers