Carnegie Mellon University: Walking to the Sky

With the successful completion of undergraduate study, we are assumed to be able to start the journey of our own interest. So, taking the decision for higher studies is a crucial undertaking. Our experience as graduate student would be a life-changing and fulfilling one if we consider carefully our long term educational, professional, and most relevantly personal goals to fit with, before we start packing our bags. Everybody shares the same anticipations for pursuing higher studies. So, higher studies in an apt graduate school are not only crucial and expensive job, but also competitive ones!

Having an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering, fortunately one has the privilege to explore different fields of engineering study. With the concept of multidisciplinary study, background of chemical engineering is well fitted into different engineering streams. Therefore, while choosing the right graduate school for diffusing through diversified area of engineering, certainly one can consider Carnegie Mellon University, an epitome of multidisciplinary research based university, which always welcomes students from various backgrounds.


CMU walks to the sky; back in 2006, a 100 ft. structure was installed on the front lawn of Carnegie Mellon University. In his own words, CMU alumnus and “Walking to the Sky” designer, Jonathan Borofsky, describes the work as “a portrait of all of humanity rising upwards from the earth to the heavens above — striving into the future with strength and determination. Ultimately, this sculpture is a symbol for our collective search for wisdom and awakened consciousness.”

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is a private research university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, established in 1900 with a vision for 2100. It is a global research university with more than 11,000 students, 84,000 alumni, and 4,000 faculty and staff. A small student-to-faculty ratio (10:1) provides an opportunity for close interaction between students and professors. Recognized for its world-class technology programs, collaboration across disciplines and innovative leadership in education, Carnegie Mellon is consistently a top-ranked university. It has been ranked 6th in graduate engineering, 7th in graduate environmental engineering, 10th in graduate civil engineering and 16th in graduate chemical engineering by the latest U.S. News & World Report and 11th in the world for engineering and technology by the London Times Higher Education.

Carnegie Institute of Technology (CIT), College of Engineering in Carnegie Mellon, aims at “Seeing the world like an engineer”, consists of different departments which have cutting edge research activities. Among all these, the following departments can be best considered for higher studies endeavour for a student from chemical engineering background:

1.       Department Chemical Engineering

2.       Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

Overview of Chemical Engineering Department

The Department of Chemical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon is one of the premier chemical engineering departments in the United States. It has a 100 years old history of innovation and creativity in both teaching and in research. The department currently includes 18 faculty members (17 Full Time Equivalent), one teaching professor, one research professor and several adjunct professors. The student body includes approximately 200 undergraduates, 80 PhD, 20 Masters Students (MChE, MS), and 20 postdoctoral research fellows and visitors. On average, the department awards 40-50 BS degrees, 15 MChE/MS degrees, and 12-14 PhD degrees each year. The department has excellent computational and experimental facilities, for both teaching and research. The department has undergone a $27 million renovation, creating state-of-the art research and teaching facilities. It is a home of variety of research programs, including some of the strongest in USA. The many research projects are loosely grouped into the areas of:

1.       Bio engineering

2.       Complex Fluids Engineering

3.       Envirochemical Engineering

4.       Process Systems Engineering

5.       Energy Science and Engineering

The graduate degrees offered by the department include PhD in Chemical Engineering, Masters of Science (MS) in Chemical Engineering, Masters of Chemical Engineering (MChE), Masters of Colloids, Polymers and Surfaces (MSCPS), and Masters in Energy Science, Technology, and Policy (MESTP). PhD in Chemical Engineering is a research-oriented degree that prepares students for independent research careers in industry or academia. This is a full time degree and students are fully funded. The program is competitive and the department admits between 12 – 20 new PhD students each year. MS in Chemical Engineering is a research-oriented degree where students have to complete both coursework and an independent research project (with thesis). The other Masters programmes offered by the department are coursework based degree provides students with added depth in the technical aspects on the specific field and breadth through elective courses. Funding is limited for the Masters program.

Overview of Civil and Environmental Engineering Department

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) is part of the Carnegie Institute of Technology, the engineering college at Carnegie Mellon University. CEE comprises of roughly 20 faculties, 12 staff members, and numbers of graduate students (76 PhD and 101 MS in most recent enrolment). The department vision is to continue to achieve national and international recognition through the impact of its research and alumni. The Department offers interdisciplinary research and graduate programs in: Advanced Infrastructure Systems (AIS), Environmental Engineering Science & Management (EESM), Green Design (GD), Materials, Mechanics and Computing (MMC) and the newest program, Global Sustainable Construction. The Department also participates in cooperative programs in Biomedical Engineering, Architecture and Engineering and Public Policy. Among all these, the following areas highly appreciate students with the background of chemical engineering:

1.       Environmental Engineering Science & Management (air quality, environmental management, water quality and environmental informatics)

2.       Materials, Mechanics and Computing (modelling and large-scale computer simulation; with emphasis on mechanics of crystalline, granular, and amorphous materials; dislocation mechanics; phase transformations; atomistic simulation; electromechanics of ‘smart’ materials)

Application Procedure

In order to apply to the graduate programs at Carnegie Mellon University, prospective students must have completed a regular four-year undergraduate course from particular engineering or a related discipline at a recognized university with better than a “B” average. The application deadline is January 15 for Fall admissions and October 15 for Spring admissions. However, students should complete the application by January 15 for Fall admission and September 30 for Spring admission, in order to be considered for financial assistance during the academic year. The nonrefundable application fee is $65.

Admission is based on the overall academic performances, recommendation letters, Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores (if applicable) and Statement of Purpose (SOP). There are no ‘cut-off’ scores for the GRE examination, which is evaluated in the context of applicant’s entire application package. The standard acceptable internet-based TOEFL score is 85 considering overall requirement of different departments.

It is also noteworthy that, the university application requirements consider that most informative recommendations are written by those for whom an applicant has done technical or research work similar to the type applicant will do as a graduate student. Supervisors from undergraduate research work and work place (engineering/research) are the most likely choices for recommendations; workplace co-workers and colleagues are also often able to provide useful insight. Recommendations from people with whom applicant has not worked are generally not considered informative.

Applications for admission may be submitted throughout the year; Admission decisions are announced by April 15 for Fall admission and December 15 for Spring admission. Graduate students can be admitted for either semester, although August admission is preferable.

Admission Eligibility: A Deep Insight

In making admission decisions, Carnegie Mellon looks for a balanced record of previous preparation and accomplishment, and indications of high potential for future growth and development.

Applicant’s previous schooling grades indicate applicant’s ability and willingness to work hard and benefit from courses and related learning opportunities. Along with previous schooling grades CMU also looks for applicant’s research skills and experiences, indications of breadth of interest good motivation, and good verbal skills. Therefore, not only the academic credentials, but also substantial research potential is highly appreciated in Carnegie Mellon University, which appears as a complete package for admission eligibility.

Tuition Fees & Financial Aid

Tuition for Carnegie Institute of Technology for 2010-11 is $35,700 per year and the Fees per year is $ 430. Tuition and fees are due and payable at the time of semester registration. These fees do not include books and course supplies. CMU requires all PhD students to serve as teaching assistants; however, it is not prerequisite for funding.

Financial aid is available in the form of graduate research assistantships, fellowships and service assistantships on a competitive basis. Although not exclusively, research assistantships are typically offered to direct entry and PhD candidates in the form of tuition and living stipend. The departments are able to offer Dean’s Fellowships (complete tuition coverage for one year and $1500 of support for use on the student’s behalf) to qualified, first-year doctoral students admitted to the program. Partial tuition service assistantships are available to qualified MS applicants.

The Fellowships and Scholarships Office (FSO) at Carnegie Mellon provides support to graduate students who are interested in pursuing certain external scholarships (Fulbright and the UK Awards).

Bottom Line

For a perspective graduate student, Carnegie Mellon University is rich in opportunities and at the same time, having a chemical engineering background is itself an golden opportunity to broaden one’s horizons to different areas of study at this University. So, for a student from chemical engineering background, higher studies in Carnegie Mellon University will surely pay off for achieving a rewarding career.

Further Reading:

[1] Carnegie Mellon University; Homepage:; Cited: 22 December, 2010.

[2] Carnegie Mellon Chemical Engineering; Graduate Admissions Homepage:; Cited: 22 December, 2010.

[3] Carnegie Mellon Civil & Environmental Engineering; Graduate Education Homepage:; Cited: 22 December, 2010.

[4] Carnegie Mellon Student Financial AID; Homepage:; Cited: 22 December, 2010

[5] Carnegie Mellon’s Student Service Centre; Graduate Tuition & Fees Information;; Cited: 22 December, 2010.

[6] Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopaedia; Carnegie Mellon University:; Cited: 22 December, 2010.

[7] US News & World Report; Best Engineering Schools:; Cited: 22 December, 2010.

[8] THE World University Rankings; Top 50 Engineering and Technology University 2010:; Cited: 22 December, 2010.

** Disclaimer: This article does not represent the official statement of the corresponding university/department. This article is designed to facilitate potential students who want to pursue for higher education in world class universities.



To cite this article, please use following information:

(use the given format or any standard citation format)

Mimmi, K.M.T., Carnegie Mellon University: Walking to the Sky, ChE Thoughts 2 (1), 34-37, 2011.


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