Chemistry and Chemical Engineering

Chemistry is at the crossroads of contemporary science, which is characterized by increasing miniaturization. Whether in the field of life sciences, nanotechnology, materials science, or environmental science, answers are often to be found on the molecular level.

Benefitting from the support of around thirty internationally renowned research groups, EPFL’s training in chemistry and chemical engineering offers a broad spectrum of different approaches providing access to the incredible diversity of the atomic and molecular world.

As a chemist, you want to understand what matter is made of, from atoms to complex conformations of proteins. To this end, you will master an arsenal of theoretical and experimental tools enabling you to penetrate the secrets of natural processes. You will use this understanding of nature to protect it, to recreate and modify existing molecules, and to invent and produce artificial systems.

From your computer, you will model the spatial configurations of given molecules.

Through the interaction of light and matter, you will study multiple spatial and temporal scale molecular systems. In the laboratory, you will make base molecules react with each other in order to develop structures possessing specific properties. You will also develop catalytic processes for carrying out selective reactions. Finally, perhaps you will design new processes for converting and storing energy.

A training that pairs in-depth scientific knowledge and engineering science is necessary for anyone wanting to specialize in industrial production. As an EPFL chemical engineer, you will receive solid training in molecular chemistry and biology. You will additionally be able to design and implement large-scale productions using physics, chemical, and biotechnological processes.

Program presentation

During the 1st year, classes concentrate on the basics of chemistry and biochemistry, as well as on the tools of mathematics and physics.

During the 2nd and 3rd years, you will tackle more specific subjects such as organic reactions, physical chemistry, coordination chemistry, and analytic methods. The final year includes optional modules which will enable you to deepen your knowledge of different fields such as synthesis, biochemistry, modeling, and chemical engineering, and to prepare for the MSc program of your choice.

The program places great importance on practical work: throughout your studies, at least one day a week is set aside for laboratory work or projects.

Study plan

Prospects: MSc Programs

MSc in Biological and Molecular Chemistry (120 ECTS credits)

This MSc leads to the title of chemist and is designed for those going into research. It offers a huge range of specialized modules in the different fields of chemistry (analytical, biological, computational, inorganic, organic, physical, etc.).

MSc in Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology (120 ECTS credits)

This MSc leads to the title of chemist engineer and prepares you for industrial work. It includes classes focusing on separation and reaction techniques, the development of processes, polymers, biotechnology, and management. A further component is a business internship.

Other programs are also open to you after successfully completing the BSc, some interdisciplinary MSc programs in particular. Consult our website on Master Studies or further information about this.

Please note that the information regarding the programs’ structure as well as details of the study plan may be subject to change.

Career Prospects

Once you have completed the BSc then the MSc program, you will be ready to enter the professional world. The skills of EPFL chemists and chemical engineers are sought beyond the chemical industry in all sectors in which expertise in molecular matters is necessary.

Greatly valued, our graduates are regularly ranked as the highest paid engineers in Switzerland.

Choosing the MSc in Chemistry means that your professional work will focus mainly on research and analysis. Given the scope of the field, the majority of chemists specialize by carrying out doctoral work. You will then have the option of joining a research group at EPFL or another university throughout the world. Once you have completed your PhD, you can pursue a career in academic or industrial research, working on topics such as life-related chemistry (pharmacology, cosmetology, agrifood, phytosanitary), green chemistry or the functionalization of matter (materials, energy, and nanochemistry).

If you opt for an MSc in Chemical Engineering, whether or not you go on to do a PhD, your work environment will be more within a company, within which you will develop new technology, design production units, and manage projects. After several years of experience, an engineering career in industry often concentrates on leadership and management tasks.

Alumni testimonies

Sophie Nallet

Something I really like about my job is to use my skills to help society...

Sophie Nallet, Bachelor in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Master in Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology (2006). PhD in Life Sciences (2010).

… and contribute to research. Even if it’s not easy every day—the process to develop vaccines and drugs and make them available on the market can be very long—every step, every time that something works in the lab, is a small victory.

I discovered biotechnology when I was doing my Master’s degree and I found it very interesting from the beginning. When I graduated, I decided to do a PhD in this field before looking for a job. Today, I work for a company that develops vaccines and therapies against central nervous system diseases, like Alzheimer diseases. To give you an idea of the importance of this topic, by 2050 we expect that numbers to triple to 135 million Alzheimer´s Disease patients worldwide.

My job is to develop analytical methods to identify and quantify the compounds that are in our products – vaccines, antibodies and small molecules; all of them could possibly prevent or cure these diseases. When the methods are developed, they are used to measure and analyze products and make sure that they comply with the specifications. It can be products that are almost ready to be tested in clinical phase, or products that are still at the research stage.

I spend part of my time in the lab, but I do many other things too! I work on the documentation that is sent to the regulatory authorities, I take part in working groups, I supervise a technician, I have contacts with external partners, etc. Every day is different!

Grégory Widmer

I work as a chemical engineer, I’m responsible for the thermal safety lab at Huntsman...

Grégory Widmer, Bachelor in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Master in Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology (2013)

Founder of « PianoFacile » website (

… My job is to simulate, either on the computer or with experiments in the lab, the thermal behaviour of the produces that are manufactured in our production plants (for example resins used to assemble Airbus and Boeing wings). If we know the manufacturing processes risks, we can implement safety measures to prevent accidents, better temperature control, emergency measures in case of failures. or even create safer processes.

As a student, if you have the chance to do internships, take it! They will help you to understand the different possibilities and jobs opportunities in chemistry, and you will have more time to think about what you are interested in (chemical worker, laboratory technician, applied research, chemical engineer in a private company, etc). It can take some time to find a first job, and having some professional experience is a clear asset!

When I was a student, I created a website that is today number one in its field. I love playing the piano, I learned by myself when I was at high school and I decided to explain my learning method on-line. The website was very simple at the beginning, but I improved it and monetized it in 2010. Even if I could not earn enough to live only on it, it offered me a really comfortable situation as a student.

If you are passionate about something, it is always possible to find time for it. When I launched the website, I had to work a lot, plus I had to learn HTML, Javascript and CSS—three computer languages necessary to code a webpage. But if you plan your time correctly and study hard, you will see that it’s definitely possible to have time for extra curricular activities.


Looking for further details about this program? Please check its specific webpages or use the contacts below:

[email protected]

+41 (0)21 693 98 50