When Herbert Dow arrived for his freshman year at Case in 1884, just four years after the college opened, he didn't envision that he would later found one of the world's largest chemical companies.
But Dow came to an environment where curiosity, creativity and initiative dominate -- one where students and faculty inspire each other in discovery and innovation. Across campus Case professors Albert Michelson and Edward Morley were carrying out one of the most important experiments in the history of physics, proving that light does not propagate through an ‘ether’. Michelson was the first American to win a Nobel prize (in 1908) for this work.
Dow’s scientific and entrepreneurial interests thrived in this intellectually charged atmosphere. With technical, financial and moral support from his classmates at Case, he went on to start a small company after completing his undergraduate degree. The Dow Chemical Company is now among the largest in the world.
Herbert Dow’s success was just the beginning. In the 1920’s, two sons of Albert W. Smith, Dow’s classmate and later a professor at Case, studied chemical engineering at Case. After graduating, Kent and Kelvin Smith teamed up with Case classmate Alex Nason to found the Lubrizol Corporation -- now a Fortune 500 company.
In the 1960’s and 70’s, chemical engineering professor John Angus set out to do what seemed impossible: making diamonds at low pressures, where graphite rather than diamond is thermodynamically stable. Angus showed how to use kinetics, rather than thermodynamics, to “trick” the material into being diamond, and was elected to the prestigious National Academy of Engineering for this discovery.
The tradition of curiosity, creativity and initiative continues in our Department. Our graduates continue to become leaders in the chemical industry, and our research continues to be cutting edge. Research in our department ranges from fundamental molecular scale science to plant scale industrial projects. We study topics as varied as energy, advanced materials, and biological engineering. In many cases our research is in collaboration with industrial partners including companies as diverse as Intel and Nestle. Many research projects include interdisciplinary collaborations, with partners as diverse as geologists and medical doctors.
In 2014 the department changed its name to the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.