My question is pretty simple. Does studying chemical engineering require memorizing manufacturing processes and other complex chemical mechanisms, or does it rely more on the practical side of things focusing on how stuff actually works.
I can speak based on my experience studying chemical engineering as an undergraduate at an ABET accredited university in the United States and working in industry.
A typical curriculum would include a focus on fundamentals which can then be applied in specific industries or in different cases rather than an in depth study of specific manufacturing processes or specific chemical reactions. This process is intended to develop a core of knowledge to approach specific processes or reactions and also as a preparation for learning more
So for example an undergraduate might start off taking calculus, and general chemistry and proceed to additional chemistry like organic and possibly phsyical chemistry. Starting in chemical engineering a student will encounter fundamental fields of chemical engineering which are fundamental tools such as mass and energy balance, thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, heat transfer, mass transfer, and chemical kinetics. These are all tools which can be used as a chemical engineer to evaluate processes. Also a review and study of types of what's called unit operations would be included.
Unit Operations are like the building blocks of many processes. The include operations like heat exchangers, distillation or absorbion columns, cooling towers, reactors, tanks, and more.
An understanding of chemical engineering fields such as kinetics or thermodynamics or heat transfer combined with an understanding of unit operations can be combined to learn more about a specific process.
I am sure there are some folks out there with more insight so I'll be very interested to hear from them as well!