About Escola de Química – UFRJ

The origin of the School of Chemistry (Escola de Química) intertwines with the beginning of specialized Chemistry education in Brazil, whose roots can be traced back even before the end of World War I.

During this period, several French and English scientists were vocal about the lag in chemical knowledge in their countries compared to German advancements, particularly in Organic Chemistry.

These warnings spread worldwide through books and magazines and resonated within Brazilian intellectual circles. In Brazil, the teaching of Chemistry was introduced through support courses for medicine, engineering, and pharmacy.

Chemistry-related activities began to take shape in the country and gained prominence during the Centennial Exhibition of the Opening of the Ports in 1908. The Ministry of Agriculture, Industry, and Commerce was established in 1909, thereby placing chemical sector activities under its jurisdiction. In 1918, the first official course for training Chemical Technicians was created at an Institute of Chemistry, later renamed the Institute of Agricultural Chemistry. In 1919, eight courses in Industrial Chemistry were established, affiliated with higher education institutions that already had laboratories and faculty. In 1920, the Agricultural Industrial Chemistry Course was organized at the Higher School of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine (ESAMV), located on Alameda São Boaventura in Niterói. In 1927, ESAMV moved to Urca, sharing the building previously occupied by the Ministry of Agriculture, which was initially used for the Centennial Exhibition.

In 1930, the Agricultural Industrial Chemistry course was renamed as the Industrial Chemistry course, marking the beginning of its disassociation from its veterinary and agricultural origins. Throughout this period, the figure of Professor Freitas Machado was pivotal. He held the position of chair professor in Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry since 1913 at ESAMV, even before the creation of the Agricultural Industrial Chemistry course.

The National School of Chemistry (ENQ) was established in 1933, under the Directorate-General of Mineral Production of the Ministry of Agriculture, Industry, and Commerce, and took charge of ESAMV’s Industrial Chemistry course. Its headquarters remained on Avenida Pasteur, in Urca, Rio de Janeiro, and its organization was based on work done by Professor Freitas Machado. The course consisted of twelve subjects spread over four years.

An unusual feature of this curriculum was the inclusion of microbiology and fermentation technology studies, uncommon in other Industrial Chemistry courses at that time. Professor Freitas Machado became the first director of the National School of Chemistry.

The first class that completed their studies entirely at the National School of Chemistry graduated in 1937, as previous classes from 1933 to 1936 originated from ESAMV.

In 1944, students and faculty members initiated a campaign at the School for the creation of the Chemical Engineering course at the National School of Chemistry, aiming to align education with the country’s needs. An initial proposal was reviewed in 1946 by the University Council of the then University of Brazil, approving the commencement of graduation after the complete implementation of the proposed curriculum. In 1951, this same Council approved the new Regulation of the National School of Chemistry, outlining the graduation in Chemical Engineering. Thus, starting from 1952, the National School of Chemistry began offering the Chemical Engineering course concurrently with Industrial Chemistry. The first class of Chemical Engineers from ENQ graduated in 1953.

The National School of Chemistry has always been attentive to societal demands, adapting its curriculum to the technological needs of the Chemical Industry. In the 1950s and 1960s, amid the developmental push with the creation of PETROBRAS, the advancement of petrochemistry, and the establishment of PETROQUISA (RJ), the curriculum underwent modifications aiming for modernization, training professionals capable of addressing the technological advancements of that era. Periodically, the School reevaluated its curriculum to introduce modifications aligning it with the reality of the Brazilian Industrial Park. During this time, the demand for chemical engineers surged.

In November 1965, with the University of Brazil’s name change to the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), the National School of Chemistry became the School of Chemistry (EQ) and became part of the Technology Center of this Higher Education Institution.

With the implementation of the University Reform (1968-1970) and the subsequent relocation to Ilha do Fundão (1973-1974), the School of Chemistry underwent substantial changes. The former fundamental and basic education courses were separated from EQ and incorporated into the Institutes of the Center for Mathematical and Natural Sciences. Many Chemistry professors, along with their laboratories, moved to the Institute of Chemistry.

Postgraduate activities in the field of Chemistry began at the Institute of Chemistry, which initiated its operations with this focus. In 1962, Professor Alberto Coimbra from the National School of Chemistry moved to the Institute and established the first Postgraduate Program in Chemical Engineering, starting at ENQ facilities with complete autonomy in managing its projects and funds. Soon after, in 1965, on the initiative of Professor Kurt Politzer, an embryo of a Postgraduate Program in Chemical Process Technology emerged. During the same period, the postgraduate program in Biochemical Process Technology was established. Also, in 1965, the Coordination of Postgraduate Programs and Research in Engineering (COOPE/UFRJ) was created, bringing together postgraduate programs in Mechanical Engineering and Chemical Engineering.

In 1973, the Industrial Chemistry Course was discontinued, and the School began offering only the Chemical Engineering Course, considering the need for a larger number of Chemical Engineering professionals to meet the expansion of chemical industries in Brazil and the establishment of Petrochemical Complexes. In the 1980s, the School of Chemistry maintained its innovative approach in Chemical Engineering education by introducing mandatory subjects such as Internships, Environmental Engineering, and Sectors of Organic Chemical Industry, addressing the current industrial sectors in the country, such as Petrochemistry and Fine Chemicals. Additionally, courses like Final Course Project explored the multidisciplinary vision of Chemical Engineering, and Technological Management provided students with notions of quality, increased productivity, and the importance of an entrepreneurial spirit.

The postgraduate activities at the School of Chemistry consolidated in the area of Biochemical Process Technology. In this program, the doctoral course was established in 1988. With the increasing number of PhD holders at the School of Chemistry and their involvement in various fields of Chemical Engineering, in 1992, the Biochemical Process Technology program was expanded to encompass all areas of the School of Chemistry, evolving into a Postgraduate Program in Chemical and Biochemical Process Technology.

In the 1990s, the School of Chemistry entered an era where it responded to demands and significantly engaged in experimental activities, both at bench and pilot levels, across its four Departments: Chemical Engineering, Biochemical Engineering, Organic Processes, and Inorganic Processes. This aimed to instill in its student body the mindset of process development and optimization. In alignment with the new professional paradigms, the School broadened the range of elective courses offered, also introducing subjects in Commercialization and Marketing, closely collaborating with Alumni active in the Productive Sector. In 1996, acknowledging the growing significance of the Fine Chemical Sector and after extensive deliberation, the School revived its Industrial Chemistry Course, targeting service to small and medium-sized enterprises.

In 2001, faced with significant challenges in environmental concerns and sustainable industrial practices, in collaboration with the Polytechnic School, the Postgraduate Program in Environmental Engineering was established, offering a professional master’s degree in Environmental Engineering. The faculty of this program actively involves teachers from the School of Chemistry, including in its coordination. In 2015, the program expanded its activities with the introduction of the doctoral program in Environmental Engineering, with its first students admitted in 2016.

By the late 1990s, as the demand for Engineering courses in general declined, there was a concerted effort within the Technology Center to modernize existing courses and offer new ones. This movement led to the implementation in 2004 of the Environmental Engineering course, shared by the Polytechnic School and the School of Chemistry, as well as Petroleum Engineering and Control and Automation Engineering courses, shared by the Polytechnic School, School of Chemistry, and COPPE. In the same year, leveraging its experience in biotechnology and food, the School of Chemistry also commenced undergraduate courses in Bioprocess Engineering and Food Engineering.

Committed to the national effort to increase enrollment in Public Universities, the School of Chemistry was a pioneer within UFRJ’s Technology Center and, in August 2010, initiated the implementation of evening classes for Chemical Engineering and Industrial Chemistry courses.

Within the University City’s Island, there are now three renowned Institutes for education and research named after former faculty members, who also studied at the National School of Chemistry: the Alberto Luiz Coimbra Institute of Graduate Studies and Research in Engineering (COPPE); the Professor Eloísa Mano Institute of Macromolecules (IMA); and the Leopoldo Américo Miguez de Mello Research Center (CENPES/PETROBRAS).

The School of Chemistry, with its history of cultivating professionals with a strong academic foundation and robust industry relationships, is more than ever aware of its leadership role in training professionals in the field of Chemistry in our country.