The Chemical Engineering Program (PEQ), idealized, created and conducted along its first decade of existence by Professor Alberto Luiz Coimbra, started in 1963, inside the Chemical Engineering Division of the Chemistry Institute of the former University of Brazil, of which he was the director. Only in 1965 the second Engineering Graduate Program was launched, the Mechanical Engineering Program, connected to the School of Engineering. That year, the activities carried out by Professor Alberto Luiz Coimbra, under the supervision of Professors Athos da Silveira Ramos (creator - in 1962 - and President of the Chemistry Institute) and Raymundo Moniz de Aragão (Director of Higher Education of the Ministry of Education and Culture), took administrative shape, when the Rector Prof. Pedro Calmon created the Coordination of Engineering Graduate Programs (COPPE). 

The initial scheme for the implementation of this first program resulted from a trip of a commission, accredited by the School of Chemistry Congregation of the University of Brazil, to the USA, in December 1960. The visits made to the Universities of Houston, Rice, California (Los Angeles and Berkeley), Stanford, CalTech., Minnesota, Michigan and MIT showed the importance of the graduate courses in the training of researchers, professors and  engineers and also the beneficial effect that graduate courses have on the training courses, updating them.

This preliminary scheme was introduced to the seminar “University Reform and Engineering Education”, conducted by the Club of Engineering of Rio de Janeiro, in December 1961. In August 1961, the Directors of the Schools of Engineering of the Universities of Houston and Texas visited Rio de Janeiro, sponsored by the Organization of the American States (OAS). These directors, together with professors from the School of Chemistry and School of Engineering, established a plan for a graduate course in Chemical and Mechanical Engineering that was presented to the Brazilian coordinator of Ponto IV by the Directors of the Schools of Chemistry and Engineering of the University, in October 1961.

With the creation of the Chemistry Institute and its functioning in February 1962, this entity – which congregates the Chairs of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering of the Schools of Chemistry, Engineering, Medicine, Pharmacy and Philosophy of the University of Brazil – was in charge of the Course, through its Division of Chemical Engineering. 

Few months before the beginning of the course, in July and August 1962, with the aim of calling the attention to the Program which was about to start in the following year, short and intensive courses were carried out, about several topics of Chemical Engineering such as boundary layer, turbulence, flow through porous media and digital computers programing. These courses received a joint support by the OAS, the Chemistry Institute, the University of Houston and CNPq, and were taught by Professors Frank M. Tiller, Abraham E. Duckler and Elliott I. Organick all from the University of Houston. 

In 1963, sponsoring from OAS and the Rockefeller Foundation allowed the visits from Professors Donald L. Katz (Univ. Michigan), Louis Brand (Univ. of Houston), Frank M. Tiller (Univ. of Houston), Ernest J. Henley (Stevens Tech), Raymond Fahien (Univ. of Florida) and Cornelius J. Pings (Cal Tech), who, together with Professors Alberto Luiz Coimbra, Affonso Silva Telles, Giulio Massarani, Nelson Castro Faria and Augusto L. Zamith, formally launched the Chemical Engineering Program. 

Other external professors who, in those initial years, collaborated with the consolidation of PEQ were Morton P. Moyle, Angus R. Cumming, John A. Howell, Charles G. M. Slesser, Peter J. Foster, George Marshall, Schuichi Alba, Rubens S. Ramalho and Geoffrey T. Clegg. These professors provided their technical assistance for periods of 3 to 12 months.

The creation of PEQ coincides with the expansion of the chemical industry in Brazil, particularly with the expansion of the Petrobras and its associated companies. This way, its natural vocation was to privilege the analysis and design of equipment and processes, with its graduated masters contributing to the capacitation of these companies as well as the design ones. The expansion of the university system and research institutions represented a new market for the graduated people and helped catalyze the Doctorate course in the 70s. 

This first graduate course in Chemical Engineering had a history of success. The first years were marked by difficulties and hard work. Many of such difficulties were created by those who, for several reasons, do not accept novelties and only understood or supported traditional ways of education. Other difficulties were related to economical and infrastructure problems. The situation gradually improved from 1965 on, when COPPE started to receive the support from the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES).

The first class was formed by eight students – Gileno Amaral Barreto, Walmir Gonçalves Túlio Bracho Henrique, Jair Augusto de Miranda, Carlos Augusto Guimarães Perlingeiro, Paulo Ribeiro, Nelson Trevisan, Edgard Souza Aguiar Vieira and Liu Kai – from whom Nelson Trevisan had the honor to defend the first Master’s Thesis, on January 29th 1964. The title was “Physical Adsorption: Theory and Model” and his advisor was Prof. Augusto Zamith. Until May of that year all the theses by the other seven students in this first group had been defended. 

The first Doctorate Thesis was defended by Saul Gonçalves D'Avila, on November 12th 1971, with the title “Catalytic Oxidation of Crotonaldehyde to Maleic Anhydride” and the advisor was Prof. Maury Saddy.

The evolution was consistent along the years, with clear emphasis on the Master’s until the early 90s, even as national preference. At that time there was a significant change of route, strongly catalyzed by the entity responsible for the scientific policy of the country, putting much stronger emphasis on the graduation of doctors. In 1980, the Chemical Engineering Program had graduated 157 masters and 12 doctors. In 1990 these numbers were, respectively, 308 and 25.

The recognition of PEQ’s excellence was officialized with the implementation of the CAPES’  evaluation system, which, since 1976, has analyzed the performance of graduate courses in the country; since then, PEQ has kept the maximum grade for the master’s and doctorate courses. Until 2020, PEQ graduated 891 masters and 451 doctors, many of whom occupy leading positions in companies as well as educational and research institutions throughout the country. After 57 years of history, PEQ is the only Brazilian chemical engineering graduate program that has always received the highest evaluation grade from the Ministry of Education, which represent standards of international excellence.