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The Chemistry Major

The undergraduate major in chemistry grounds students in the fundamentals of modern chemistry and provides exposure to cutting-edge research and contemporary instrumentation in the field. The core coursework introduces the disciplines of organic, analytical, inorganic, biological, and physical chemistry, supported by a variety of practical experimental experiences in the laboratory. After successfully completing their core coursework, students delve deeper into a concentration of their choice and are strongly encouraged to participate in original research.

The chemistry major at Vanderbilt University meets the American Chemical Society's guidelines for approved programs of study in chemistry.

Program of Concentration in Chemistry

The chemistry program is organized into four parts. The first part is a general chemistry course sequence (CHEM 102a-102b and 104a-104b or AP credit) to serve as an entry point into the major.

The second part consists of foundation courses in the five major disciplines of chemistry: analytical (210), biochemistry (BSCI 220), inorganic (203), organic (220a-220b or 218a-218b), and physical (230 or 231).

The third part of the chemistry major consists of completing 8 credit hours of laboratory past 104a-104b. Of those, 4 hours will come from laboratory courses (219a-219b, 212a, and 236) associated with foundation courses. There are also 4 credit hours of a capstone laboratory (295a-295b) designed to provide advanced laboratory experience.

The fourth part of the major consists of completing a minimum of 6 credit hours of in-depth chemistry courses. These in-depth courses build upon the content of foundation courses or integrate concepts from these foundational disciplines.

Concentration in Chemistry

Minimum Hours for Chemistry Major: 32

Required non-chemistry courses

  • Math: One year of calculus (MATH 155a-155b is preferred)
  • Physics: Both PHYS 116a-116b and PHYS 118a-118b or PHYS 121a-121b

Required chemistry courses:

Introductory coursework for most students:

  • A satisfactory AP score or Chemistry 102a-102b, CHEM 104a-104b and CHEM 106a-106b will prepare students intending to major in chemistry, biology, physics, or earth and environmental sciences. Non-science majors may fulfill their AXLE requirement with Chemistry 101a-101b.
  • CHEM 220a-220b and 219a-219b (8)

Alternate introductory coursework for students with an AP score of 5 or approval of the director of undergraduate studies:

  • Chemistry 218a-218b. Students taking the 218a-218b sequence should also register for the organic laboratory courses 219a-219b. This course covers the same material as Chemistry 220a-220b but is limited to freshmen. Chemistry 218a-218b satisfies all Chemistry 220a-220b prerequisites needed for advanced chemistry courses. Students who complete 218a-218b are ready to take courses in chemistry traditionally taken during the third year of the major.

After successfully completing the appropriate introductory coursework, all Chemistry majors must take:

  • CHEM 210 & 212a (4 hours)
  • CHEM 230 or 231 (3 hours)
  • CHEM 236 (1 hour)
  • BSCI 220 (3 hours)
  • CHEM 203 (3 hours)
  • CHEM 295a-295b (4 hours)
  • Two in-depth chemistry courses (6 hours). In-depth chemistry courses include all 200-level chemistry courses not explicitly required, except for CHEM 250 and 292a-292b-292c. Other in-depth chemistry courses are Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering 223 and 225, Earth and Environmental Sciences 260, and 300-level chemistry lecture courses. Qualified seniors interested in 300-level courses must obtain approval from the course instructor, their adviser, and the director of graduate studies in Chemistry. Further details are found in the Academic Policies for the College of Arts and Science. A maximum of 3 credit hours of chemistry research (282) may be counted toward in-depth chemistry course hours.

Additional math courses, such as MATH 175 and MATH 218, are highly recommended for the chemistry major.

Options for Concentration in Chemistry

Chemical Biology

The role of chemical processes in biological systems is fundamental to chemical biology. The journal Nature Chemical Biology defines chemical biology as "the use of chemistry to advance a molecular understanding of biology and the harnessing of biology to advance chemistry." Biological chemistry builds upon the disciplines of medicinal chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacology, genetics, bioorganic and organic chemistry. Suggested in-depth chemistry electives: CHEM 202, 220c, 224, 226, 238, 282.

Chemical Sciences

This option provides a broad foundation of chemistry, permitting the greatest flexibility in future career pathways and providing an excellent preparation for positions in chemical industry and for graduate programs in chemistry. Suggested in-depth chemistry electives: CHEM 211, 230, 231, 282.

Environmental Chemistry

Environmental chemistry concerns the chemical phenomena that occur in nature. Environmental chemistry spans atmospheric, aquatic, and soil chemistry with a reliance on analytical chemistry for methods of analysis. Environmental chemistry can be applied to the understanding of issues such as ground water pollution, wastewater treatment, ozone depletion, and greenhouse gas emissions. Suggested in-depth chemistry electives: CHEM 211, 230, 231, 282, EES 260.

Materials Chemistry

Materials chemistry is concerned with designing and synthesizing new materials with specific useful properties and determining the relationships between physical properties and the composition and structure of these new materials. Materials chemistry encompasses all size regimes from bulk to nanoscale. Synthetic chemistry (inorganic and organic), physical chemistry, and analytical chemistry are all important components of this field. Suggested in-depth chemistry electives: CHEM 211, 222, 230, 231, 235, 240, 282, 338, 350.

Minor in Chemistry

The minor in chemistry requires 18 hours of course work, including 4 hours from 102b and 104b or AP credit, and 14 hours selected from any of the courses acceptable for the major in chemistry.

Honors in Chemistry

Students with an overall GPA of at least 3.0 and a GPA of at least 3.4 in chemistry courses at the start of their junior year wishing to do honors will register for the honors research courses (CHEM 292a, 292b, 292c - each is 2 credit hours) beginning spring semester junior year. The CHEM 295a and 295b requirements are waived in lieu of the CHEM 292b and CHEM 292c registrations. Honors candidates must present a thesis on the research done under 292a-292b-292c and pass an oral examination. Additional information may be found in the chapter on Special Programs in the College.

Licensure for Teaching

Candidates for teacher licensure in chemistry at the secondary level should refer to the chapter on Licensure for Teaching in the Peabody College section of this catalog. One semester of the CHEM 295a-295b sequence will be considered fulfilled by completing the Peabody student teaching requirements.

Chemistry 101a-101b

Intended for liberal arts students who are not planning to take any additional chemistry courses, this series presents chemistry in a nonmathematical fashion, with greater emphasis on the historical and philosophical aspects of the discipline. This series does not fulfill prerequisites for science and engineering students.

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