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The Chemistry Major


Effective Fall 2015, Vanderbilt University has introduced a new course catalog numbering scheme. For assistance with the translation between old (3-digit) and new (4-digit) numbers, please consult the Course Renumbering Lookup Tool.

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 1601-1602 and 1601L-1602L 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 (2100), biochemistry (BSCI 2520), inorganic (3010), organic (2221-2222 or 2211-2212), and physical (3300 or 3310).

The third part of the chemistry major consists of completing 8 credit hours of laboratory past 1601L-1602L. 4 hours will come from laboratory courses (2221L-2222L, 2100L, and 3315) associated with foundation courses. There are also 6 credit hours of a capstone laboratory (4965-4966) 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

Required Non-chemistry Courses
One year of calculus (MATH 1300-1301 is preferred)
PHYS: Both 1501-1502 and 1501L-1502L, or both 1601-1602 and 1601L-1602L, or 1901-1902
Required Chemistry Courses Hours toward major
Chem  1601-1602 &  1601L-1602L or AP credit 0
Chem  2221-2222 (or 2211-2212) & 2221L-2222L 8
Chem 2100 & 2100L 4
Chem 3300 or 3310 3
Chem 3315 1
BSCI 2520 3
Chem 3010 3
*Two in-depth chemistry courses 6
Chem 4965-4966 6
Minimum Hours for Chemistry Major 34
* In-depth chemistry courses include all 2000-level chemistry and higher courses not explicitly required, except for Chem 3600 and 3980-4980-4999. Other in-depth chemistry courses are Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering  3200 and  3250, and Earth and Environmental Sciences 4600, and any 5000-level chemistry lecture courses. (Qualified seniors interested in 5000-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 (3860) may be counted as in-depth chemistry course hours.
Additional math courses, such as Math 2300 and Math 2820, are highly recommended for the chemistry major.

Options for Concentration in Chemistry

In-depth chemistry courses can be chosen so as to define a focus area within chemistry. Students should consult with their major adviser about focus area options, or to formulate an individualized focus area option. Further descriptions of these options and other recommended courses can be found in the chemistry major handbook on the chemistry department homepage.

Chemical Biology Focus. 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.” Chemical biology builds upon the disciplines of medicinal chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacology, genetics, bioorganic and organic chemistry. Suggested in-depth chemistry electives: 3020, 3710, 3860, 4210, 4720.

Chemical Sciences Focus. This option provides a broad foundation of chemistry, permitting 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: 3120, 3300, 3310, 3860.

Environmental Chemistry Focus. 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:  3120, 3300, 3310, 3860, EES 4600.

Materials Chemistry Focus. 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:  3120, 3630, 2610, 3310, 2610, 3860, 5320, 5610, 5620.

Minor in Chemistry

The minor in chemistry requires 18 hours of course work, including 4 hours from 1602 and 1602L 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 3.3 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 3980, 4980, 4999—each is 2 credit hours) beginning spring semester junior year. The Chem  4965 and 4966 requirements are waived in lieu of the Chem 3980, 4980, and 4999 registrations.. Honors candidates must present a thesis on the research done under Chem  3980, 4980 and 4999 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 4965-4966 sequence will be considered fulfilled by completing the Peabody student teaching requirements.

Introductory Courses

Introductory chemistry is offered in two different sequences, each with its own laboratory. Only one set of these courses may be taken for credit.

1.   Chemistry 1010, 1010L. Intended for liberal arts students who are not planning to take any additional chemistry courses. It treats chemistry in a nonmathematical fashion, with some historical and philosophical features. Not for science and engineering students.

2.   Chemistry  1601-1602. Designed for engineering, science, and premedical students. This course, which must be taken simultaneously with  1601L-1602L, serves as preparation for students intending to major in chemistry, biology, physics, or earth and environmental sciences. It is a more rigorous, mathematical approach to chemistry and a prerequisite for organic and other chemistry courses. It is not intended for liberal arts students taking a science course only to fulfill AXLE requirements.