Kevin J. Quinn, Ph.D., Professor and Chair
The Department of Chemistry is among the nation’s top producers of chemistry graduates and a top baccalaureate origin for Ph.D.s in chemistry. The chemistry curriculum provides students with a solid background in fundamental principles and theories of chemistry with hands-on experience using state-of-the-art laboratory equipment. Students gain experience and knowledge in all of the major areas of modern chemistry including organic, analytical, physical, inorganic, and biochemistry and have an opportunity to focus their program on a particular area through research and elective courses. The overall curricular program is laboratory intensive, beginning with the Discovery Chemistry Core courses in general and organic chemistry. These courses use a guided inquiry approach, in which fundamental concepts are first encountered in the laboratory and subsequent lecture sessions are used to discuss and elaborate on the laboratory experience. Advanced courses build on this foundation, allowing students to develop the skills and gain knowledge needed to become effective scientists and independent researchers. The program develops the verbal and written communication skills of students by emphasizing the importance of clarity in laboratory reports and oral presentations (required of all students who elect to do research).
The department has an active undergraduate research program. Qualified students, working in association with faculty members, may have an opportunity to conduct research in a wide range of chemical fields during the academic year through one or more research courses (CHEM 389, 390, 405/406, 407/408 and 410). Summer research positions with monetary stipends are usually available on a competitive basis. Involvement in a significant research project is strongly recommended for those majors interested in attending graduate school for an advanced degree in chemistry.
Chemistry majors are required to successfully complete nine chemistry courses with six required labs as described below. Chemistry majors also must take the first semester of physics with lab (PHYS 111 or PHYS 115) and Calculus through MATH 134 or 136, normally by the end of the second year.
All chemistry majors must begin with the Discovery Chemistry Core, which includes Atoms and Molecules (CHEM 181), Organic Chemistry 1 (CHEM 221), Organic Chemistry 2 (CHEM 222), and Equilibrium and Reactivity (CHEM 231). Each of these courses includes lab and they are typically taken in the order listed above during the first and second year. Students in the major normally continue with Instrumental Chemistry and Analytical Methods (CHEM 300) followed by Quantum Mechanics and Spectroscopy (CHEM 335). CHEM 300, which introduces experimental and instrumental methods essential to modern chemistry, is considered a gateway course to the upper level of the curriculum. Each course integrates lecture and lab. Majors complete their chemistry curriculum with two advanced courses, chosen from Biochemistry (CHEM 301 or BIOL 301), Chemical Thermodynamics (CHEM 336), and Inorganic Chemistry (CHEM 351), and with one other non-research CHEM elective at the 300-level.
Advanced Placement Credit: Knowledge and experience gained in high school AP courses provide an excellent background for our Discovery Chemistry Core. Beginning with the class of 2018, students who have received a score of 4 or 5 on the AP Chemistry exam will earn credit for CHEM 181 and can start the Discovery Chemistry sequence with CHEM 221. Students will forfeit their AP credit if they opt to take CHEM 181. Students are invited to contact the department chair to discuss this option.
American Chemical Society (ACS) Certification. Students wishing to receive ACS certification for their degree must complete the four courses in the Discovery Chemistry Core, as well as CHEM 300, CHEM 301 or BIOL 301, CHEM 335, CHEM 336, CHEM 351, and a non-research CHEM elective at the 300-level. Students must also take one lab chosen from either Biochemistry Lab (BIOL 303 or BIOL 304) or Inorganic Chemistry Lab (CHEM 352). Additionally, two semesters of 400-level research along with a comprehensive research report are required. To receive certification, Chemistry Majors must also take two semesters of physics with lab (PHYS 111/112 or PHYS 115/116).
To graduate with Department Honors, a student must complete the courses required for ACS certification, obtain a minimum GPA of 3.40 in CHEM courses as reported by the Registrar, take two additional courses (which may include research courses), perform a significant quantity and quality of research as determined by the research advisor (or department chair for off-campus projects), and complete an acceptable honors-level capstone written project based on the research.
The Departments of Biology and Chemistry jointly offer a concentration that focuses on the study of the chemistry underlying biological structure and function. Concentrators must be enrolled as either biology or chemistry majors. Participants take BIOL 161 and the Discovery Chemistry Core. Students must also take BIOL 301 or CHEM 301, as well as BIOL 302, 303 and 304, CHEM 336, and one additional biology course with an associated biochemistry-oriented laboratory (only chemistry majors can count BIOL 261 for this course). Students must also complete the usual requirements for their major. Concentrators also complete a two-semester thesis project in their fourth year involving research on some aspect of biochemistry. Admission to the concentration is competitive and occurs in the second semester of the second year.
Teacher Education Program
Students in the Teacher Education Program will meet all chemistry requirements for certification as a secondary or middle school chemistry teacher in Massachusetts (MA Chemistry License), with successful completion of the Chemistry Major plus one course/project in the history and philosophy of science (e.g., PHIL 271). Students should select a course in biochemistry as one of their electives. Formal application to the Teacher Education Program (TEP) and additional education courses are also required for licensure. Since Massachusetts’ teacher certification requirements continue to evolve, students should work closely with the Chemistry department TEP Liaison to make sure all state requirements are met.
Other Programs Involving Chemistry
Students interested in health professions typically begin the Discovery Chemistry Core (CHEM 181, 221, 222, 231) in either the first or second year. Since requirements vary for different programs, students should work with the Health Professions Advisory Committee to ensure that their academic program is appropriate for their preparation.
Students interested in Environmental Studies and/or Geosciences take a number of science courses. The chemistry department regularly offers courses that fulfill requirements in these programs, including CHEM 141, 181, 231, and 300.