Chemistry Major and Minor
The program in chemistry is designed to meet the needs of students who are pursuing chemistry as part of a pre-professional course or to increase their knowledge of the natural sciences.
Our program recognizes that chemistry as a discipline is a core science but is also intertwined with a number of other fields, including physics, biology and math/computer science. In fact, some of the most exciting areas in science today are found in the interdisciplinary fields of chemical physics, chemical biology, theoretical/computational chemistry, environmental studies and materials science.
Curriculum & Courses
Our curriculum is approved by the American Chemical Society and students can obtain an ACS-certified degree in chemistry by taking an additional course in physical chemistry, a full year of physics, and at least one semester of biochemistry.
Majors can also design a program that explores interdisciplinary areas such as chemical physics, computational chemistry, materials science, or biological chemistry. Many opt to pursue our Biochemistry and Biophysics Concentration, Scientific Computing Concentration, or an array of complementary minors.
The core required courses are:
- four semesters of introductory and organic chemistry: CHEM H111, CHEM H113 OR CHEM H115, CHEM H112 OR CHEM H114, CHEM H222, and CHEM H225.
- two semesters of advanced integrative chemistry laboratory (“Superlab”): CHEM H301 and CHEM H302.
- one semester of physical chemistry: CHEM H304 or CHEM H305.
- one semester of senior research tutorials: CHEM 36x or CHEM H380.
- two half-semester courses in inorganic chemistry: CHEM H320 and one of CHEM H351, CHEM H353, or CHEM H354.
- Departmental Seminar: CHEM H391 (a half credit course spread over two semesters).
Chemistry majors must also complete:
- one semester of additional advanced chemistry courses numbered CHEM H304-CHEM H358.
- one semester of math (MATH H118 or above).
- two semesters of either introductory physics (PHYS H101/PHYS H102 or PHYS H105/PHYS H106) or biology (BIOL H200).
ACS-Certified Chemistry Major
An American Chemical Society (ACS) certified major requires additional coursework and is recommended for students interested in pursuing graduate study in science and engineering, or who wish to directly enter the job market in a chemistry- related field after graduation.
In order to receive ACS certification, students must satisfy all of the major requirements in a way that includes a year of physics and a semester of biochemistry (this is automatic for biochemistry concentrators), and also must take one additional physical chemistry course. Specifically, ACS-certified majors must complete:
- both semesters of physical chemistry (CHEM H304 and CHEM H305); for ACS-certified majors these courses do not fulfill the additional advanced course requirement.
- two semesters of introductory physics (PHYS H101/PHYS H102 or PHYS H105/PHYS H106).
- one semester of biochemistry, which can be BIOL H200 (second semester), two half-semester courses from CHEM H351,CHEM H352, CHEM H357 and CHEM H359, or equivalent, such as Bryn Mawr CHEM B242 or higher.
The senior project in chemistry has two major components. First, all seniors enroll in CHEM H391 Departmental Seminar, a year-long seminar course. Second, all seniors enroll in at least one credit of research, either experimental, computational or literature-based. The course numbers for research as specific to the faculty advisors, often with a CHEM H36x designation. CHEM H36x work involves the design, articulation and conduction of an independent research project. Students are expected to be in the laboratory for at least 15 hours per week performing experiments, analyzing data and designing future experiments. Additional activities include participation in research group meeting, where data, experiments and literature articles are discussed. Each student prepares a formal document (the "senior thesis" at the end of their spring semester detailing their work in the Senior Project.
CHEM H391 exposes students to chemistry through talks by chemists from other institutions and provides enrolled students with opportunities to present their own work formally. Each student prepares and delivers both an oral and poster presentation. The oral presentations occur throughout the academic year, and the poster presentations occur in April. The audience for these presentations is all chemistry seniors, underclass students involved in research, post-doctoral fellows and the faculty in chemistry.
Senior Project Learning Goals
Identify and describe research methods used to probe specific chemical motifs.
- This learning objective involves the correct use various instrumental analyses in the full characterization of different reaction types. This learning objective most likely fits into the junior level CHEM H301/CHEM H302 Lab in Chemical Structure and Reactivity (Superlab).
Design and articulate an independent research project.
- This learning objective is designed to probe a student’s ability to digest the chemical literature, formulate new ideas and articulate them clearly. This objective will take the form of an independent research proposal that is based upon the primary literature and includes new ideas and directions. This would serve a few purposes. First, it would provide preparation for senior thesis experience in that they need to be able to propose future experiments in current projects. Second, it would provide another source for the evaluation of their critical thinking skills.
Critique conclusions presented in the primary literature.
- This learning objective is designed to measure a student’s ability to analyze and critique the primary literature. This is performed routinely in the advanced level courses offered by the Chemistry Department.
Senior Project Assessment
The Chemistry Department’s assessment of a student’s capstone experience involves three major components: research efforts, oral presentation skills and the written thesis. We seek to help students develop and demonstrate the following behaviors and skills.
Chemistry Research Grades
Senior research grades encompass several different components, including research efforts, the quality of the senior thesis, and student participation in senior seminar. The text below conveys our expectations for the research experience:
A 4.0 student will:
- demonstrate independent intellectual involvement in their project.
- show evidence of productivity that is commensurate with the amount of credit assigned to 36x.
- make creative contributions to the design and analysis of experiments.
- propose independent ideas to overcome research obstacles.
- proactively use the primary literature as an integral resource.
- interpret their own data and develop ideas for subsequent studies.
- maintain a clear and complete laboratory notebook.
- display critical thinking in lab meetings.
- work to maximize research progress during the year.
A 4.0 student will:
- clearly describe the context of the project in the greater literature.
- briefly summarize the history or related studies.
- explain the novelty of the work described in the thesis.
- detail experimental methodologies to the level of detail with which one could reproduce all experiments.
- identify the strengths and limitations of each technique used.
- summarize and interpret all results.
- analyze the outcome of their experiments in the context of the greater literature, with particular emphasis on continued progress of the research project.
- clearly display experimental data through the use of tables and figures, when appropriate.
- fully and consistently cite literature precedence.
A 4.0 student will:
- clearly construct and deliver an oral and poster presentation in which the relevance, novelty and preliminary results are communicated clearly within the given constraints.
- demonstrate the progress of their project between the oral and poster presentations.
- answer post presentation questions completely.
- be an active participant in other presentations (by both students and outside speakers) by asking questions.
Grades for each student are assigned by the student’s research supervisor using the criteria described above. Student theses, presentations and experimental efforts are all discussed at a meeting of the chemistry faculty at the end of each academic year.
An additional level of assessment is used for each student for internal purposes. The department scores each student in the following categories; oral presentations, intellectual contributions, command of the literature, experimental skills, and written work. These “scores” for each student are either “fails to meet expectations”, “meets expectations”, or “exceeds expectations”. These data are tracked from year to year and allow the department to observe and emerging trends and challenges and to adapt our program to foster success in our students.
Requirements for Honors
All students who participate in Senior Research (CHEM H36x) for two semesters (or for one semester with an appropriate summer research experience) will be considered for departmental honors. Successful honors candidates will be expected to do superior work in major courses and to complete a research project at a level superior both in quality and quantity of effort to that expected in normal course work.
- Four semesters of introductory and organic chemistry: CHEM H111, CHEM H113 OR CHEM H115, CHEM H112 OR CHEM H114, CHEM H222, and CHEM H225.
- One semester of physical chemistry: CHEM H304 or CHEM H305.
- One semester of advanced chemistry chosen from courses numbered between CHEM H301 and CHEM H369.
Students must take at least three of the courses for the chemistry minor at Haverford College. The Departmental Seminar (CHEM H391) is not required, but recommended.
Associated Programs and Concentrations
Research & Outreach
Research is a key piece of our program, and we are committed to providing compelling research opportunities at every level of the curriculum. Students can pursue our research–based courses and paid summer research internships with a faculty member. As seniors, majors participate in high-level research tutorial courses in which they engage in directed research on a particular topic under the guidance of a faculty member.
Student research culminates with the senior thesis, which is required of every major and is produced, along with an oral and poster presentation, over the course of senior year in conjunction with our Senior Seminar.
About 70% of our students present their work at meetings and 20% appear as a co-author on a peer-reviewed publication.
The chemistry major’s thesis offers valuable insights into the field of biochemistry, but also the act of research itself.
The chemistry major, biochemistry concentrator, and French and Francophone studies minor reflects on the collaborative aspects of his thesis process.
The chemistry major’s senior thesis research, conducted with chemistry faculty members Lou Charkoudian’03 and Casey Londergan, was recently published in Nature Communications.
For chemistry major and German minor Emma Bullock ‘19, the thesis process was all about improvisation and re-evaluation.
Trained as scientific thinkers and problem solvers, students graduate from our program prepared for careers in chemistry, biochemistry, engineering, medicine, law, business, and primary and secondary education, as well as many other fields.
Close to one third of majors go on to top-ranked graduate programs leading to a Ph.D., while another third enter medical school. The remaining third pursue jobs in a range of areas, including teaching, laboratory science, and information science.
Schwarz works on creating enterprise level safety, compliance, and training software for research institutions, including pharmaceutical companies, biotech organizations, and universities.
Tsai will be teaching English in Taiwan as the recipient of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Grant.
Hosler shifted from academia to a career in science communication and outreach.
Birnholz was recently appointed crossword constructor for The Washington Post's Sunday edition—a gig that places him among the elite of newspaper criciverbalists.
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