Frequently Asked Questions

NOTE: This FAQ is a work in progress. If you don’t see the question you want answered, please send an email with your question.

Is it possible to finish a chemistry or biochemistry degree in four years?

  • Absolutely! Every year, a significant fraction of our graduates are fourth-year seniors. Because the majors are so structured, it is critically important that chemistry and biochemistry majors (and prospective majors) take the time to carefully plan out their path to completion.

How come the chemistry department requires different physics and math courses than the other life science majors?

  • The math and physics course content acceptable for chemistry and biochemistry degrees must meet the standards of the American Chemical Society in order for the Department to be accredited by the ACS, which we are.

What’s the deal with the math requirements?

  • The department requires two semesters of calculus as dictated by the ACS curriculum standards. Two semesters of calculus are also required prior to beginning physical chemistry (fondly referred to as “p-chem”). Although there is a formal two-term math requirement, chemistry and biochemistry majors are universally advised to consider taking calculus III (MATH 241) and/or differential equations (MATH 242) prior to taking the first semester of p-chem (CHEM 481).

Why the extra math?

  • Physical chemistry is a mathematically rigorous dicipline that makes extensive use of multi-variable calculus and differential equations. P-chem is a challenging course; taking extra math courses beforehand helps students understand the material, and avoid constant math struggles. It is especially important that students consider extra math if it has been several semesters since they last took a math course (particularly if your last math course was AP calculus in high school).

Is it possible to pass p-chem with only two terms of calculus?

  • Yes, a sizable number of students do just that every year. Should you elect this route, you will have to spend extra time getting up to speed in math.

I don’t understand the p-chem sequence.

  • The physical chemistry courses required for Chemistry and Biochemistry are slightly different, and not necessarily interchangable:
  • Both majors require two terms of P-chem lecture; Chemistry majors have to take CHEM 481 (Physical Chemistry I) and CHEM 482 (Physical Chemistry II). Biochemistry majors also must take CHEM 481, but have a choice for their second semester; either CHEM 482 (Physical Chemistry II), or BCHM 485 (Biophysical Chemistry). BCHM 485 is recommended for Biochemistry majors (this course is only offered in the Spring).
  • Chemistry majors are required to take two semesters of Physical Chemistry Laboratory (CHEM 483 and CHEM 484). Biochemistry majors are required to take only one term of P-chem lab (CHEM 483).

Should I take p-chem lab the same time I take p-chem lecture?

  • That depends. CHEM 481 and 483 are co-requisites, as are CHEM 482 and CHEM 484. CHEM 481 and CHEM 483 can be taken in the same term, as can CHEM 482 and CHEM 484. For a variety of reasons, some students take CHEM 483 or CHEM 484 laboratories after they have completed the corequisite lecture, which is allowed by the department. P-chem laboratories CANNOT be taken before the corequisite lecture is taken.

I noticed that there are special versions of the introductory courses for chem and biochem majors. Do I have to take them if I want to be a chemistry or biochemistry major?

  • Yes and no. Chemistry and biochemistry majors should plan to take CHEM 277 (rather than CHEM 272), and all incoming first year CHEM and BCHM majors are required to take CHEM 177 their first term. Beyond that, while the Department strongly encourages its majors to take the “majors courses”, if you take the larger unrestricted introductory courses, they will count toward the major requirements. However, the “majors courses” are smaller, they have a different laboratory experience (exercises that are impossible to do on the large scale of the unrestricted courses), they are better preparation for future upper level CHEM and BCHM courses, and they are populated by students who have similar interests. In addition, if you want to engage in undergraduate research with a chemistry of biochemistry faculty member, having not taken the majors courses may negatively impact your chances of doing so.

Is chemistry or biochemistry a good major for getting into medical school?

  • Yes and no. It’s certainly true that chemistry and biochemistry are challenging majors, and doing well as a chemistry or biochemistry major will reflect well upon you when you apply to medical or other professional school. It is also true, however, that significant numbers of students who are accepted into medical training programs every year have majored in non-science fields.
  • The most important characteristic of students who get into professional schools is that they have excelled in their studies. There is simply no short-cut or way around this. Since students are most likely to do well in subjects that interest them, the most important criteria for choosing a major should be that the subject interests you.

Can I double major in chemistry and biochemistry?

  • No. Getting two majors from one department is not allowed. You can, however, double major in chemistry or biochemistry and one of the other departments in the College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences.

Is double majoring a good idea?

  • That depends; if you think that double majoring will increase your chances of getting into medical or other professional school and that’s your motivation, then double majoring is a bad idea. If you want to major in two subjects because you are interested in both of them and feel that unless you major in both you will be missing out on something you have a passion for, then double majoring might be a good idea.
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