KATHLEEN P. HOWARD, Professor and Chair
STEPHEN T. MILLER, Professor
PAUL R. RABLEN, Professor
THOMAS A. STEPHENSON, Professor1
LILIYA A. YATSUNYK, Professor3
CHRISTOPHER R. GRAVES, Associate Professor
DANIELA FERA, Assistant Professor1
KATHRYN R. RILEY, Assistant Professor
ANNA YANG, Assistant Professor
KOOP LAMMERTSMA, Cornell Visiting Professor
REMI BEAULAC, Visiting Assistant Professor
EMILY SAHADEO, Visiting Assistant Professor
MARIA E. GALLAGHER, Lecturer
LORI P. SONNTAG, Senior Laboratory Instructor
KELLY N. AMBRUSO, Laboratory Instructor
THOMAS E. VAN AKEN, Laboratory Instructor
CHUANQI WANG, Laboratory Instructor
IAN MCGARVEY, Scientific Instrumentation Specialist
LAUREN NUTTLE, Administrative Coordinator
1 Absent on leave, Fall 2022.
3 Absent on leave, 2022-2023.
The objective of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department is to offer effective training in the fundamental principles and basic techniques of the science and to provide interested students with the opportunity for advanced work in the main subdisciplines of modern chemistry.
The department offers a course major, honors major, course minor, and honors minor in chemistry. In addition, the department offers the following special majors: in collaboration with the Biology Department , a course major and an honors major in biochemistry; and in collaboration with the Physics and Astronomy Department , a course major and an honors major in chemical physics. We offer teacher certification in chemistry through a program approved by the state of Pennsylvania. For further information about the relevant set of requirements, please refer to the Educational Studies section.
Course Sequence Recommendations
Students planning a major in chemistry or biochemistry should complete Chemistry 010/010 HN and 022 during their first year at Swarthmore. During the sophomore year students can take 032 and 038 or 044 and 055 if the physics and mathematics requirements for physical chemistry have been completed. In addition, students planning a major in Biochemistry should complete Biology 001 in their first two years at Swarthmore.
In the last two years, chemistry and biochemistry majors have some flexibility about the sequencing of the remaining requirements for the major. However, students should note that completion of Chemistry 010/010 HN, 022 and one semester of a 40-level or 50-level course constitute a minimum set of prerequisites for enrollment in any Chemistry and Biochemistry Department 100-level seminar. In addition, individual seminars carry additional prerequisites so students should plan ahead accordingly. Courses taken during the first semester of the first year are all CR/NC. Starting with the Class of 2025, after the first semester, only one course with a recorded grade of CR can be used to fulfill the requirements of a Chemistry or Biochemistry major. 100-level Seminars and Research credit (94/96/180) may not be taken CR/NC.
Course Major in Chemistry
Starting with the class of 2025, the course major in chemistry consists of the courses listed below as well as their mathematics and physics prerequisites. For the classes of 2023 and 2024 chemistry majors must take both CHEM 065 and a 100-level seminar. If members of the class of 2023/2024 have not yet completed physical chemistry requirement prior to Fall 2023, starting in Fall 2023 the physical chemistry course numbers have changed and must be taken in sequence (CHEM 042 followed by CHEM 052).
|CHEM 010/010 HN
|CHEM 065 or one 100-level seminar
Ancillary Requirements from Other Departments
Prerequisite for CHEM 042, 043 and 052: PHYS 003/003L and PHYS 004/004L (or 007, 008), MATH 025 (or MATH 026).
Prerequisite for CHEM 052: MATH 034 (or equivalent).
As noted above, for the minimum Chemistry major, students are required to take either CHEM 65 OR a 100-level seminar. All Honors majors must take both. All those pursuing graduate work are strongly encouraged to take both.
All applications are reviewed by the entire department. We consider grades in all college-level courses in chemistry, biology, mathematics, and physics. Decisions will not normally be made until two chemistry courses are completed and significant progress has been made towards meeting the physics and mathematics prerequisite requirements for enrollment in physical chemistry. An element in a student’s acceptance as a major is the considered judgment of the faculty that includes the student’s potential for satisfactory performance in advanced course work and their fulfillment of the comprehensive requirement.
Course Minor in Chemistry
The course minor in chemistry has the following requirements:
- The minor consists of five chemistry credits, plus any prerequisites necessary. Two courses must be numbered 040 or higher. Research credits (094, 096, 180) may not be used to fulfill the requirements for the minor.
- At least four of the five credits must be earned at Swarthmore College.
- The minor will not be titled anything other than “chemistry.” For example, there will be no minor in “organic chemistry” or “physical chemistry,” etc.
- Courses taken during the first semester of the first year are all CR/NC. Starting with the Class of 2025, after the first semester, only one course with a recorded grade of CR can be used to fulfill the requirements of a Chemistry or Biochemistry major. 100-level Seminars and Research credit (94/96/180) may not be taken CR/NC.
Applications are reviewed by the entire department, and decisions are made on the basis of the considered judgment of the faculty, that includes the student’s potential for satisfactory performance in advanced course work.
Honors Major in Chemistry
An Honors preparation in Chemistry consists of three seminars - two in Chemistry (see item 1, below) and one in a minor - and a research thesis (see item 2, below). If, after following the procedures for applying for research in the department, an on-campus research mentor cannot be found, an Honors candidate should consult with the department’s class adviser to explore alternate means of meeting the requirement.
- Honors chemistry majors must take at least two seminars. These seminars (and their associated prerequisites) will serve as two of the honors preparations in the major.
- Honors majors must take CHEM 065 in addition to the 100-level seminar requirements.
- Honors chemistry majors are expected to write a senior research thesis under the supervision of an on-campus research mentor. The thesis represents the third honors preparation. Preparation for a Research Thesis within an Honors Program consists of enrollment in two credits of CHEM 180 during the senior year. Except under extraordinary circumstances, students presenting a thesis for external examination will also spend the summer between their junior and senior years on campus initiating their research project.
The Honors Exams for Majors and Preparations
The fields offered by the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department for examination by external examiners as part of the Honors Program are the topics of the 100-level seminars. The department will offer at least two of these preparations (seminars) during each academic year.
All fields in chemistry (except the Research Thesis) will be examined in three hour written examinations prepared by External Examiners. The Honors Research Thesis will be examined orally by the External Examiner chosen in that field. Honors oral exams for other preparations will be conducted by individual Examiners as well.
Applications are reviewed by the entire department, and decisions are made on the basis of the considered judgment of the faculty, that includes the student’s potential for satisfactory performance in advanced course work. To be admitted as a major in the Honors Program, a student must present a minimum of two courses in chemistry taken at Swarthmore College. In addition, the department looks for indications that the student will participate actively in seminars and can successfully work in an independent manner. To be eligible, the GPA in chemistry courses required for the major must be 3.0 or higher. A student previously accepted into the Honors Program but not maintaining this GPA in chemistry courses will be asked to withdraw from the Honors Program.
Honors Minor in Chemistry
The honors minor in chemistry parallels the course minor, except that the program for an honors minor must include a seminar. The seminar serves as the basis of the honors preparation.
The Honors Exam for Minors and Preparations
All of the fields available to majors are available for students wishing to minor in chemistry, with the exception of the Research Thesis. All minors must meet the same prerequisite requirements for seminars established by the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department majors.
Applications are reviewed by the entire department, and decisions are made on the basis of the considered judgment of the faculty, that includes the student’s potential for satisfactory performance in advanced course work. To be admitted as a minor in the Honors Program in chemistry, a student must present a minimum of two courses in chemistry taken at Swarthmore College. In addition, the department looks for indications that the student will participate actively in seminars and can successfully work in an independent manner. To be eligible, the GPA in chemistry courses required for the minor must be 3.0 or higher. A student previously accepted into the Honors Program but not maintaining this GPA in chemistry courses will be asked to withdraw from the Honors Program.
Special Major in Biochemistry
Starting with the class of 2025, the special major in biochemistry consists of the courses listed below as well as their mathematics and physics prerequisites. If members of the class of 2023/2024 have not yet completed their physical chemistry requirement prior to Fall 2023, starting in Fall 2023 the physical chemistry course numbers have changed and only CHEM 042 is required.
The biochemistry major combines work in both the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department and the Biology Department.
|CHEM 010/010 HN
One biochemically related 100-level seminar in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Dept. (CHEM 108, 110, 112, 118 and 120 or others with approval of the Department).
Biochemistry majors must also complete either (1) two intermediate-level biology courses (with labs) or (2) an intermediate-level Biology course (with lab) and a 100-level Biology seminar.
The intermediate level Biology classes for Biochemistry majors can be any Biology course numbered 010-039. Please note the biology prerequisites for these courses and plan accordingly.
100-level seminars in the Biology Department have at least one intermediate level course (numbered 10-39) as a prerequisite; the particular prerequisites for seminars vary and should be considered during selection of intermediate level courses.
Ancillary Requirements from Other Departments
Prerequisites for CHEM 042: PHYS 003/003L and PHYS 004/004L (or 007,008); MATH 25 (or 26).
Acceptance criteria are the same as for chemistry majors.
Acceptance Criteria and Requirements for Honors Major in Biochemistry
Acceptance criteria for the honors major in biochemistry are the same as for the honors major in chemistry.
The honors biochemistry major has the same set of requirements as the course biochemistry major, plus the requirement of four honors preparations in at least two departments must also be met, as follows:
- CHEM 108, 110, 112, 118 or 120.
- One biochemically oriented preparation from the Biology Department.
- A two-credit biochemically oriented Research Thesis carried out under the supervision of faculty from the Chemistry and/or Biology Departments.
- One additional preparation chosen from the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department or from biochemically related preparations offered by either the biology or psychology departments.
Special Major in Chemical Physics
The chemical physics major combines course work in chemistry and physics at the introductory and intermediate levels, along with some advanced work in physical chemistry and physics, for a total of between 10 and 12 credits. Laboratory work at the advanced level in either chemistry or physics is required; math courses in linear algebra and multivariable calculus are prerequisites for this work.
In preparation for a major in chemical physics, students must complete by the end of the sophomore year: (1) CHEM 010/010 HN and 022; (2) PHYS 005, 007, 008 (PHYS 003, 004 can substitute, but the 005, 007, 008 sequence is strongly recommended); (3) further work appropriate to the major in either CHEM (042, 052, 056, and/or 065) or PHYS (013/015 and 017/018); (4) MATH 034. A chemical physics major will ordinarily include both semesters of physical chemistry (CHEM 042 and 052). A student may satisfy the requirement for laboratory work at the advanced level by completing a research thesis (CHEM 096 or 180), but in the absence of a research thesis, the major must include CHEM 065 or PHYS 082 in order to satisfy the requirement.
Starting with the class of 2025, example of a special major in chemical physics: CHEM 022, 042, 052, 056, 065, 105; PHYS 007, 008, 013/015, 017/018 050, 111, 113.
Acceptance criteria are the same as for chemistry majors, except that the faculty of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department and Physics and Astronomy are both actively involved in the decision.
Acceptance Criteria and Requirements for Honors Major in Chemical Physics
Acceptance criteria for the honors major in chemical physics are the same as for the honors major in chemistry, except that the faculty of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department and Physics and Astronomy are both actively involved in the decision.
The honors chemical physics major has the same set of requirements as the course chemical physics major, plus the requirement of four Honors Preparations in at least two departments must also be met, as follows:
- One preparation (seminar) chosen from the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department.
- One preparation (seminar) chosen from the Physics and Astronomy Department.
- A two-credit Research Thesis carried out under the supervision of faculty from the Chemistry and/or Physics Departments. If, after following the procedures for applying for research in the department, an on-campus research mentor cannot be found, an Honors candidate should consult with the department’s class adviser to explore alternate means of meeting the requirement.
- One additional preparation chosen from the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department or from the Physics and Astronomy Department.
The senior comprehensive requirement consists of two components.
The first component revolves around the department’s Colloquium Series. During the academic year, speakers from other institutions visit our campus and present colloquia about their research. Each speaker recommends a small amount of published background material, which students read in preparation for the visit. These materials also serve as the basis for journal club, during which student facilitators lead the senior majors in a discussion of the background material and the relevant chemistry concepts. All senior majors are required to (1) attend journal club meetings, (2) read the provided literature, (3) serve as a facilitator for at least one journal club meeting, and (4) attend the actual colloquium presentations.
The department offers two routes for satisfying the second component of the comprehensive requirement:
a. Completion of a two-credit research thesis. In most cases, the thesis is based on research carried out on campus during the senior year and the preceeding summer. Special cases will be reviewed and approved at the discretion of the Department. Both
course and honors theses fulfill this requirement.
b. Senior majors who do not write a research thesis must write a series of short reflections throughout the academic year. These reflections are based on the presentations given by speakers in the department’s Colloquium Series and the associated literature
readings. The following regulations will govern the reflections:
- The department will provide a minimum of 6 opportunities to write reflections each academic year.
- The department will provide guidelines on the reflection format and students will have one week to submit their reflection following the colloquium presentation.
- Satisfactory performance on 4 reflections constitutes completion of this component of the comprehensive requirement.
Finally, all students must complete at least one safety training session before the beginning of their senior year. Safety training will be organized through the Department’s Scientific Instrumentation Specialist.
The comprehensive requirement for biochemistry majors is the same as for chemistry majors.
The comprehensive requirement for chemical physics majors is the same as for chemistry majors. Occasionally, however, and on a case-by-case basis, the department is willing to negotiate a “hybrid” colloquium series for students completing a chemical physics special major. In consultation with both departments (chemistry and biochemistry and physics and astronomy), the student may draw up a list of colloquia pertinent to the special major and taken partly from the colloquium series of each department, and then participate in only these colloquia. However, in no event will the total number of talks for the year amount to fewer than the number of colloquia scheduled for the Chemistry and Biochemistry series.
Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate Credit
Students with a score of 5 on the Chemistry AP exam (taken their junior year in high school or later) or a score of 6 or 7 on the Higher Chemistry IB exam are eligible to take the Honors Placement exam. Satisfactory performance on the exam will qualify the student to take Foundations of Chemical Principles - Honors (Chemistry 010 HN). In the absence of an AP/IB score students should take the Chemistry Readiness Exam for access to the Honors Placement exam.
It is sometimes possible to receive Swarthmore credit for chemistry courses taken at other colleges and universities, provided that they were taken after the student matriculated at Swarthmore. If you wish to take a chemistry course on another campus and to receive Swarthmore credit for doing so, it is essential that you follow the proper procedure and that you plan in advance. It is also important to realize that not all courses will be eligible for credit. See the department website for details.
The Chemistry and Biochemistry Department will offer advising to support the study abroad aspirations of chemistry and biochemistry majors. However, substantial advance planning is required and interested students are encouraged to plan their Sophomore Plan carefully and consult with their academic adviser.
The Chemistry and Biochemistry Department offers opportunities for students to engage in collaborative research with faculty members. Each fall semester, the department hosts a series of short presentations by faculty members, outlining the research projects available. This meeting, normally held in November, serves as the starting point for student participation in research during the following summer and/or academic year.
Academic Year Opportunities
The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry offers three ways for students to engage in supervised research for academic credit, during the academic year:
- CHEM 094 (research project). Students may enroll in this course for either a half credit or a full credit. A half credit implies a time commitment of 5-7 hours per week, while a full credit implies a time commitment of 10-15 hours per week.
- CHEM 096 (research thesis). A full year (two credits) of CHEM 096 corresponds to a research thesis for course majors.
- CHEM 180 (honors research thesis). A full year (two credits) of CHEM 180 corresponds to a research thesis for honors majors.
All students who enroll for at least one full credit of research during an academic year are required to participate in the department’s Colloquium Series and present a poster sometime during the academic year.
Research Conducted in Other Departments
Students writing a research thesis as part of their plan to satisfy the comprehensive requirement in a chemistry, biochemistry, or chemical physics major (see above) sometimes elect to carry out their research with a faculty member in an allied department, such as biology, physics and astronomy, or engineering. In general, such students have two options for how to register for courses corresponding to the thesis:
Option 1: Use the appropriate chemistry courses (two credits of CHEM 096 for a course thesis, or two credits of CHEM 180 for an honors thesis).
Option 2: Use the course designations appropriate to the department in which the research is conducted. For research conducted with a biology faculty member, for instance, a student might enroll in one credit of BIOL 180 and one credit of BIOL 199 over the course of the senior year. The thesis must ultimately consist of at least two full credits.
American Chemical Society Certification
The Department offers a degree certified by the American Chemical Society. Interested students should consult with their Departmental Advisor for more information concerning requirements for the certified degree.
Chemistry and Biochemistry Courses
Students should note that completion of CHEM 010/010 HN, 022, and one semester of a 40-level or 50-level course constitute a minimum set of prerequisites for enrollment in any Chemistry and Biochemistry Department seminar. In unusual circumstances, the department will consider whether completion of work of comparable sophistication in another department can substitute for the requirement that a 40-level or 50-level chemistry course be completed prior to enrollment in a seminar. Individual seminars carry additional prerequisites, as listed here.
All students who enroll in one or more research courses during the academic year are required to participate in the department’s colloquium series and present the results of their work at a poster session during the academic year.