Choosing First-Year Courses

Through a variety of individual courses and sequential programs, the Chemistry Department provides the opportunity for students to explore the nature and significance of chemistry while learning the fundamental concepts of the discipline. All of our foundational courses provide a base for further study as well as concentration in the subspecialties – organic, physical, inorganic, materials science, and biochemistry.

All students begin the major with any one of the department’s three gateway, fall semester-only classes. The Chemistry Department faculty determines which course is the correct match for each student using a combination of a required Placement Survey followed by a consultation meeting. All students are advised to initially enroll in 153(F) Concepts of Chemistry, which is the gateway course taken by most first year students. Following the Placement Survey, the Department will adjust some students’ enrollment into either CHEM 151(F) Introductory Chemistry or 155(F) Principles of Modern Chemistry. Each of the gateway courses includes a 4-hour weekly laboratory section.

CHEM 151 provides an introduction to chemistry, and is designed for students who have had little or no high school chemistry. CHEM 153 broadens and deepens the foundation in chemistry of students who have typically had one year of high school chemistry. Most students begin study of chemistry at Williams with this course. CHEM 155 is designed for students with strong preparation in secondary school chemistry, including laboratory experience, such as provided by an Advanced Placement chemistry course (or equivalent) with a corresponding score of 5 on the AP Chemistry Exam (or a 7 on the IB Exam, or equivalent). All students seeking to enroll in CHEM 151, 153, or 155 are required to: a) take the Chemistry Placement Survey online, and b) to meet one-on-one with a chemistry faculty member for a follow up consultation.

Although you will ultimately be matched with the most appropriate course following the Placement Survey and the departmental consultation meeting, we advise that all students should initially register for CHEM 153. First year students are eligible, via email invitation, to take the Placement Survey online during mid-June; currently enrolled students are eligible, via email invitation, to take the Placement Survey during the spring semester course enrollment period in late April.  You will be asked to select a meeting time as you take the Placement Survey. In some circumstances, the Department may decide that a consultation meeting is unnecessary: we will contact you if this is the case.

Having completed CHEM 151, 153, or 155 in the fall semester, students then progress to CHEM 156(S) Organic Chemistry: Introductory Level in the spring (only semester offered), which is the first course in a two-semester organic chemistry sequence. The second year of the foundational sequence begins with CHEM 251(F) Organic Chemistry: Intermediate Level in the fall (only semester offered) followed by CHEM 256(S) Advanced Chemical Concepts in the spring. Please consult our graphical representation, above, of possible paths through the Department’s complete array of foundational courses.

Students electing CHEM 151, 153 or 155 in the fall of the first year should also note that while these gateway classes meet at either 8, 8:30, or 9 a.m. MWF, CHEM 156(S) – the next course in the foundational curriculum – is offered only at 9:00 a.m. in the spring semester. Students who want to pursue both chemistry and language courses (that have yearlong enrollment commitments and also frequently meet at 9:00 a.m. MWF) in their first year should be aware that this will lead to a scheduling conflict in the spring semester and are, therefore, urged to think carefully about which set of courses is more critical to take in the first year.

Students with long-range goals for careers in the health professions are advised that enrollment in chemistry courses needed to meet the requirements of most health professions requires careful planning that should be initiated before the first year begins. Since all four of the Department’s foundational courses are prerequisites for careers in the health professions, students are strongly advised to begin our four course foundational sequence as early as possible—preferably in the first year. We strongly advise all students with long-range careers goals related to the health professions to consult closely with the Pre-Health Advisor and to read information summarized at:

Students with a particular interest in biochemistry elect the foundational chemistry courses described above during their first year and are urged to consult the section entitled “Biochemistry and Molecular Biology” in the Courses of Instruction. Students intending to study abroad during the junior year are strongly encouraged to consult the Department as early as possible to determine the best route through the chemistry curriculum. Likewise, following on points highlighted in the previous paragraph, we stress that: CHEM 321 (F) is the most frequently elected course that meets the requirements of most American medical schools; this course has all four of the Department’s foundational courses as prerequisites: and is offered only in the fall semester. Thus, students with long-range goals for careers in the health professions are strongly advised to enroll in one of the Department’s gateway courses as early as possible.

The Department also regularly offers courses designed for students with little or no background in chemistry and who do not intend to pursue careers in the physical sciences, as for example, CHEM 116(S) Chemistry and Physics of Cooking (which was offered in Spring 2016). Classes like this can be taken without prerequisite and satisfy the Division III distribution requirement. Such classes are not appropriate for science majors and do not count toward completion of the chemistry major.

See Chemistry Department website for additional information.

Contacts: Professor David Richardson ([email protected]) – CHEM 151, phone: 413-597-3201

Professor Amy Gehring ([email protected]) – CHEM 153, phone: 413-597-3227

Professor Jay Thoman ([email protected]) – CHEM 155, phone: 413-597-2280