The Major

Through a variety of individual courses and sequential programs, the department provides an opportunity for students to explore the nature and significance of chemistry, an area of important achievement in our quest for knowledge about ourselves and the world around us. The student of chemistry is able to become aware of the special viewpoint of chemists, the general nature of chemical investigation, some of its important results, how these results are expressed, and something of their significance within the fields of science and in the area of human endeavor as a whole.  The Chemistry major provides excellent preparation for graduate study in chemistry, biochemistry, chemical engineering, environmental science, materials science, medicine, and the medical sciences.

A major in chemistry can be achieved in several ways, preferably beginning in the student’s first year at Williams, but also beginning in the sophomore year. Building on a foundation in general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physical chemistry, a student elects additional advanced courses to complete a major that is consistent with his or her background in other sciences, interests, and goals. A student’s program might emphasize biochemistry, organic chemistry, or physical chemistry, with additional courses available in analytical chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and materials science. Students considering a major in chemistry should consult with a member of the department as early as possible in order to plan a program which best suits their interests and abilities and which makes full use of their previous preparation.

(For Students beginning chemistry studies in Fall 2023 or later.)
Most students will begin their study in the department in Chemistry 101 (Concepts of Chemistry), which may be taken in the fall or the spring semester. For students with little or no high school chemistry, we offer Chemistry 100 (Chemistry Matters) as preparation for Chemistry 101, which is offered in the fall semester, and will allow students to then take Chemistry 101 in the spring semester. All students interested in taking Chemistry 100 or Chemistry 101 must complete a brief departmental survey to assist in determining the best first semester placement. After Chemistry 101, students will take Chemistry 200 (Advanced Concepts in Chemistry) and Chemistry 201 (Introduction to Organic Chemistry), in either order. After completing these courses, students can move into elective courses.

(For all Chemistry majors.)
Completion of a Chemistry major requires nine semester chemistry courses (Chemistry 100 can count as one of these courses). Alternatively, two approved courses from adjacent sciences (those with significant chemical and/or quantitative content) from Biology, Computer Science, Geosciences, Mathematics, Physics, or Statistics can count towards one of their required Chemistry credits. Only one course designated as pass/fail may be counted towards the major. Chemistry 242 (Intermediate Organic Chemistry) is required for the major, as is at least one course selected from Chemistry 361, 363, 364, 366, or 367. Starting at the 300 level, at least three of the courses taken must have a laboratory component. The specific courses selected, will depend on each student’s future plans and interests, and can be determined in consultation with the chair or major advisor.  In addition, the department has a number of “Independent Research Courses” which, while they do not count toward completion of the major, provide a unique opportunity to pursue an independent research project under the direction of a faculty member.