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.

All students begin their study in the department with either Chemistry 151, 153, or 155. Placement in one of the gateway courses is based upon performance on results from the Departmental Placement Survey and consultation with the faculty; results of the Chemistry Advanced Placement Test or the International Baccalaureate Exam are also taken into account. The first year is completed with Chemistry 156. In the second year at the introductory level, students take Chemistry 251 (or 255) and Chemistry 256 (those students who complete 155 are exempted from 256). Completion of a Chemistry major requires either nine semester chemistry courses or eight semester chemistry courses plus two approved courses from among the following: Biology 101; Computer Science 134; Mathematics 130, 140, 150, 151; Physics 131, 141; or any courses in these departments for which the approved courses are prerequisites. CHEM 155 counts for two courses toward the major, but a single course toward graduation credit. Starting at the 300 level, at least THREE of the courses taken must have a laboratory component. For all majors, at least one must be selected from Chemistry 361, 366, 364, or 367. (The specific course elected, in consultation with the chair or major advisor, will depend on the student’s future plans.) 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.