Admission & Financial Aid

Admission & Financial Aid

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Regulations & Requirements

Regulations & Requirements

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Amherst College Courses

Amherst College Courses

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Chemistry

Professors Bishop, Hansen (Chair), Kushick‡, Leung*, Marshall*, and O’Hara; Associate Professors Burkett and Jaswal; Visiting Professors Bengali and Cartier; Visiting Assistant Professor A. Lopez (arriving December 2017); Academic Managers Ampiah-Bonney and Reutenauer; Visiting Laboratory Instructor Rotondi. 

*On leave 2017-18.

‡On leave spring semester 2017-18.

Major Program. Students considering a major in Chemistry should consult a member of the Department as early as possible, preferably during their first year. This will help in the election of a program which best fits their interests and abilities and which makes full use of previous preparation. Programs can be arranged for students considering careers in chemistry, chemical physics, biochemistry, biophysical chemistry, biomedical research, medicine, and secondary school science teaching.

The minimum requirements for a major in Chemistry are CHEM 151 or 155, 161, 221, 231, 351, 361, and 371, and one elective. The elective can be an additional Chemistry course numbered in the 300s or 400s (excluding 498/499) or, after discussion with the student’s major advisor and upon approval by the Chemistry Department, a suitable advanced course in another science department. Please note that some Chemistry courses require successful completion of work in other departments: for the required courses, the non-Chemistry pre-requisites are MATH 111 for CHEM 161, MATH 121 and PHYS 116 or 123 for CHEM 351 and 361. Students are encouraged to discuss their proposed course of study for the major with a member of the Department, as there may be years when staffing considerations preclude offering one of the required courses.

Departmental Honors Program. A candidate for the degree with Honors will also elect CHEM 498 and 499D in the senior year. Honors programs for exceptional interests, including interdisciplinary study, can be arranged on an individual basis by the departmental advisor.

Honors candidates attend the Chemistry seminar during their junior and senior years, participating in it actively in the senior year. All Chemistry majors are required to attend the seminar in their senior year. During this seminar, discussions of topics of current interest are conducted by faculty, visitors and students.

In the senior year an individual thesis problem is selected by the Honors candidate in conference with a member of the Department. Current areas of research in the Department are: inorganic and hybrid materials synthesis; protein-nucleic acid interactions; immunochemistry; fluorescence and single-molecule spectroscopy; high resolution molecular spectroscopy of jet-cooled species; ab initio, quantum chemical calculation of molecular properties and intermolecular interactions; chemical-genetic characterization of cell signaling enzymes; protein phosphatase inhibitor design; biochemistry of tRNA modification enzymes; investigation of the protein folding landscape of kinetically stabilized proteins; development of hydrogen exchange mass spectrometry methodology to monitor protein folding and dynamics; and the design and synthesis of self-assembling organic nanostructures. 

Note on Placement: CHEM 151 followed by CHEM 161 are the appropriate first courses in Chemistry for most students. Those students with minimal preparation in quantitative areas will be invited to enroll in CHEM 131 (cross-listed with BIOL 131) as an entry level point. For those students with extensive high school preparation in the subject and strong quantitative skills as measured by SAT I and II (or ACT), CHEM 155 followed by CHEM 161 is recommended by the Department. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis to determine whether placement out of either CHEM 151/155 or CHEM 161 or, less frequently, both, is appropriate. Students considering advanced placement are advised to contact the Department soon after arriving on campus.

Certification by the American Chemical Society: The Chemistry Department at Amherst College is among the programs approved by the American Chemical Society (ACS). The chemistry curriculum is reviewed by the ACS Committee on Professional Training on a five-year cycle and reports are made to the ACS annually. To earn an ACS-certified degree, Amherst College chemistry majors, in addition to the minimum requirements, must elect CHEM 331, take a second semester of Physics (PHYS 117 or 124, or receive equivalent placement from the Physics Department), and successfully complete a senior thesis in Chemistry (CHEM 498/499D).

151 Introductory Chemistry

This course examines the structure of matter from both a microscopic and macroscopic viewpoint. We begin with a detailed discussion of the physical structure of atoms, followed by an analysis of how the interactions between atoms lead to the formation of molecules. The relationship between the structures of molecular compounds and their properties is then described. Experiments in the laboratory provide experience in conducting quantitative chemical measurements and illustrate principles discussed in the lectures.

Although this course has no prerequisites, students with a limited background in secondary school science should confer with one of the CHEM 151 instructors before registration. Each laboratory and discussion section is limited to 20 students.  In the fall, sufficient sections will be added to meet total enrollment.  The spring semester is limited to two laboratory sections.  Four class hours and three hours of laboratory per week.

Fall and Spring semesters. Professor Jaswal and Professor TBA.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

161 Chemical Principles

The concepts of thermodynamic equilibrium and kinetic stability are studied. Beginning with the laws of thermodynamics, we will develop a quantitative understanding of the factors which determine the extent to which chemical reactions can occur before reaching equilibrium. Chemical kinetics is the study of the factors, such as temperature, concentrations, and catalysts, which determine the speeds at which chemical reactions occur. Appropriate laboratory experiments supplement the lecture material. Each laboratory section is limited to 24 students.  In the spring, sufficient sections will be added to meet total enrollment.  The fall semester is limited to two laboratory sections.  Four class hours and three hours of laboratory work per week.

Requisite: CHEM 151 or 155 (this requirement may be waived for exceptionally well-prepared students; consent of the instructor is required); and MATH 111 or placement by the Mathematics department into MATH 121 or higher.  Fall semester: Visiting Professor Bengali. Spring semester: Visiting Professor Cartier.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024, Spring 2025

200H Being Human in STEM

This is an interactive course that combines academic inquiry and community engagement to investigate the theme of diversity within STEM fields--at Amherst and beyond. In the first half of the semester we ground our understanding of the STEM experience at Amherst in national and global contexts, specifically looking at the way in which gender, class, race, sexuality, and geographic upbringing might shape these experiences. We accomplish this through reading interdisciplinary scholarly literature and surveying existing evidence-based inclusive practices at a range of educational institutions. We will supplement this research with interviews with current and past members of the Amherst STEM community. In the second half of the semester, students will design their own group projects that apply the findings of their research to develop resources and engage the STEM community, whether at the college, local, or national level.  Course work includes weekly readings, reflective writing, in-class discussion, and will culminate in a public presentation on the group projects.

Not open to first year students. Limited to 18 students. This is a half credit course. Professor Jaswal and Ms. Lyster.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2019

221 Organic Chemistry I

A study of the structure of organic compounds and of the influence of structure upon the chemical and physical properties of these substances. The following topics are emphasized: hybridization, resonance theory, spectroscopy, stereochemistry, acid-base properties and nucleophilic substitution reactions. Periodically, examples will be chosen from recent articles in the chemical, biochemical, and biomedical literature. Laboratory work introduces the student to basic laboratory techniques and methods of instrumental analysis. Four hours of class and four hours of laboratory per week.

Requisite: CHEM 161 or equivalent.  Fall semester. Professor Bishop and Professor TBA.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024, Spring 2025

231 Organic Chemistry II

A continuation of CHEM 221. The second semester of the organic chemistry course first examines in considerable detail the chemistry of the carbonyl group and some classic methods of organic synthesis. The latter section of the course is devoted to a deeper exploration of a few topics, among which are the following: sugars, amino acids and proteins, advanced synthesis, and acid-base catalysis in nonenzymatic and enzymatic systems. The laboratory experiments illustrate both fundamental synthetic procedures and some elementary mechanistic investigations. Four hours of class and four hours of laboratory per week.

Requisite: CHEM 221.  Spring semester.  Professor Hansen.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024, Spring 2025

290, 290H, 390, 390H, 490, 490H Special Topics

A half course.

Admission with consent of the instructor.  Fall and spring semesters.  The Department.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

330 Biochemical Principles of Life at the Molecular Level

(Offered as CHEM 330 and BIOL 330) What are the molecular underpinnings of processes central to life?  We will explore the chemical and structural properties of biological molecules and learn the logic used by the cell to build complex structures from a few basic raw materials. Some of these complex structures have evolved to catalyze chemical reactions with enormous degree of selectivity and specificity, and we seek to discover these enzymatic strategies. We will consider the detailed balance sheet that shows how living things harvest energy from their environment to fuel metabolic processes and to reproduce and grow.  Examples of the exquisite control that permits a cell to be responsive and adapt its responses based on input from the environment will be considered.  We will also consider some of the means by which cells respond to change and to stress.  A student may not receive credit for both CHEM 330 and BCBP/BIOL/CHEM 331.

Requisite:  BIOL 191 and CHEM  221.  Limited to 40 students with 20 students per discussion section.  Fall semester.  Professor O'Hara and Professor TBA.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2025

351 Quantum Chemistry and Spectroscopy

The theory of quantum mechanics is developed and applied to spectroscopic experiments. Topics include the basic principles of quantum mechanics; the structure of atoms, molecules, and solids; and the interpretation of infrared, visible, fluorescence, and NMR spectra.  Appropriate laboratory work will be arranged. Three hours of class and four hours of laboratory per week.

Requisite: CHEM 161, MATH 121, PHYS 116 or 123.  Limited to 24 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Alaghemandi.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

361 Physical Chemistry

The thermodynamic principles and the concepts of energy, entropy, and equilibrium introduced in CHEM 161 will be expanded. Statistical mechanics, which connects molecular properties to thermodynamics, will be introduced. Typical applications are non-ideal gases, phase transitions, heat engines and perpetual motion, phase equilibria in multicomponent systems, properties of solutions (including those containing electrolytes or macromolecules), and transport across biological membranes. Appropriate laboratory work is provided. Four hours of class and four hours of laboratory per week.

Requisite: CHEM 161, PHYS 116 or 123, and MATH 121. MATH 211 is recommended.  Limited to 24 students. Fall semester.  Visiting Professor Cartier.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2025

371 Inorganic Chemistry

This course will discuss structure, bonding, and properties of transition metal-containing molecules and inorganic solids. Students will examine structure and bonding in transition metal complexes through molecular orbital and ligand field theories, with an emphasis on the magnetic, spectroscopic, and thermodynamic properties of transition metal complexes. The class will also examine reactions of transition metal complexes, including the unique chemistry of organometallic compounds. The laboratory experiments complement lecture material and include an independent project. Three hours of class and four hours of laboratory per week.

Requisite: CHEM 221 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students. Fall semester.  Professor Burkett.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

400 Molecular and Cellular Biophysics

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2025

498, 498D, 499, 499D Senior Departmental Honors

Open to Senior Honors candidates, and others with consent of the Department.  A full course.

Spring semester. The Department.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2025

Departmental Courses

331 Biochemistry

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

Related Courses

155 Fundamental Principles of Chemistry

A study of the basic concepts of chemistry for students particularly interested in natural science. Topics to be covered include atomic and molecular structure, spectroscopy, states of matter, and stoichiometry. These physical principles are applied to a variety of inorganic, organic, and biochemical systems. Both individual and bulk properties of atoms and molecules are considered with an emphasis on the conceptual foundations and the quantitative chemical relationships which form the basis of chemical science. This course is designed to utilize the background of those students with strong preparation in secondary school chemistry and to provide both breadth in subject matter and depth in coverage. Four hours of lecture and discussion and three hours of laboratory per week.

Limited to 40 students. Fall semester. Professor Kushick.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Fall 2024