Professors Bishop, Hansen, Jaswal, Leung (Co-Chair), Marshall (Co-Chair), and O’Hara†; Associate Professor Burkett‡; Assistant Professors Durr, Olshansky, and Wiscons; Lecturer Cartier; Visiting Professor Lara Halaoui; Academic Managers Ampiah-Bonney and Reutenauer; Laboratory Instructor Rotondi.
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, but excluding special topics courses (CHEM-390/490) and Senior Departmental Honors (CHEM-498/499). Alternatively, a chemistry-related course beyond the introductory level in another department (at Amherst or one of the other Five Colleges) may be used to satisfy this requirement upon approval by the student's chemistry major advisor. 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.
All chemistry majors must complete eight college chemistry courses; for those majors completing a thesis, this is in addition to CHEM-498/499. Students who in their first year receive an initial placement into a course other than CHEM-151 or CHEM-155 will therefore need to complete additional elective courses to bring their total number of college chemistry courses to eight. Transfer students who have received credit for college chemistry courses taken elsewhere may apply those courses towards this total.
Effective with the Class of 2024E, the requirements for a Chemistry major will additionally include a course focusing on structural and systemic issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Students may choose a course from an approved list (to be made available on the Department website) that includes courses offered by the Chemistry Department, other departments at Amherst College, or within the Five Colleges. In consultation with their Chemistry major advisor, students may alternatively propose a course not on this list to be approved by the Chemistry Department. Students will share their experience in the course with members of the Chemistry Department through a presentation during the department’s seminar series.
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; biological fluorescence and single-molecule spectroscopy; proteostasis - balancing protein synthesis and degradation; high resolution molecular spectroscopy of jet-cooled species; ab initio, quantum chemical calculation of molecular properties and intermolecular interactions; biochemical characterization of protein tyrosine phosphatases; design and synthesis of allosteric enzyme inhibitors and activators; investigation of the protein folding landscape of kinetically stabilized proteins; development of hydrogen exchange mass spectrometry methodology to monitor protein folding and dynamics; the design and synthesis of self-assembling organic nanostructures; and computational assessment of rapid amide-bond cleavage; organometallic catalyst design and polymer synthesis; light-initiated charge and energy transfer in nanoscale systems.
Notes on Placement: The Department offers two different yearlong general-chemistry sequences: CHEM 151 followed by CHEM 161 and CHEM 155 followed by CHEM 165. Upon arrival at the College, first-year students will receive placements in either CHEM 151 or CHEM 155, based upon prior preparation in both math and the physical sciences.
Note that, whereas CHEM 151 is offered in both the fall and spring semesters, CHEM 155 is only offered in the fall. Therefore, incoming students who place into CHEM 155 must take the course in the fall if they wish to begin their chemistry studies during their first year at the College.
It is strongly recommended that incoming students who place into MATH 105 should take MATH 105 before taking CHEM 151. First-year students who take MATH 105 in the fall often enroll in CHEM 151 the following spring. In addition, note that MATH 111 is a prerequisite for CHEM 161. (This prerequisite can also be fulfilled by completion of both MATH 105 and MATH 106 or placement by the mathematics department into MATH 121 or higher.
Occasionally, entering students have credit from previous college chemistry courses and wish to place out of courses in the Department’s general-chemistry sequences. Students considering placing out of one or more general-chemistry courses are advised to contact the Department soon after arriving on campus. The Department will evaluate these requests on a case-by-case basis.
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).
*On leave 2022-2023. †On leave fall semester 2022-2023. ‡On leave spring semester 2022-2023.
Living organisms require resources to fuel the processes necessary for staying alive. We require a certain number of calories to fuel metabolic processes and to provide building blocks to replace old cells and build new ones. Our food should provide a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals that we need to consume regularly for a healthy existence. Yet humans have developed another relationship with food that can be either enriching or pathological. Sharing meals with others, developing the skills to enjoy the sensory pleasures of food, learning about other cultures through their gastronomic habits, and eating moderately while consciously are all examples of a deeper productive relationship with food. On the darker side, food can be a palliative to relieve our stress or satiate our addictions to sugar, fats, or salt. Modern humans can be so far removed from our food sources that we lose the connection between animal and meat and do not know if the food on our plates contains added hormones, pesticides, or genetically modified products. This course will examine our core requirements for food as we eat to live, and some of the cultural, social, historical, and culinary dimensions as we live to eat. Readings will include On Food and Cooking, by Harold McGee, Taste What You're Missing: The Passionate Eater's Guide to Why Good Food Tastes Good, by Barb Stuckey, and selections from Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young and Maxime Billet.
The three sections will meet together for 80-minute lecture/demos twice a week, and each section will meet separately for a culinary lab once a week for 150 minutes.
Limited to 48 students. Spring semester. Professor O'Hara and Wu Orr.2023-24: Not offered
(Offered as ARHA 110 and CHEM 110.) This interdisciplinary course is focused on exploring color through the lenses of science, culture and art. We will study how we perceive color down to the molecular level and how it impacts us as viewers. The course will seek to develop a broad, shared, set of topics that will allow students to weave together scientific and artistic concepts, rather than isolate them. As it is possible to approach color from many different disciplines, we encourage any interested student, regardless of academic focus, to register. A core goal of the course is to encourage a holistic discussion of the topic. Students will be asked to write about their observations of color through art and will have the opportunity to make their own original pieces. In addition, class activities will include lectures, invited speakers, discussion, and a final project.
Limited to 18 students. Professor Durr and Professor Clark.2023-24: Not offered
(Offered as ARHA 120, CHEM 120 and ARCH 120) This course introduces students to the social and chemical characteristics of the buildings and landscapes that slaves constructed in North Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, West Africa, and the Indian Ocean from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. In looking at construction histories from Suriname to Bengal, we will engage the knowledge of plants that enslaved builders wielded to raise structures made of wood, straw, coral, earth, and fibers. Recognizing that construction involves both the assemblage of dwellings and the mastery of resources, we will also approach a number of topics, including but not limited to: the usage of aloe on the part of enslaved loggers in Mauritius to heal the wounds that their hatchets inflicted upon them; the role of forced labor in the establishment of the wine industry and its vineyards in French colonial Algeria; the usage of marijuana as a medicinal agent among enslaved construction laborers from West Africa to the Caribbean; garden construction, meal preparation, and the poisoning of slave owners in Haiti; and contemporary efforts to preserve the landscapes of enslaved plant knowledge in the age of climate change. Each week, students will participate in activities designed to cultivate a more nuanced understanding of the chemical properties of the plant specimens addressed. Lectures and discussions will attempt to bridge the gap between chemistry and architectural studies by combining analyses of humanities readings with investigations of plant-based natural products. The goal will be to foster an understanding of both enslaved plant knowledge and the plants themselves that have defined construction labor under slavery.
No prerequisites. No prior knowledge of chemistry or architectural history is required for this class. Class will meet synchronously.
Omitted: 2022-2023.2023-24: Not offered
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 component provide experience in conducting quantitative chemical measurements and illustrate principles discussed in the lectures. Placement into CHEM 151 is determined by the chemistry department.
Each laboratory section is limited to 20 students. In the fall, sufficient laboratory 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 Semester: Professor Burkett. Spring Semester: Professor Durr.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
Lab Section for CHEM 151.Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023
Fundamental Principles of Chemistry LabOther years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023
As a bridge to prior learning, we will begin with the study of intermolecular forces and their ubiquitous role in chemistry and biology. We will then introduce chemical kinetics to understand the role temperature, concentration, and catalysts play in determining the speeds at which chemical reactions occur and to introduce the concept of chemical equilibrium. Through a thorough treatment of 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 the state of equilibrium. The course will consist of asynchronous lectures and synchronous group work, discussion, problem solving, and labs. Appropriate laboratory experiments supplement the lecture material. Four class hours and three hours of laboratory work per week.
Requisite: CHEM 151, or consent of the instructor; and MATH 111 or placement by the Mathematics department into MATH 121 or higher.
Fall and Spring semesters: Lecturer 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
Chemical Principles LabOther years: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023
The concepts of thermodynamic equilibrium and kinetic reactivity will be studied. The course seeks to understand the dynamics of chemical reactions. Specifically, we will be exploring the issues that control whether a specific reaction can occur (i.e., if it is even possible) and how fast a feasible reaction will occur. Closely connected to the first concern is the position of chemical equilibrium, which defines the direction in which a reaction will proceed and the extent to which it will occur. In spite of its universality in describing systems at equilibrium and whether interconversions are possible, thermodynamics makes no statement about the rate at which equilibrium is approached. We will use the language of thermodynamics to investigate chemical kinetics, the study of factors that determine reactions rates. This course is designed to utilize the background of those students with strong preparation in science and mathematics and to provide both breadth in subject matter and depth in coverage. Each laboratory section is limited to 24 students; sufficient sections will be added to meet total enrollment. Four class hours and three hours of laboratory work per week.
Requisite: CHEM 155, or consent of instructor; MATH 111, or placement by the Mathematics department into MATH 121 or higher.
Spring semester: Professors Leung and Marshall.Other years: Offered in Spring 2023
Thermodynmics & Kinetics LabOther years: Offered in Spring 2023
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, stereochemistry, acid-base properties, nucleophilic substitution reactions, and spectroscopy. 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. Each laboratory 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. Three hours of lecture, one hour of discussion section, and three and one-half hours of laboratory per week.
Prerequisite: CHEM 161 or CHEM 165.
Fall Semester: Professor Hansen. Spring Semester: Prof. Wiscons.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
Organic Chemistry I LabOther years: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023
A continuation of CHEM 221. The second semester of the organic chemistry course first examines the chemistry of aromatic derivatives and then in considerable detail the chemistry of the carbonyl group and some classic methods of organic synthesis. Periodically, examples will be chosen from recent articles in the chemical, biochemical, and biomedical literature. The laboratory experiments illustrate both fundamental synthetic procedures and some elementary mechanistic investigations. Four hours of class and three and a half hours of laboratory per week.
Prerequisite: CHEM 221.
Fall Semester: Professors Wiscons and Bishop; Spring Semester: Professors Hansen and Bishop.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
SEE CHEM 231Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023
(Offered as BIOL-150, CHEM-250) This is an interactive course that combines academic inquiry and community engagement to investigate identity, inequality and representation within Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields--at Amherst and beyond. We begin the course by grounding our understanding of the STEM experience at Amherst in national and global contexts. We will survey the interdisciplinary literature on the ways in which identity - race, gender, class, ability, sexuality- and geographic context shape STEM persistence and belonging. We will bring this literature into conversation with our own Amherst experiences. These challenging conversations require vulnerability, openness and the ability to tolerate discomfort. We will work from day one to build a brave space whose foundation is trust, accountability and growth. Students will design group projects that apply themes from the literature and our seminar discussions to develop resources and engage the STEM community, whether at the college, local, or national level. Course work includes critical reading and discussion, reflective writing, and collaborative work culminating in community engagement proposals which students will share with the campus and the broader public.
Open to sophomores, juniors and seniors. This course will be taught in two sections
Offered Spring Semester: Professors Jaswal and Trapani.Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, January 2021, January 2022, Spring 2022, Spring 2023
In this discussion- and project-based course, students will learn about the historical context and systemic exclusion inherent to the development of western science. Students will explore the role that chemistry has played in human society and how social structures have, in turn, influenced the field of chemistry. With this context established, students will research contemporary strategies that are or have been employed to make the field of chemistry more inclusive within classroom and research settings. Students will then execute independent projects to more deeply explore the interconnectedness between topics of identity (such as race, sex, and socioeconomic status), inclusive practices, and Chemistry within the Amherst College community or broader communities.
Prerequisite: CHEM-151 or CHEM-155
Limited to 20 students. Fall Semester: Professors Olshansky and Wiscons.2023-24: Not offered
Independent reading or research course. Full 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
(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 an 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/BIOL 330 and BCBP/BIOL/CHEM 331. Note: BCBP/BIOL/CHEM 331 is a requirement for the biochemistry track of the BCBP major, so prospective BCBP majors should not enroll in CHEM/BIOL 330 if they are considering the biochemistry track of the major.
Requisite: BIOL 191 and CHEM 221. Limited to 40 students with 20 students per discussion section.
Spring Semester: Professor Bishop.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
The foundations of analytical chemistry are explored and developed in this course. These include principles of experimental design, sampling, calibration strategies, standardization, statistics, and the validation of experimental results. The course begins with a rapid review of the basic tools necessary for analytical chemistry (significant figures, units, and stoichiometry) and an introduction to the terminology of analytical chemistry. It continues with a number of topics important for understanding how analytical methods work: statistical analysis of data, standardization methods and means for calibrating equipment, applications of equilibrium chemistry in analytical chemistry, methods of sample collection, and separation of analytes and the removal of interferents. Major methods of analysis, including gravimetry, titrimetry, spectroscopy, and electrochemistry, are covered. Appropriate laboratory work will be arranged. Three hours of class and three and one-half hours of laboratory per week.
Requisite: CHEM 161 or 165, CHEM 221, and MATH 121. Limited to 24 students.
Omitted 2022-2023.2023-24: Not offered
One of the most pressing scientific and technological challenges of the times is to devise efficient and sustainable renewable energy systems, accessible to all, that can mitigate the devastating effects that fossil fuel burning has had on our climate and the threat to future generations on earth. The sun is an awesome source of energy; one-hour of sunlight is sufficient to power the planet for one year. Electrochemical energy systems have offered solutions for sustainability by allowing conversion of light energy into electrical energy or chemical energy, then storage and utilization on demand. Electrochemistry is the foundation science for understanding and developing devices for energy conversion and storage. This course introduces the fundamental principles and techniques of electrochemistry and its applications in renewable energy technologies. Topics include an introduction to electrochemical cells, electrochemical thermodynamics, kinetics of electrode reactions, and essential electrochemical methods to study electrode reactions. After setting the foundation, students will learn the principles and processes of applications in energy conversion and storage, including electrocatalysis and photocatalysis, photoelectrochemical solar cells, fuel cells, batteries, supercapacitors, and artificial photosynthesis by solar water splitting to produce hydrogen or carbon dioxide reduction towards fuels and value-added chemicals. In concluding class discussions and upon reading from the current primary literature, students will use the knowledge gained to think of emerging approaches to improve efficiency and lower cost of energy systems and will gain insight into the current state of renewable energy science and technology towards a sustainable future. Students with interest in climate and renewable energy science, technology, and policy will benefit from the course.
Spring semester. Limited to 25 students. Professor Halaoui2023-24: Not offered
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, and fluorescence spectra. Appropriate laboratory work will be arranged. Three hours of class and four hours of laboratory per week.
Requisite: CHEM 161 or 165, CHEM 221, MATH 121, PHYS 116 or 123. Limited to 24 students.
Fall semester: Professor Leung.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
The thermodynamic principles and the concepts of energy, entropy, and equilibrium introduced in CHEM 161/165 will be expanded. Statistical mechanics, which connects molecular properties to thermodynamics, will be introduced. We will spend significant time constructing, analyzing, and interpreting microscopic models of matter and will use these models to understand our macroscopic world. Examples will be drawn from chemistry, biology, and nanoscience and include non-ideal gases, solid-state materials, phase transitions, phase equilibria in multicomponent systems, properties of solutions, protein folding, and ligand binding. Appropriate laboratory work is provided. Three hours of class and four hours of laboratory per week.
Requisite: CHEM 161 or 165, PHYS 116 or 123, and MATH 121. MATH 211 is recommended. Limited to 30 students.
Spring semester: Professor Olshansky.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
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, one hour of discussion and four hours of laboratory per week.
Requisite: CHEM 221 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students.
Fall semester: Professor Durr.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Fall 2022, Fall 2023
Materials – both naturally occurring and human-made – are the solid "stuff" of everyday life. Technological advances are often limited by materials challenges and are often driven by the development of new materials. A fundamental principle of materials science is that the properties of a solid are related to its atomic and molecular structure, as well as to its organization on larger length scales than are traditionally considered in chemistry. We will explore the connections within the "materials science tetrahedron" of structure, properties, processing, and performance for a range of materials including metals, glasses and ceramics, polymers or plastics, and composites. Specific systems may include semiconductors and materials for electronics technology, energy and battery materials, optical and photovoltaic materials, “smart” responsive or self-healing materials, materials for sports and apparel, renewably sourced and recyclable materials, natural and bioinspired materials, biomedical materials, and art and architectural materials and conservation.
Requisite: CHEM 151 or 155, plus two courses in CHEM and/or PHYS, or instructor permission. Limited to 12 students.
Open to Senior Honors candidates 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
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 science and mathematics and to provide both breadth in subject matter and depth in coverage. Placement into CHEM 155 is determined by the chemistry department. Four hours of lecture and discussion and three hours of laboratory per week.
Each laboratory section is limited to 20 students. Sufficient sections will be added to meet total enrollment.
Fall semester: Professor Olshansky and Visiting Professor Halaoui.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2022, Fall 2023