Welcome Students Class of 2018

Students of the Class of 2018,

Welcome to Amherst! 

The information on this page explains the several options available to those of you who wish to enroll in a chemistry course in your first year.  Shortly before you arrive on campus, the chemistry department will provide recommended placements in chemistry for each student in the class of 2018 using a combination of indicators provided by the Office of Admissions and the Office of Institutional Research. This information, once it becomes available, can be accessed by you and by your faculty advisor via AC Data.

Further information and details will be made available to you during the orientation period, when you will meet with your orientation advisor on Wednesday, August 27 and during the information meetings with academic departments on Monday, August 25.  As you read the guidelines below, please also refer to the course descriptions in the College Catalog and to your recommended CHEM placement, once it becomes available, in AC Data.

Introductory Chemistry (Chem 151) is the appropriate course for most first year students who wish to take chemistry, including those who intend to go to medical school immediately after graduation or are thinking about a major in chemistry, biology, physics, neuroscience, geology or environmental studies.  The typical Chem 151 student goes on to take Chem 161 (Chemical Principles) in the spring, although both of these courses are offered each fall and spring.  Chem 151 has no prerequisites, but it assumes a good secondary school background in chemistry and physics. Students with a limited background in secondary school science should consult with Professor Sandra Burkett or Professor Joseph Kushick before registration.  The course will consist of fifty-minute lectures three times a week, a weekly fifty-minute discussion and problem-solving session, often called a "fourth hour", and a weekly three-hour lab.  There are two independent sections of the course this fall, covering the same topics, and students should choose a section based on their preferred discussion and lab schedule: both sections have lectures at the same time, but CHEM-151-01 is associated with Monday afternoon discussion sessions and with labs on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, whereas CHEM-151-02 has a Friday afternoon discussion and a Monday lab. Students registering for CHEM-151-01 must also register for one discussion session (CHEM-151F-0n, n = 1, 2, 3, or 4) and one laboratory session (CHEM-151L-0m, m = 1, 2, 3, or 4), whereas students registering for CHEM-151-02 are automatically registered for the associated discussion and lab sessions.  Please be aware that continuing in chemistry beyond Chem 151 requires completion of Math 111 or placement by the Mathematics Department into Math 121 or higher.  It is your responsibility to fulfill this prerequisite either by taking Math 111 or providing the Math Department with the information necessary for placement.

Introductory Chemistry Intensive (Chem 151I) is designed for students with a more limited chemistry or math background in secondary school. The course is identical in almost all respects to Chem 151, and like Chem 151, is taken by first year students who wish to take chemistry, including those who intend to go to medical school or are thinking about a major in chemistry, biology, physics, neuroscience, geology or environmental studies. Enrollment in the intensive section is by invitation and is accomplished by registering for CHEM-151I-01 in addition to the lecture (CHEM-151-01), discussion section (CHEM-151F-0n, n = 1, 2, 3, or 4), and laboratory section (CHEM-151L-0m, m = 1, 2, 3, or 4) for Chemistry 151.  A student recommended for Chem 151I may enroll in CHEM-151-02, with its associated Monday lab and Friday discussion, but it is not possible to enroll in CHEM-151I-01 if one is enrolled in CHEM-151-02. 

Special note for students placing into Math 105 Students are not permitted to take Math 105 and Chem 151 simultaneously. Experience has shown that students placed in Math 105 have difficulty if they take Chem 151 in their first semester at Amherst, and taking Chem 151 without first taking Math 105 is strongly discouraged.  Chen 151 is also offered in the spring semester, and many students who take Math 105 in the fall enroll in Chem 151 in their second semester

Fundamental Principles of Chemistry (Chem 155) is an advanced version of introductory chemistry intended for students who have an unusually strong background in the physical sciences and mathematics.  Some familiarity and prior experience with the basic principles of calculus are expected.  This course is offered in the fall only, and has limited enrollment.  It presents introductory chemistry from a point of view that emphasizes physical principles and more rigorous mathematical reasoning.  Many, but not all, students who anticipate majoring in chemistry enroll in this course.  Indeed, in recent years roughly half of graduating chemistry majors took Chem 155 in their first year, while half started with Chem 151.  Chem 155 also consists of three lectures (CHEM-155-01), a discussion section (CHEM-155F-0n, n = 1 or 2), and a laboratory section (CHEM-155L-0m, m = 1 or 2) each week as described above for Chem 151.  Please also see the comments above regarding the required Math prerequisite for subsequent chemistry courses.

In the first days of the semester, the chemistry faculty will review the pre-college records of all beginning students enrolled in chemistry courses.  Based on this information, some students will be advised to switch their enrollments.  We encourage you to speak to a Department member if you have concerns about which course is appropriate for you, if you have scheduling issues, or if you have any other questions about chemistry courses.

After Chem 151 or 155, all students who have satisfied the appropriate Math prerequisite normally take Chem 161 (offered in both the fall and spring semesters), since distinctions based on pre-college preparation tend to fade after one semester. On rare occasions a student has a level of pre-college preparation that is so superior that initial placement in Chem 161 is indicated. Consult the the Chemistry Placement and Advising web page if you believe that you may qualify for such placement, and plan to meet with a department member when you arrive at Amherst.

We would like to extend an invitation to each of you to take a chemistry course sometime during the four years that you will be here.  Please don't hesitate to come up to the fifth floor of Merrill and visit our faculty and students in the labs.  Contact any one of us if you have any questions.


Merrill Hall