FAQ

Academics

Q: Should I take two lab courses in one semester?

A: Many people will try to advise you against taking two lab sciences in the same semester. Before you take their advice seriously, ask how many of them are scientists. All Chemistry and Biological Chemistry majors will take two laboratory courses in several semesters, particularly if they wish to consider studying abroad during their junior year. Although it is not essential for you to take two laboratory courses in your first semester, it is certainly possible to do so, and may help you greatly as you plan for the next four years. Please talk to the Department Chair, or any other faculty member in the sciences, if you have additional questions about this.

Q: What courses are offered?

A: The Chemistry Department offers a rich curriculum designed to prepare students for graduate programs, professional school, the workplace, or as part of a broad liberal education. Please check the course catalog for a complete list of course offerings.

Q: Some of my friends and I were discussing study abroad programs when we noticed most of the courses you can take abroad are humanities courses. Does that mean that as science majors all the courses you take must be taken in the US through the 12-College exchange program, transfer credits, or at Wellesley?

A: If you plan ahead, you can do a chemistry major without taking any chemistry during the year abroad. Alternatively, with PRIOR approval from the department, you could take chemistry courses abroad. Electronic syllabi are needed for evaluation. Chemistry is a universal language!

Q: What are the Major and Minor requirements?

A: Any student who plans to take chemistry beyond 205, or 120 should consult one or more members of the chemistry department faculty. Please check the major and minor requirements page for further information.

Please click here for further information on the biological chemistry major.

Q: What are department recommendations for pre-med (or other pre-health professions) students?

We are assuming that all students will take 2 semesters of introductory
chemistry (CHEM105 or 105P, and 205) and 2 of organic (CHEM211 and 212).
Students who have 5 on the AP chemistry exam and therefore place into CHEM 120
may now retain AP credit.
 
Students have several options for biochemistry:
- For those taking one semester of biochemistry who do not need a lab, the
new course, CHEM 220, is recommended. This course does NOT count
toward the minimal major or minor in Chemistry.
- For those taking one semester of biochemistry who do need/want a lab
(including those who took CHEM 120), CHEM 222 is recommended. This
course counts towards the minimal major or minor.
- For those who are planning to take a full year of biochemistry OR who
want to pursue a minor and will take CHEM/BIOC 331 as their physical
chemistry course, CHEM/BIOC 223 is the right choice.
 
Students who wish to minor in Chemistry should be sure to choose courses that will
allow them to fulfill pre-requisites for physical chemistry. As noted above, CHEM/
BIOC 223 will allow them to take CHEM/BIOC 331: Physical Chemistry of Biological
Systems, which does not have a lab. Otherwise, they may take CHEM 330, Physical
Chemistry I, but that has a pre-requisite of MATH 215 (STRONGLY RECOMMENDED)
or MATH 205.
 

Research

Q: What research opportunities does the department offer?

A: Research involving students and faculty is an integral part of our chemistry curriculum. All chemistry majors are required at least one semester of independent research and most of our majors complete more than that. Many options exist for involvement in research activities from volunteering in a research lab at Wellesley, taking one or more independent study courses, doing a senior thesis, doing summer research at Wellesley or elsewhere and doing research away from the college during the academic year.  

Our department is pioneering a new program within the college by separating the senior thesis experience from graduation with departmental honors. Departmental honors via a senior thesis is open only to students with the requisite grades. We think that the experience of a senior thesis is of value to all of our majors and that is the reason for decoupling the two processes.

Please check the student research opportunities page for further information.

Departmental

Q: What do chemists do for fun?

A: Ranging from mole day to nitrogen ice cream parties, we have a whole lot to keep us busy!

Q: What career opportunities exist for chemistry majors?

A: Because of the vital role chemistry plays in our daily lives, and because a knowledge of chemistry is essential in other disciplines such as biology, geology, and engineering, diverse job opportunities exist for chemistry majors.  Historically, suitable career opportunities in chemistry have been narrowly defined, usually limited to bench scientist positions in an industrial laboratory, perhaps working on product development.  Although such opportunities continue to attract chemists (i.e. pharmaceutical industry), the problem solving and critical thinking skills acquired by chemistry students make them ideal candidates for jobs in nontraditional careers such as marketing and sales, human resources, law, chemical information service, consulting, business management, and even investment banking.  While a B.S. may be adequate for a job as a high school chemistry teacher, a Ph.D. in chemistry is required for a tenure track faculty position at a college or university.  Ph.D. chemists in industry typically earn 50% more than B.S. or M.S. chemists, and have significantly higher responsibilities.  Students should seek on-line career information at the American Chemical Society home page.

Q: What trends do you see occurring in the field?

A: Even industrial giants such as IBM and AT&T, companies that contributed immensely to basic research, now focus more on applied research, resulting in fewer job opportunities in basic research. More career opportunities are becoming available at the intersection of chemistry and other disciplines, especially biology. In 1995, the National Research Council's Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy called for dramatic changes in the training of Ph.D.s -- better preparation for employment in fields other than academic research. From 1974 to 1994, women's share of chemical degrees has risen in all three categories: B.S. (20% to 41%), M.S. (23% to 39%), and Ph.D. (10% to 30%). Because U.S. companies continue to expand their R&D activities abroad, chemists working in industry must be prepared to spend several years overseas.

Q: What preparation/experience is helpful for undergraduates and recent alumnae considering graduate school?

A: Graduate schools in chemistry place significant emphasis on undergraduate research experiences obtained either at Wellesley or elsewhere (e.g., a national laboratory). Good communication skills, oral and written, are necessary for survival both in graduate school as well as in chemical careers. A Wellesley student planning to do a Ph.D. in physical or inorganic chemistry should consider taking additional courses in mathematics (e.g., Math 216) and/or electronics (Physics 219). When considering graduate school study, students should be aware of the Doctor of Chemistry (DChem) programs in addition to traditional Ph.D. programs. The former emphasize practical problem solving skills essential to the chemical industry. Information about individual universities may be obtained on-line.

Q: What subspecialty areas are in greatest demand?

A: Due to their many practical applications, analytical chemistry, medicinal chemistry, biochemistry, materials chemistry, polymer chemistry, and environmental chemistry continue to be areas of job growth.  The rapid developments in computational chemistry during the last five years, both in academia and industry, should spark a resurgence in theoretical chemistry.

Related

Contact Us

Department of Chemistry
Science Center
Wellesley College
106 Central Street
Wellesley, MA 02481

 

Adele Wolfson
Department Chair
awolfson@wellesley.edu
Tel: 781.283.3106
Fax: 781.283.3642

 

Deborah Nickerson
Administrative Assistant
dnickers@wellesley.edu
Tel: 781.283.3114
Fax: 781.283.3642

 

Karen Blake
Administrative Assistant
kblake@wellesley.edu
Tel: 781.283.3022
Fax: 781.283.3642