Courses of Study 2015-2016 
    Sep 24, 2022  
Courses of Study 2015-2016 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Chemistry and Chemical Biology

In the College of Arts and Sciences .

Course Offerings  

The Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology offers a full range of courses in physical, organic, inorganic, and analytical chemistry and in chemical biology. Courses with numbers below 6000 are primarily intended for undergraduates, while courses with numbers above 6000 are primarily intended for graduate students. Advanced chemistry majors are encouraged to consider graduate courses in an area of interest. In addition to their teaching interests, our faculty members have active research programs. The link between teaching and research is a vital one in a continually evolving scientific subject; it ensures that students will be provided with the most advanced information and perspectives and affords opportunities for students to participate in research. For additional information about the department and course offerings, see the department website.



D. B. Collum, chair (122 Baker Laboratory, (607) 255-4175); B. R. Crane, associate chair; J. A. Marohn, director of undergraduate studies; H. Lin, director of graduate studies; H. D. Abruña, N. Ananth, Y. Aye, B. A. Baird, R. A. Cerione, P. Chen, G. W. Coates, H. F. Davis, W. R. Dichtel, F. J. DiSalvo, R. A. DiStasio, S. E. Ealick, G. S. Ezra, B. P. Fors, J. H. Freed, B. Ganem, M. A. Hines, C. Kinsland, K.M. Lancaster, S. Lee, C. Lewis, H. Lin, D. R. Lorey, R. F. Loring, J. Park, P. Petersen, T. Ruttledge, D. Y. Sogah, D. A. Usher, J. Wilson, P. T. Wolczanski, D. B. Zax

The Major:

The Cornell chemistry major combines rigor with flexibility, allowing students to explore chemistry and related areas and preparing them for a wide range of careers and professions.

 The curriculum for chemistry majors changed in the 2013-2014 academic year. Students entering Cornell as first year students prior to Fall, 2013 will follow the curriculum that was in place when they entered. Students entering Cornell in Fall, 2013 and later (classes of 2017 and later) will follow the new curriculum. Transfer students will follow the program that applies to their class.

A typical course schedule is:

  • first year: general chemistry and mathematics
  • second year: organic chemistry, organic laboratory, and physics
  • third year: physical chemistry lectures and laboratory, analytical chemistry laboratory
  • fourth year: inorganic chemistry

Students entering Cornell with advanced standing (Advanced Placement ) in Chemistry may choose CHEM 2150  in the first semester permitting an accelerated schedule.

  • first year: general chemistry, organic chemistry, mathematics
  • second year: organic chemistry and laboratory, inorganic chemistry, physics
  • third year: physical chemistry lecture and laboratory, analytical chemistry laboratory
  • fourth year: advanced courses

Admission to the Major (All Classes):

Admission to the chemistry major requires the satisfactory completion of a number of introductory courses which, when taken together, demonstrate a commitment to complete the major. Students who have completed the following courses with grades of C or better are almost always admitted to the major:

Students who are second-term sophomores or beyond who have completed all but one of these requirements may also be admitted to the major provided that they have a plan for completing the requirements for the major on schedule. Students with a grade of C– or lower in one of the required courses may be considered for admission to the major after additional coursework (typically one semester) has been performed satisfactorily. Students who have received more than one grade below C in the required courses are not encouraged to apply for admission to the major.

To apply for admission to the chemistry major, please fill out the Application for Admission to the Chemistry Major (and Course Program for the Alternative Chemistry Major, if necessary). Attach a copy of your most recent transcript, and submit the completed forms to the Office of Undergraduate Studies, 131 Baker Laboratory. You will be notified of the decision on your application and your major advisor by e-mail.

Classes of 2017 or later:

The chemistry major requires a total of 60 credits in chemistry and related subjects. These 60 credits must include the set of core courses listed below, together with a total of 8 credits of laboratory beyond general chemistry. Credit awarded by Cornell for scores on the CEEB Advanced Placement tests in chemistry, calculus, and physics may be substituted for the appropriate core courses. Outside of the core courses, the remainder of the 60 credits must be chosen from the elective courses designated below. These elective courses are selected from a variety of disciplines related to chemistry. Core courses and electives linked by “or” indicate that only one choice can be selected.

Many combinations of courses may be used to build the 60 credit chemistry major. For example, students wishing to focus on chemical biology may choose electives from the chemical biology courses offered in our department and from courses in other departments listed under Biology and Biochemistry. Students choosing to emphasize materials chemistry may choose electives from graduate level chemistry courses listed under Inorganic Chemistry and Organic and Polymer Chemistry, as well as from courses listed under Materials Science and Engineering. Those with an interest in science policy might choose courses listed under Science and Society, and those focusing at the interface between chemistry and physics can choose from graduate level courses in physical chemistry or from courses listed under Mathematics, Computer Science, and Physics. The wide selection of designated electives permits chemistry majors to add both depth and breadth to their curriculum.

Required Core Courses:

General Chemistry

Organic Chemistry

Students who are planning for graduate study in chemistry or a career as a chemist or healthcare professional are strongly advised to take a two-semester sequence. Chem 3570-3580 or Chem 3590-3600 is required for the Honors curriculum.

Physical Chemistry

Students planning for graduate study in chemistry or a career as a chemist are strongly advised to take CHEM 3890  -CHEM 3900 . CHEM 3890-3900 is required for the Honors curriculum. Students taking CHEM 3890-3900 are required to take a semester of multivariable calculus from the electives below.

Inorganic Chemistry

Core Laboratories

Students planning graduate study in chemistry or a career as a chemist are advised to take CHEM 3030 , which is required for the Honors curriculum.




A total of 8 credits of laboratory including core laboratories is required. This requirement may be met by taking CHEM 3010  and/or CHEM 3020  or by taking laboratory courses outside of chemistry that are listed under electives. Credits for independent research (CHEM 4210 , CHEM 4330 , CHEM 4610  or CHEM 4770 ) do not count toward the laboratory requirement. Note that the Honors curriculum requires CHEM 3010 , CHEM 3020 , and CHEM 3030 . This sequence is strongly advised for students planning graduate study in chemistry or a career as a chemist.


Electives from Chemistry and Chemical Biology

Any course offered by the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at the 4000 level or higher may be used as an elective. A complete listing can be found on the chemistry department’s course offerings page . In addition, the Chemistry Department website provides an abbreviated list.

Students who have completed the core courses are encouraged to take graduate courses at the 6000 or 7000 level in areas of interest. No more than four credits of independent research (CHEM 4210 , CHEM 4330 , CHEM 4610  or CHEM 4770 ) may be counted as an elective.

Electives from Other Departments

See the Chemistry Department website for the list of electives from other departments. Some courses may not be offered every year. Some courses may have additional prerequisites that do not count toward Chemistry electives credits.

Classes of 2015 and 2016:

The chemistry major offers two routes to the A.B. degree in Chemistry. The standard major provides preparation for students planning graduate study or a career in chemistry. The alternative major is a flexible program with a core of chemistry courses and room for a personalized plan of study including other areas of interest, such as biology, computer science, economics, or government. Students who wish to design a major comparable to the new curriculum instituted in Fall, 2013 can do so within the framework of the alternative major.

Standard Major—The standard major provides a comprehensive background in all fields of chemistry. Most students who complete the standard major go on to graduate study in chemistry or to medical school, although some students proceed directly to a position in the chemical industry.

Alternative Major—The alternative major offers a flexible program of study that is primarily designed for students who intend to double major in another field. For example, students majoring in biology can complete the alternative major with little additional class work. This program might also be attractive for students interested in law (especially patent law), as a double major in government or economics plus chemistry is quite feasible. This program is not suited to further graduate work in chemistry. With few exceptions, students in the alternative major are not chosen to participate in the honors program in chemistry.

Either version of the major can be completed in three years of study. Most students, however, complete all of the requirements in their first three years with the possible exception of CHEM 4100 - Inorganic Chemistry , which may be taken in the senior year.

The Standard Major:

The following courses must be completed for the standard major:

Additional Information:

Most standard majors also perform independent research at some point in their academic career, either during the semester or in the summer. Many students take advanced courses to complement this program.

The Alternative Major:

The following courses must be completed for the alternative major:

Physical chemistry:

Additional Requirements:

One additional 3- or 4-credit advanced chemistry course at the 3000-level or above. (CHEM 3580 , CHEM 3600  or CHEM 3900  can be used to satisfy this requirement.)

Three additional courses, of 3 or more credits each, that form a cohesive unit and are not at the introductory level. These three courses must be approved by the director of undergraduate studies.

The three additional courses may be in another field of study, such as biochemistry, physics, biology, materials science, economics, or government. Many students who double major use courses from their second major to satisfy this requirement.

Like the standard majors, many alternative majors perform independent research

Independent Research:

Chemistry majors are encouraged to participate in independent research through CHEM 4210 , CHEM 4330 , CHEM 4610 , or CHEM 4770 . These courses provide academic credit for research carried out in the laboratory of a departmental faculty member–or a faculty member in another department who is in the graduate field of chemistry. Students interested in starting a research project should contact potential faculty research supervisors to identify an advisor with an open position.


There are two routes to graduating as a chemistry major with Latin honors.

Honors based on GPA and curriculum:

Classes of 2015-2016:

Any student following the standard major in chemistry who has earned an overall Cornell GPA of 3.30 or higher by the end of the penultimate semester will be awarded the A. B. with honors (cum laude).

Classes of 2017 and later:

Any student following the honors curriculum in chemistry who has earned an overall Cornell GPA of 3.30 or higher by the end of the penultimate semester will be awarded the A. B. with honors (cum laude).

Honors based on independent research (All Classes):

Senior chemistry majors with superior grades in chemistry and related subjects and with excellent performance in at least four credits (or the equivalent) of undergraduate research in chemistry or a related field may be nominated to participate in CHEM 4980 - Honors Seminar . Rigor in course selection is also a criterion for invitation to CHEM 4980. Students completing the alternative major (classes of 2015 and 2016) are eligible for invitation only in exceptional cases. To ensure that the nomination process runs smoothly, all students who are interested in the Honors Seminar should discuss this possibility with their faculty advisor early in the Fall semester of the senior year. Admission to the Honors Seminar is by invitation only.

Students participating in CHEM 4980  attend lectures on a variety of topics not covered in conventional courses and present their research in a paper and in a seminar. Successful completion of CHEM 4980  leads to the A. B. with honors (cum laude) or high honors (magna cum laude, summa cum laude).

Laboratory Course Regulations:

Students and members of the teaching staff are required to wear safety goggles and lab aprons in all chemistry laboratories. Closed-toed footwear is required (no sandals). Students are reminded to take their goggles and lab aprons to the first laboratory session. Those who fail to cooperate with the safety program will be asked to leave the laboratories.

Students in first semester general chemistry courses (CHEM 1560 , CHEM 2070 CHEM 2090  and CHEM 2150 ) are charged a mandatory laboratory fee and will be provided with safety goggles and lab aprons at their first laboratory session.

Students in CHEM 2080  who did not take a first semester general chemistry course at Cornell (i.e. advanced or transfer credit was used) are charged a mandatory laboratory fee and will be provided with safety goggles and lab aprons at their first laboratory session.

Students in organic labs (CHEM 2510  and CHEM 3010 ) and advanced labs (CHEM 2900 CHEM 3020  and CHEM 3030 ) are required to provide their own safety goggles and lab aprons. No laboratory fees are charged for these courses. However, students in CHEM 2510  and CHEM 3010  are required to pay for glassware and any other items broken during the semester as well as for any items broken or missing from their laboratory desks at the end of the semester. Students who fail to inventory their desks at the appointed time in the presence of their instructor are charged an abandoned desk fee in addition to charges to replace any broken or missing items.