In the College of Arts and Sciences.
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.
B. Crane, chair (122 Baker Laboratory, 607-255-4175); G. Cotes, associate chair; J. A. Marohn, director of undergraduate studies; H. F. Davis, director of graduate studies; D. B. Zax, master’s program director; H. D. Abruña, N. Ananth, N. Ando, B. A. Baird, J. Baskin, R. A. Cerione, P. Chen, G. W. Coates, D. B. Collum, R. A. DiStasio, S. E. Ealick, G. S. Ezra, B. P. Fors, B. Ganem, M. A. Hines, C. Kinsland, T. Lambert, K. M. Lancaster, S. Lee, H. Lin, S. Lin, D. R. Lorey, R. F. Loring, P. Milner, T. Ruttledge, F. Schroeder, J. Wilson, P. T. Wolczanski
Overview of the Major
The Cornell chemistry major combines rigor with flexibility, allowing students to explore chemistry and related fields while preparing them for a wide range of careers and professions. The Cornell chemistry major offers multiple routes to earning the Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry. The two most commonly followed routes are shown below. See The Major in Detail section for a more thorough explanation of the multiple ways to complete the chemistry major. Students who earned a sufficiently high score on the AP (Advanced Placement) chemistry exam may take CHEM 2150 and begin on the accelerated track.
- first year: general chemistry, mathematics
- second year: organic chemistry lecture(s) and laboratory, physics
- third year: physical chemistry lecture(s) and laboratory, one other advanced laboratory
- fourth year: inorganic chemistry
- first year: general chemistry, organic chemistry I, mathematics
- second year: organic chemistry II and laboratories, inorganic chemistry, physics
- third year: physical chemistry lectures and laboratory, analytical chemistry laboratory
- fourth year: advanced courses
Admission to the Major
Admission to the chemistry major requires the satisfactory completion of a number of introductory courses which, when taken together, demonstrate an interest in the different subfields of chemistry and an interest in completing the major. Students usually apply to the major in their sophomore year, at which time they should have completed the following courses.
It is expected that students will have earned a C or better in these courses. Students with a grade of C– or lower in one of these required courses may be considered for admission to the major after they have completed additional coursework (typically one semester) satisfactorily. 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. To apply to the major, please follow the directions given at: chemistry.cornell.edu/undergraduate.
The Major in Detail
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 and to construct a degree that best suits their future plans.
Required Core Courses
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. One of the two-semester sequences – CHEM 3570 & CHEM 3580 or CHEM 3590 & CHEM 3600 – is required for the Honors curriculum.
Students planning for graduate study in chemistry or a career as a chemist are strongly advised to take CHEM 3890 & CHEM 3900, which are required for the Honors curriculum. Students taking CHEM 3890 & CHEM 3900 are required to take a prerequisite semester of multivariable calculus from the electives below.
Students planning graduate study in chemistry or a career as a chemist are advised to take CHEM 3020 and CHEM 3030, which are required for the Honors curriculum.
AP credit may be substituted for one or more of these courses.
The non-calculus-based introductory physics courses PHYS 1101 & PHYS 1102 are NOT acceptable. AP credit may be substituted for one or both of these courses.
Required Advanced Laboratory Courses
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 advanced laboratory 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. Be aware that some courses may have additional prerequisites that do not count toward Chemistry electives credits.
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 in the laboratory of a faculty member in another department who is a member of 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.
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).
Senior chemistry majors with superior grades in chemistry and related subjects, who have selected a rigorous group of courses, and who have demonstrated 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, the Honors Seminar, by their research advisor or the Director of Undergraduate Studies. 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 their senior year. Admission to the Honors Seminar is by invitation only, or by permission from the Director of Undergraduate Studies. 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 are allowed. Students will be issued safety goggles and a lab apron their first day of lab. Students are reminded to bring their goggles and lab aprons with them to every subsequent laboratory session. Those who fail to cooperate with the safety program will be asked to leave the laboratory.
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.