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Chemistry

Administrative Information

Director of Undergraduate Studies: Prof. Laura Kaufman, 628 Havemeyer; 854-9025; kaufman@chem.columbia.edu

Program Manager for Undergraduate Studies: Dr. Vesna Gasperov, 211A Havemeyer; 854-2017; vg2231@columbia.edu

Biochemistry Advisers:
Biology: Prof. Alexander Tzagoloff, 716 Fairchild; 854-2919; spud@cubpet.bio.columbia.edu

Chemistry: Prof. Virginia Cornish, 414 Havemeyer; 854-5209; vc114@columbia.edu

Undergraduate Office: 340 Havemeyer; 854-2163

Departmental Office: 344 Havemeyer; 854-2202

Professors
Bruce J. Berne
Ronald Breslow
Louis E. Brus
Virginia W. Cornish
Samuel J. Danishefsky
Kenneth B. Eisenthal
George W. Flynn
Richard A. Friesner
James L. Leighton
Ann E. McDermott
Jack R. Norton
Colin Nuckolls
Gerard Parkin
David R. Reichman
Brent Stockwell
Xiaoyang Zhu

Associate Professors
Angelo Cacciuto
Dalibor Sames
Ruben Gonzalez
Laura Kaufman
Tristan Lambert

Assistant Professors
Luis Campos
Wei Min
Jonathan Owen
Xavier Roy

Lecturers
Luis Avila
Robert Beer
John Decatur
Charles E. Doubleday
Fay Ng
Ruben Savizky

Chemistry, the study of molecules, is a central science interesting for its own sake but also necessary as an intellectual link to the other sciences of biology, physics, and environmental science. Faculty find the various disciplines of chemistry fascinating because they establish intellectual bridges between the macroscopic or human-scale world that we see and smell and touch and the microscopic world that we can never see directly but that affects every aspect of our lives. The study of chemistry begins on the microscopic scale and extends to engage a variety of different macroscopic contexts.

Chemistry is currently making its largest impact on society at the nexus between chemistry and biology and the nexus between chemistry and engineering, particularly where new materials are being developed. A typical chemistry laboratory now has more computers than test tubes and no longer smells of rotten eggs. The major is designed to help students focus on these new developments and to understand the factors influencing the nature of the discipline. Because the science is constantly changing, courses change as well, and while organic and physical chemistry remain the bedrock courses, they too differ greatly from the same courses 40 years ago. Many consider biochemistry to be a foundation course as well. Although different paths within the chemistry major take different trajectories, there is a core that provides the essential foundation students need regardless of the path they choose. Students should consider majoring in chemistry if they share or can develop a fascination with the explanatory power that comes with an advanced understanding of the nature and influence of the microscopic world of molecules.

Students who choose to major in chemistry may elect to continue graduate study in this field and obtain a Ph.D., which is a solid basis for a career in research either in the industry or in a university. A major in chemistry also provides students with an astonishing range of career choices such as working in the chemical or pharmaceutical industries or in many other businesses where a technical background is highly desirable. Other options include becoming a financial analyst for a technical company, a science writer, a high school chemistry teacher, a patent attorney, an environmental consultant, or a hospital laboratory manager, among others. The choices are both numerous and various as well as intellectually exciting and personally fulfilling.

Advanced Placement

The department grants advanced placement (AP) credit for a score of 4 or 5. The amount of credit granted is based on the results of the department placement exam and completion of the requisite course. Students who are placed into CHEM C1604 are granted 3 points of credit; students who are placed into CHEM C3045-C3046 are granted 6 points of credit. In either case, credit is granted only upon completion of the course with a grade of C or better. Students must complete a department placement exam prior to registering for either of these courses.

Programs of Study

The Department of Chemistry offers four distinct academic major programs for undergraduates interested in professional-level training and education in the chemical sciences: chemistry, chemical physics, biochemistry and environmental chemistry. For students interested in a program of less extensive study and coursework, the department offers a concentration in chemistry.

Course Information

The results of the placement exam are used to advise students which track to pursue. The Department of Chemistry offers three different tracks. Students who wish to take Track 2 or 3 classes must take the placement exam. Students who wish to pursue Track 1 classes do not need to take the placement exam.

Track Information

In the first year, Track 1 students take a one-year course in general chemistry, and the one-term laboratory course that accompanies it. In the second year, students study organic chemistry, and take organic chemistry laboratory.

Students who qualify by prior examination during orientation week can place into the advanced tracks. There are two options. Track 2 students take, in the fall term, a special one-term intensive course in general chemistry in place of the one-year course. In the second year, students study organic chemistry, and take organic chemistry laboratory.

Track 3 students take a one-year course in organic chemistry for first-year students and the one-term general chemistry laboratory course. In the second year, students enroll in physical chemistry and the organic chemistry laboratory course. Additional information on the tracks can be found in the degree requirements section.

Additional Courses

First-year students may also elect to take CHEM C2408. This seminar focuses on topics in modern chemistry, and is offered to all qualified students.

Biochemistry (BIOC C3501, C3512) is recommended for students interested in the biomedical sciences.

Physical chemistry (CHEM C3079-C3080), a one-year program, requires prior preparation in mathematics and physics. The accompanying laboratory is C3085-C3086.

Also offered are a senior seminar (C3920); advanced courses in biochemistry, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry; and an introduction to research (C3098).

 

Sample Programs

Some typical programs are shown below. Programs are crafted by the student and the director of undergraduate studies to meet individual needs and interests.

  1. First Year
  2. Second Year
  3. Third Year
  4. Fourth Year