Undergraduate Program

The Chemistry Department offers one of the premier undergraduate programs in the country, typically producing more American Chemical Society certified chemistry majors than any other predominately undergraduate institution. Since 1979, our department has graduated the highest number of ACS-certified students in Virginia.

Faculty working with studentsThe Chemistry curriculum begins with the general principles of chemistry and then elaborates these principles with courses in organic, physical, inorganic, and analytical chemistry taken in the second and third years. The last two semesters serve as a capstone, involving both advanced coursework (selected on the basis of interest) and research. These major requirements leave room for a variety of electives, allowing students to obtain a broad liberal arts education or achieve other educational goals.

Most students supplement the degree with ACS certification: our undergraduate program is approved by the Committee on Professional Training of the American Chemical Society, and undergraduate students may choose a track leading to ACS certification. Four ACS-certified tracks are offered: chemistry, polymer, biochemistry, and chemical physics.

The department also supports the interdisciplinary Biochemistry minor, a unique program for students interested in the molecular-level description of life processes.

The department has special offerings for the well-prepared entering student:

  • Chemistry 191, Freshman Honors Research, a research experience open to qualified first-semester freshmen
  • Advanced Placement credit
  • Chemistry 335, Freshman Honors Chemistry, for students with an AP score of 4 or 5

Nearly all chemistry majors earn credit through research pursued under the guidance of department faculty members. Normally this work begins during the second semester of the junior year and extends through the senior year as either an Independent Study or Honors Research. However, many students begin research earlier than this, some starting as early as their first semester at the College. Most students take advantage of opportunities to work in a research laboratory during the summer as well. Academic year research is normally offered for academic credit while summer research is offered for pay.

A seminar program featuring scientists from other colleges/universities, industry, and government agencies complements the academic program.

Courses are described in the undergraduate catalog.

Chemistry majors enjoy a wide range of career options upon graduation. Many go directly into professional chemistry as employees of private industry, governmental agencies, or educational institutions. Others go on to medical school, dental school, or graduate school in chemistry, biochemistry, chemical engineering, materials science, law, or business.

Alumni of the department include university professors, research scientists, physicians, lawyers, dentists, executives, directors of research, secondary school teachers, and administrators.

ACS Certification

The department is authorized by the American Chemical Society to certify graduates as meeting requirements for a professional level program. In order to qualify, students must complete a supervised program of research, and take certain chemistry elective courses. The research may be either senior research (Chemistry 409) or Honors (Chemistry 495/496). A large fraction of chemistry majors elect this option, which provides additional preparation for subsequent endeavors, whatever career direction the student chooses.