Reed College Catalog


Courses in chemistry provide a comprehensive description of the interaction of matter and energy at the atomic level. Examples of chemical phenomena drawn from current research, together with modern theoretical principles, are used to examine a diverse set of subjects, including atomic and molecular structure, the energetics of physical and chemical processes, the dynamics and mechanisms of chemical reactions, the chemical principles underlying biological and environmental processes, and the synthesis of new organic, inorganic, and biochemical compounds and materials.

Coursework is integrated with appropriate laboratory work and is designed to teach the skills used by practicing chemical scientists. A large assortment of modern research-quality instruments is available for undergraduate use, including GC-MS, FT-IR, and FT-NMR spectrometers; an X-ray diffractometer; a 250-kilowatt research reactor (see “Campus Facilities”); and a computational chemistry laboratory.

Research investigations are used to refine and integrate skills and to introduce students to the daily activities of practicing scientists. The senior thesis provides an opportunity to focus on a single research topic for an extended period of time and is typically conducted as a collaboration between the student and one or more faculty members. Independent study, including research, is encouraged as a method for tailoring studies to the needs of the individual student. Several students are offered employment each summer as research assistants and are able to conduct original research. Much of this research is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the American Chemical Society, and other sources.

Requirements for the Major


  1. Chemistry 101 and 102, 201 and 202, 212, 311, 316, 332, 333, 470.
  2. Physics 100.
  3. Mathematics 111, 112, 211. Physics 200 (lecture and lab in the fall; lecture in the spring) may be substituted for Mathematics 211.

If a student wishes to obtain certification of her or his program by the American Chemical Society, one semester of biochemistry (either Chemistry 391 or 392) must be included. This certification is not required for graduation, but may prove useful for students seeking employment as chemists following graduation. Although there is no formal language requirement, the ability to read technical articles in a foreign language, especially German, is useful.

Students with special interests in physical and theoretical chemistry should take Mathematics 212, Physics 200, and Chemistry 324 (or independent study in theoretical/computational chemistry), and should consult with an adviser concerning more advanced courses in mathematics and physics. Students contemplating graduate work in biochemistry or related fields should take Chemistry 391, 392, and 394, and should consult with an adviser concerning additional courses in biology. Students should also examine the detailed descriptions of the interdisciplinary programs in chemistry and physics, and biochemistry and molecular biology, which are listed in another section of the catalog. Interdisciplinary programs linking chemistry to mathematics or other disciplines can also be arranged.

Chemistry 101 - Molecular Structure and Properties

Full course for one semester. Introduction to the chemist’s description and use of light and matter in the context of larger issues such as astronomy, the greenhouse effect, and fats in our diet. Specific topics include the interaction of light and matter (spectroscopy), the structure of the atom and the atomic structure of matter, chemical bonds and intermolecular forces, and chemical descriptions of color and solubility. Lecture-conference-laboratory.

Chemistry 102 - Chemical Reactivity

Full course for one semester. An introduction to the reactions of atoms and molecules, focusing on examples from environmental chemistry. Specific topics include gas laws, solution phenomena, thermodynamics, chemical equilibria, and kinetics. Prerequisite: Chemistry 101. Lecture-conference-laboratory.

Chemistry 201 - Organic Chemistry

Full course for one semester. Introduction to theories describing the structure and reactivity of organic compounds. Theoretical principles are illustrated using computer-based molecular models. Structure, methods of preparation, and reactions of important classes of organic compounds are examined. Laboratory work introduces techniques used in the preparation, purification, and spectroscopic identification of organic compounds. Prerequisite for 201: Chemistry 101/102 or consent of the instructor. Lecture-conference-laboratory.

Chemistry 202 - Organic Chemistry

Full course for one semester. Introduction to theories describing the structure and reactivity of organic compounds. Theoretical principles are illustrated using computer-based molecular models. Structure, methods of preparation, and reactions of important classes of organic compounds are examined. Laboratory work introduces techniques used in the preparation, purification, and spectroscopic identification of organic compounds. Prerequisite: Chemistry 201 or consent of the instructor. Lecture-conference-laboratory.

Chemistry 212 - Introductory Inorganic Chemistry

Full course for one semester. A descriptive exploration of the chemistry of inorganic compounds including the structure, bonding, and reactions of main-group molecules, transition metal complexes, and extended solids. Laboratory work includes the synthesis and characterization of molecular compounds and extended solids, and introduces useful characterization techniques including infrared and electronic spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, and thermal analysis. Prerequisite: Chemistry 101/102 or consent of the instructor. Lecture-conference-laboratory. May be taken without the lab for one-half unit.

Chemistry 230 - Environmental Chemistry

One-half course for one semester. An introduction to the chemistry of natural and polluted environments. Fundamental principles of chemistry are used to understand the sources, reactivity, and fate of compounds in the Earth’s atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere. Topics include: the stratospheric ozone layer, photochemical smog and particulate air pollution, climate change and energy use, water toxics and treatment, and agricultural modification of the surface environment. Prerequisite: Chemistry 101/102. Lecture-conference.

Chemistry 311 - Analytical Chemistry

Full course for one semester. An examination of the principles of chemical equilibria and the principles and methods of chemical and instrumental analysis. The functions of classical volumetric and gravimetric techniques, along with electronic, optical, and mechanical instrument components and features of their organization into measurement systems are discussed. Applicability and limitations of representative electrochemical, spectroscopic, and nuclear instruments are assessed. Prerequisite: Chemistry 101/102 or consent of the instructor. Lecture-laboratory.

Chemistry 316 - Physical Chemistry Laboratory

One-half course for one semester. An exploration of various experimental strategies and techniques in physical chemistry, as applied to inorganic, organic, and/or biochemical problems. Laboratory work includes investigations of energetics, molecular structure, and reaction dynamics requiring the use of large instrument systems and critical analysis and interpretation of experimental data. Prerequisites: Chemistry 311 and 333, or consent of the instructor. Lecture-laboratory.

Chemistry 324 - Advanced Physical Organic Chemistry

One-half course for one semester. An introduction to experimental, computational (molecular modeling), and theoretical methods for investigating the properties of short-lived species relevant to organic chemistry. Topics include the transition states of thermally induced concerted reactions and excited state species found in concerted photochemical reactions. Prerequisite: Chemistry 201/202 or consent of the instructor. Lecture-conference.

Chemistry 332 - Statistical Thermodynamics and Chemical Dynamics

Full course for one semester. An introduction to statistical mechanics, which provides a bridge between the quantum mechanical description of properties pertaining to microscopic systems and the classical thermodynamic description of properties pertaining to macroscopic systems. An examination of the relations between molecular dynamics, observed rates, and inferred mechanisms of chemical reactions will be included. Prerequisites: Mathematics 111 and Physics 100 (corequisite is acceptable), or consent of the instructor. Lecture-conference.

Chemistry 333 - Quantum Mechanics and Molecular Structure

Full course for one semester. An introduction to principles of quantum mechanics and their application to problems in atomic and molecular structure. Prerequisites: Mathematics 111 and Physics 100. Lecture-conference.

Chemistry 334 - Advanced Inorganic Chemistry

One-half course for one semester. A discussion of the use of symmetry and group theory in inorganic chemistry to enhance understanding of structure and bonding, including applications in vibrational and electronic spectroscopy and molecular orbital theory. Translational symmetry, crystallography, and band theory for extended solids will also be introduced. Examples will be drawn from the literature to highlight frontier research in the field of inorganic chemistry. Prerequisites: Chemistry 212 and 333, or consent of the instructor. Lecture-conference.

Chemistry 343 - Advanced Synthetic Organic Chemistry

Full course for one semester. A study of synthetic methods and design. Topics include methods of building carbon skeletons and changing functional groups, strategies for organic synthesis, and exemplary syntheses of natural products. Laboratory work introduces students to multistep synthesis. The laboratory and lecture focus on the use of high field NMR spectroscopy as a tool for structure determination. Prerequisite: Chemistry 201/202. Lecture-laboratory.

Chemistry 391 - Structural Biochemistry

One-half course for one semester. An examination of the structure and function of biomolecules, particularly proteins and polynucleic acids. Areas of study include protein stability and folding, protein-ligand interactions, enzyme kinetics and catalysis, and the molecular mechanisms for gene regulation and protein biosynthesis. Computer-based molecular models are used to examine biomolecular structures in an interactive fashion. Prerequisite: Chemistry 201/202. Lecture.

Chemistry 392 - Metabolic Biochemistry

One-half course for one semester. An exploration of the regulatory interrelationships among the numerous catalytic activities found in living cells with the goal of learning how and why cells molecularly maintain homeostasis. This will be accomplished by a detailed analysis of carbohydrate metabolism and its associated regulatory proteins (primarily enzymes) and related pathways. Emphasis will be placed on understanding the underlying thermodynamic and kinetic bases of energy metabolism and its regulation. Other related topics may include a survey of crucial biosynthetic and catabolic pathways, conservation of mechanism in catalyses of diverse reactions, supermolecular organization and channeling of metabolites, recent developments in understanding nitrogen metabolism, and the mechanism of ATP synthesis. Prerequisites: Chemistry 201/202 and 391, or consent of the instructor. Lecture-conference.

Chemistry 394 - Biochemical Methods

One-half course for one semester. An introduction to the laboratory techniques commonly used in biochemistry. Experiments demonstrate methods used in the purification and characterization of proteins and polynucleotides and illustrate principles of enzyme kinetics, inhibition, and stereochemistry. Independent projects allow students to probe specific areas of interest. Prerequisites: Chemistry 391 or 392, or consent of the instructor. Lecture-laboratory.

Chemistry 401 - Seminar in Structural Biochemistry

One-half course for one semester. An examination of current topics relating to structural biochemistry with an emphasis on the primary literature. Written assignments will support readings and discussion. Corequisite: Chemistry 391. Conference. Not offered 2009-10.

Chemistry 470 - Thesis

Full course for one year.

Chemistry 481 - Individual Work in Special Fields

One-half course for one semester.