Chemistry Department

Academic Program

Requirements for the Major

For current chemistry major requirements, see the Reed College Catalog.

Requirements for Interdisciplinary Majors

The First Year

There are many ways for Reed students to arrange their course schedules, but students who are considering majoring in the sciences should certainly take the introductory course in their field of interest during their first year. For a number of reasons, students who plan to major outside the sciences are also strongly encouraged to take science courses that will satisfy the Group C requirement during their first year at Reed. 

Chemistry students are encouraged to take the introductory courses in chemistry and mathematics during their first year. A common pattern for students who begin studying chemistry in their first year looks like this (info about AP Credit):

First and Second Year Courses
First Year
Second Year
Fall
Spring
Fall
Spring
Hum 110
Chem 101
Math 111
Hum 110
Chem 102
Math 112
Chem 201
Chem 311
Phys 101
Group I or II
Chem 202
Chem 212
Phys 102
Group I or II

Students who wait until their second year to begin studying chemistry should consider this pattern:

Second and Third Year Courses
Second Year
Third Year
Fall
Spring
Fall
Spring
Chem 101
Math 111
Phys 101
Group I or II
Chem 102
Math 112
Phys 102
Group I or II
Chem 201
Chem 311
Chem 315
Group I or II
Chem 202
Chem 212
Chem 332
Group I or II

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Transfer Credit in Chemistry

(updated August 8, 2019)

Students who take chemistry courses at other institutions can often transfer this work to Reed for academic credit. Students majoring in chemistry and related fields should discuss their options carefully with their academic adviser because chemistry courses offered at other institutions (especially summer and/or online courses) may not be good replacements for courses that are required for the chemistry major. Nevertheless, there are many good reasons for transferring courses, including transferring to Reed, getting a "late" start on the chemistry major, and programs that include study abroad.

As it happens, most transfer credit requests concern Chemistry 101/102 ("Introductory Chemistry") and 201/202 (Organic Chemistry). All of these courses are semester-long lecture-laboratory courses (and 101/102/202 all include weekly conference sections as well). Full transfer credit is allowed for these courses only if the transfer course contains lecture and laboratory work that is comparable to the content of the matching Reed course.

Portland State University Info: PSU offers two chemistry sequences that overlap with Reed's Chem 101/102 and 201/202. PSU Chem 221/222/223 lectures + 227/228/229 labs are equivalent to the Reed's Chemistry 101/102. PSU Chem 334/335/336 lectures + 337/338 labs are accepted as a replacement for Chem 201/202 for Reed students who do not intend to major in chemistry, biochemistry, etc.. Chemistry students who want to take PSU organic chemistry courses in lieu of Chem 201/202 should discuss their options with the Reed organic chemistry faculty (see below).

"Comparable content" is generally evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and the content of lecture and lab are evaluated separately. The lecture portion of a transfer course can usually be satisfied if the course is intended for undergraduate chemistry majors at that institution. Chemistry courses taken at community colleges are sometimes problematic in this respect because these colleges do not offer four-year degree programs and this occasionally affects course content. The laboratory portion of a transfer course should not only be intended for undergraduate chemistry majors, it should also include at least 2/3 or more of the scheduled lab hours required by the corresponding Reed course (Chem 101/102 each require a total of 39 hours of scheduled lab work. Chem 201/202 each require a total of 52 hours of scheduled lab work).

Although Reed's "credit transfer" form asks for the signature of the department chair. Chemistry department policy is to have the appropriate Reed instructor review and approve the transfer request before it goes to the department chair. Requests relating to Chem 101/102 are currently reviewed by Prof. Cass (Prof. Fry or Chacón can be consulted if Prof. Cass is unavailable). Requests relating to Chem 201/202 are currently reviewed by Prof. LaLonde or Shusterman. Other transfer requests can be brought directly to the department chair (Prof. Shusterman). Please bring documentation regarding course content and laboratory hours with you, including at least one of the following: course syllabus, college catalog, Web URL for course description, textbook name/author + chapters covered.

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Transfer Credit in Geology

(updated August 21, 2019)

Over the years a few Reed students have satisfied the Group C requirement by taking college-level courses in geology. As Reed transitions to a new set of Distribution Requirements, geology will continue to take its place alongside other science courses in Group III. The following guidelines refer to both the old and new requirements so please read the relevant sections carefully.

Group C requirements. The Group C requirement can be met by completing a "minimum of two units from the physical sciences (chemistry, physics) or two units from the biological sciences in courses that contain both lecture and laboratory components." Reed views geology as a physical science. Therefore, students can, in principle, satisfy the Group C requirement by completing geology courses at other accredited institutions. If the geology course work does not add up to two Reed units, it may be combined with credit from Reed chemistry and/or physics courses, or with credit for a physical science taken at another institution (for example, astronomy). Geology credit cannot be combined with biology credit.

Another Group C hurdle is that the geology course must include a laboratory component. This requirement can be met by transferring two geology courses, one lecture and one laboratory, if the institution offering these courses treats them as companion courses. Another expectation is that the time spent in geology "lab" will be comparable to the time that you would have spent in a lab if you were taking a physical science course at Reed (3 hours per week, or 39 hours per semester).

Group III requirements. The Group III requirement must be met by completing "three units from the following subjects, of which two must come from the same subject: biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, physics, psychology. A substantial portion of at least one unit used to satisfy the Group III requirement must be devoted to primary data collection and the analysis of that data." Geology transfer courses can be used here as well. Geology can be applied to the "two units from the same subject" requirement, and it can also be applied to the "one unit that devotes a substantial portion of the course to data collection and analysis." In the latter case, Reed expects the amount of geology course time devoted to data collection and analysis to be comparable to that of a one unit lecture-lab course at Reed (3 hours per week, or 39 hours per semester).

The Group III requirement is quite flexible and provides other ways to incorporate geology into a student's program. As an example, it is permissible to meet the requirement by combining one unit of geology lecture with two units in a single non-physical science (say, biology or psychology) where the latter includes one unit involving "substantial data collection and analysis".

Regardless of whether you follow the Group C requirements or the Group III requirements, the requirement is for the study of a "science" (Group C: physical or biological; Group III: natural, mathematical, or psychological). Geology is a science. Geography and various other "mapping" courses may include some mention of geology, but they are generally not considered to be sciences as far as the distribution requirements are concerned.

There are obviously many issues that must be considered -- Group C or III? physical science? lab component? -- before geology can be applied to a distribution requirement, so a student should always get approval for a "geology" transfer request before enrolling in any class. Geology (and geology-like) science courses, regardless of whether they are taken to meet distribution requirements, are currently evaluated by Dr. Shusterman in the Chemistry department (astronomy courses are evaluated by physics faculty). Please submit documentation regarding course content (topics covered? lecture? lecture-lab? if lab, how many hours?), including at least one of the following: course syllabus, college catalog, Web URL for course description, textbook name/author + chapters covered. If your intent is to apply the geology course to a distribution requirement, state whether you intend to follow Group C or Group III requirements, and list all other courses you might be combining with your geology course in order to fulfill the distribution requirements.

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AP Credit

(updated April 17, 2019)

Chemistry 101 and 102 are required for the Chemistry major at Reed, regardless of any AP or IB experience in high school. While AP preparation is a valuable previous exposure to Chemistry, our Chemistry 101 and 102 College Chemistry sequence is quite distinct and subsequent courses build on this foundation.

Students who have earned a score of 4 or 5 on the AP Chemistry exam will receive one unit of college credit.

As outlined above, students planning to continue their education in Chemistry at Reed will complete both Chemistry 101 and 102. At this point, the AP credit will be rescinded.

Other placement options may be available to students who have taken college-level chemistry elsewhere, but the exact nature of these options must be worked out on a case-by-case basis in consultation with the Chemistry department.

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Junior Qualifying Exam

From the Reed College Catalog...

After declaring their major, students must pass a qualifying examination administered by the major department and/or interdisciplinary committee before being allowed to begin a thesis in the senior year. These examinations are given near the end of the junior year. The objectives of the qualifying examination are to gauge the student's mastery of his or her discipline or related disciplines, to serve as a diagnostic aid in identifying weaknesses in the student's preparation for advanced study or thesis work in that discipline, to assist the student in unifying his or her knowledge of a major field of study, and to assist the major department or interdivisional committee in assessing the effectiveness of its own program. It is possible that a student who does not demonstrate competence in a field may be required to take further work. The review may also identify those who appear to need more time to develop their capabilities for the sustained independent work of the senior thesis. A second failure of the qualifying examination will debar the student from candidacy for a degree in that department, but the student may be encouraged to transfer to another department or division.

The qualifying examination is not meant to qualify only the best students and in actuality does not operate that way. The student's performance in the examination as well as in all previous coursework is discussed in full departmental or divisional meetings to assess the student's readiness to begin work on a thesis.

Different combinations of qualifying examinations must be completed by students majoring in chemistry, biochemistry & molecular biology (BMB), environmental studies-chemistry (ES-Chem), and chemistry-physics. All students must pass an oral examination offered by the Chemistry department. Interdisciplinary majors - BMB, ES-Chem, chemistry-physics - must also pass a second junior 'qual' appropriate to their field of study:
  • BMB majors - Biology department qual
  • ES-Chem majors - ES qual
  • chemistry-physics majors - Physics department qual

Junior qualifying examinations are normally taken towards the end of the junior year. It is also possible in exceptional circumstances to take the qualifying examination at the start of the senior year (students should consult with their academic adviser about when and which examination to take). Announcements regarding the junior qualifying examinations, when they will be offered, and how to sign up for them, are posted during the spring in the Chemistry Building and in campus publications.

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Senior Thesis

Library Research Guide + Information for Seniors

From the Reed College catalog...

The distinctive feature of a student's senior year is the sustained investigation of a carefully defined problem—experimental, critical, or creative—chosen from the major field and considered as one part of an overall senior-year program. The problem is selected, then developed through the year by the student, with the support of the faculty adviser. At the conclusion of the year, the student submits to community scrutiny a thesis describing the problem and its attempted resolution.

The thesis involves substantially more than the writing of a long paper in a course; it requires the development of new knowledge and a wide variety of skills and permits the student to integrate all aspects of his or her academic experience.

The candidate for graduation takes a final comprehensive two-hour oral review under the direction of the major division, department, and/or interdisciplinary committee. The oral examination may cover the work of the student's entire program, but emphasis is on the thesis and major field. The committee of examiners typically includes faculty members from the student's own department and division, a second division, and, on occasion, professionals from outside the college.

If this sounds like a unique educational experience, you are right. The senior thesis requirement is the single most distinctive (and some say "defining") aspect of a Reed education.

Thesis work in chemistry, chemistry-physics, and biochemistry-molecular biology consists of an original scientific research investigation that is carried out for two semesters on a single topic. "Original research" means that research topics are drawn from (or just tantalizingly beyond) the frontiers of knowledge. Students, along with their faculty mentors, learn science by actually doing it, by carving a path into the unknown in the hope of making discoveries that have never been made before. Original research is not easy - reading a textbook is certainly quicker - but original research is the only way to create anything new.

The first step in beginning thesis work is to find a thesis advisor. Senior chemistry majors should discuss research topics with three or more chemistry faculty in the first few days of the fall semester before asking a faculty member to serve as their advisor. (Interdisciplinary majors should consult with their academic adviser, or a member of their interdisciplinary committee, on the best way to identify a thesis adviser.)

It is also possible for students to develop and pursue their own thesis research ideas, or to arrange to carry out research in an off-campus laboratory (e.g., at Portland State University or at the Oregon Health Sciences University). All such "independent" thesis projects must be approved by the Reed Chemistry faculty, and the student must arrange for one Reed chemistry faculty member to act as the "adviser of record".

Another useful step is to read a short article offering 'advice to students at the start of their scientific careers' ("Scientist: Four Golden Lessons" by physicist Steven Weinberg, Nature, 27 Nov 2003, 426, 389).

Recent titles of Senior Theses in Chemistry are listed on the department's Theses web page. Students are also encouraged to explore the "thesis tower" in the College library and read past theses.

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Dual Degree Programs

Reed College does not offer a program in chemical (or any other type of) engineering. However, this does not mean that Reed students are prevented from studying chemical engineering. Most graduate programs in chemical engineering will admit Reed students who graduate with a degree in chemistry. It is also possible for Reed students to earn a degree in chemical engineering by combining three years of study at Reed with two years of study at another cooperating institution. Students who satisfy these requirements earn degrees at both institutions.

More information about dual degree programs can be found in the Reed College Catalog. Please read the sections under "Engineering" and "Three-Two" (students interested in earning a degree in chemical engineering should add Chemistry 101/102 and 201/202 to the list of required Reed courses).

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Summer Work & Research

Reed College does not offer summer courses, but we do offer a summer work/research program each year to a limited number of Reed students. The number of students who are offered places in this program depends on the availability of funds (funds for graduating seniors are very limited) and the availability of faculty/staff to supervise student work.

Summer workers are generally paid for ten weeks of full-time work. Projects typically involve one of the following: collaborative research with faculty, development of course materials (includes development of new laboratory experiments, Web pages, etc.), operation of the nuclear reactor, and restocking of teaching laboratories and related stockroom duties.

Announcements regarding summer employment opportunities, when it will be offered, and how to sign up, are posted during the spring in the Chemistry Building.

Nationally, many universities and laboratories also offer paid summer internships. A few of these organizations will send advertisements to Reed for posting in the Chemistry Building (watch the bulletin boards). Others rely on web-based advertising. A few useful sites:

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Beyond Reed: Careers

Looking beyond that diploma? Visit the Center for Life Beyond Reed and pore through a rich set of resources on career exploration, internship, and job search tools, and general information and resources on graduate and professional school.

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