Frequently Asked Questions about the Chemistry Major

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Are you a potential Chemistry major? Look to these questions to become more informed:

The best and most reliable source of information about course placement and planning are the departmental faculty members.  While your fellow students have much to offer based on their own experiences, their advice about course requirements and placement may be incomplete or out of date. Always double-check with a faculty member!

Any chemistry faculty member can answer your basic questions, but Prof. Lisa Watkins ( is the faculty undergraduate adviser for all classes. If you are thinking about being a major, let the faculty adviser know right away so that she can discuss your program of study with you and help you avoid the difficulties in meeting major requirements that can result from poor planning. Be sure to ask the major adviser to add your name to the majors email list. That way, you’ll get information about course offerings in the department, special events, summer internships, etc. While a faculty adviser can provide some advice about applying to medical school, premedical chemistry majors should also consult with the health professions adviser.

Our majors take several career paths. About 70% go directly to some professional program and the remaining 30% find jobs in fields as diverse as business consulting and medical research. Of graduates choosing professional study, about half enter graduate programs in chemistry or biochemistry, about half enter medical schools, and a few (but growing number) enter materials science and public health programs. Our majors who choose graduate study in chemistry are accepted into some of the finest programs in the country, including Princeton, MIT, Yale, Cal Tech, UNC-Chapel Hill, Stanford, etc.

Yes and no!  There is no BMC engineering degree offered, but you can participate in the 3/2 program offered in conjunction with the California Institute of Technology.  In this program, students complete three years at BMC and then two at Cal Tech, receiving both an A.B. in chemistry from BMC and a B.S. in chemical engineering (or some other engineering field) from Cal Tech. There are other routes to engineering that the major adviser will be happy to discuss with you.


The major is an interdepartmental program between the Biology and Chemistry Departments. More information about the major can be found at the biochemistry and molecular biology major website. If you are interested in becoming a biochemistry and molecular biology major, then you should begin planning immediately since the major has a large number of required courses and therefore needs careful planning to complete the curriculum in eight semesters.

Students interested in the BCMB major should complete CHEM 103/104 in their freshman year. Students should see the BCMB major adviser if they believe they qualify for advanced placement.

Although the department prefers to have its majors do all their degree work at BMC, you can complete the major and do JYA. This requires careful planning to ensure you can meet all graduation requirements, so you should consult the major adviser as early as possible (no later than fall of the sophomore year). The principal difficulty with JYA for chemistry majors is that chemistry curricula are not uniform from department to department. Thus, students who choose JYA may be sacrificing a coherent major program, no matter how excellent the JYA institution might be. Another concern is that students who are away during the junior year often do not make strong connections with the department and, as a result, research opportunities may suffer.

Absolutely! Research is not required for the major (except for honors degrees), but the department strongly encourages students to consider participating in a faculty-supervised research project. Any student planning graduate work in chemistry should become involved in research while an undergraduate. Senior research students typically enroll in Chem 403: Supervised Research for which they receive one unit of credit each semester. 

Most students interested in research begin working in the summer between the junior and senior year.  Some students start earlier than this, particularly if they have completed advanced laboratory courses ahead of the usual schedule.  Stipends for summer research at BMC are available, and it is important for faculty to know of your interest well before these are awarded in March.  Students who wish to join a research group should attend the faculty research presentations in the beginning of the spring semester. They should also speak with the research faculty member to indicate their interest. 

Undergraduate teaching assistants are often needed in the 100- and 200-level courses. Course instructors usually contact students directly about these positions, but you can also let Prof. Lisa Watkins know of your interest in working as a TA and she will relay the information to the appropriate instructor. There are preparation assistants for the general and organic chemistry laboratory courses. Contact Prof. Lisa Watkins if you are interested in one of these jobs. Lecturers of large courses sometimes hire sophomores and juniors to assist with small group review sessions. Majors are also involved in tutoring students in general and organic chemistry through a program administered by the Dean’s Office.

Yes, it’s possible but you should realize that there are serious drawbacks in doing so. Double majors must meet all of the requirements for both majors, and finding the time to do so can be difficult or impossible. Even if you can work out a plan for the completion of two majors, you will almost certainly sacrifice the depth that students who focus on a single major are able to develop. Graduate schools in chemistry will be more impressed with candidates who have completed advanced work in several areas of chemistry than with someone who has completed only the minimum requirements for two majors. If you are contemplating an additional major or a minor, be sure to speak with the major adviser in both departments as early as possible.

The official sign up for majors coincides with spring preregistration in early to mid-April. All sophomores will receive notices from the Dean’s Office in March detailing the general procedures to follow. Once you receive the notice, make an appointment with the chemistry major adviser well before the preregistration deadline to fill out major work plan forms. You should also plan to attend the department’s major tea held in late March.

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Department of Chemistry

Park Science Building
Bryn Mawr College
101 N. Merion Avenue
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania 19101
Phone: 610-526-7374
Fax: 610-526-5086