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Chemistry

“Chemistry is a substantial science by the measures of industry, economics, and politics. As an academic discipline, it underlies the vibrant growth of molecular biology, materials science, and medical technology. Although not the youngest of sciences, its frontiers continue to expand in remarkable ways. And although it shares boundaries with every other field of science, it has an autonomy, both methodologically and conceptually.”—Of Minds and Molecules: New Philosophical Perspectives on Chemistry, Nalini Bhushan and Stuart Rosenfeld, editors (Oxford University Press, 2000).

Are you thinking of taking Intro Chem (CHM 111) in the fall? Then please complete the short placement exercise!

Are you looking for student research opportunities in the department? Check the RESEARCH tab below.

You should feel free to contact your adviser or the department if you have any chemistry-related questions.

Be well,
The Chemistry Department

Department Updates

Chemistry Seminars and Lectures

Chemists and biochemists from around the country present their current research. Check out a list of our speakers and the schedule on our events calendar. The department of biological sciences and the biochemistry program also host seminars and lectures, many of them chemical in nature. Visit their web pages for details. 

Chemistry Lunchbags  

During the academic year every Wednesday at 12:15 p.m., students and faculty get together for an informal presentation of their independent research projects. The schedule may be found on the events calendar.  

Student Liaisons  

Seniors: (Majors) Gladys Batista, Emily Kish, Avery Cook and Emily Swindell (Non-major)
Juniors: (Majors) Eleanor Fairbanks, Breanna Sprague, Nova Zhang and Varshini Anand (Non-major)  

Chemistry Honors info and dates  

At this link, please find the application instructions and important dates for 2023-24 CHM Honors.  This is for students graduating in May 2024.  If you intend to apply for Honors, be advised that the application deadlines are very early in the Fall semester. Get started asap!

Events

Requirements & Courses

Goals for Majors in Chemistry

  • Ability to “tell a good story” about chemistry
  • Read/write a scientific paper
  • Design experiments
  • Interpret data
  • Transfer knowledge between discrete course units
  • Authentic engagement with learning/exploration
  • Information literacy (chemistry-specific)
  • Thirty-four different desired areas of content mastery

Chemistry Major

Requirements

Ten courses

  1. Introductory sequence, either:
    1. CHM 111/CHM 111L, CHM 222/CHM 222L and CHM 224
      /CHM 224L​ or
    2. CHM 118/CHM 118L and CHM 222/CHM 222L
  2. Three of the following courses: CHM 223/CHM 223LCHM 331CHM 332 and CHM 363
  3. Two of the following advanced lab courses: CHM 326CHM 336 and CHM 346
  4. Two or three elective courses (options listed below) to equal a total of 10 courses.
    • Any CHM courses at the 300 level or above
    • BCH 252BCH 352GEO 301PHY 319PHY 327 or a topic of PHY 360 
    • CHM 400 CHM 430D or CHM 432D (worth four or more credits), may be used as one (only) elective

Courses fulfilling the major requirements may not be taken S/U with the exception of CHM 400.

Preparation for Graduate Study

Students planning graduate study in chemistry are advised to work with their adviser to identify courses outside the major that may be relevant for graduate study in particular subfields. A major program that includes the required courses, one semester of biochemistry and additional laboratory experience in the form of (a) two semesters of research (CHM 400, CHM 430D and/or CHM 432D), (b) one semester of research and one elective course with laboratory, or (c) three elective courses with laboratories meets the eligibility requirements of the American Chemical Society for professional standing.

Honors

Please consult the director of honors or the departmental website for specific requirements and application procedures.

Chemistry Minor

The courses specified below constitute a four-semester introduction to chemistry. The semesters are sequential, giving a structured development of chemical concepts and a progressive presentation of chemical information. Completion of the minor with at least one additional course at the intermediate or advanced level affords the opportunity to explore a particular area in greater depth.

Requirements

Five courses

  1. ​Either:
    1. CHM 111 and CHM 111L, CHM 222 and CHM 222L, and CHM 224 and CHM 224L or
    2. CHM 118 and CHM 118L and CHM 222 and CHM 222L
  2. One additional course with a laboratory component: CHM 223 and CHM 223LCHM 332CHM 326CHM 336 or CHM 346
  3. One or two electives from the following to fulfill a total of five courses: Any CHM courses at the 300 level or above, BCH 252 or BCH 352

Courses fulfilling the minor requirement may not be taken S/U.

Courses

CHM 100ao Topics on Perspectives in Chemistry-Chemistry of Art Objects (4 Credits)

In this museum-based course, chemistry is discussed in the context of art. The course focuses on materials used by artists and how the chemistry of these materials influences their longevity. Current analytical methods as well as preservation and conservation practices are discussed along with examples from the Smith College Museum of Art. Enrollment limited to 16. {A}{N}

Spring

CHM 108/ ENV 108 Environmental Chemistry (4 Credits)

Offered as CHM 108 and ENV 108. An introduction to environmental chemistry, applying chemical concepts to topics such as acid rain, greenhouse gases, air quality, pesticides and waste treatment. Chemical concepts are developed as needed. {N}

Spring

CHM 110 Quantitative Approaches to Chemistry (1 Credit)

Using chemical reactions to make quantitative predictions is a foundational skill in chemistry. This skill is built on a set of quantitative approaches including dimensional analysis, reaction stoichiometry and physical measurement. Students will build and refine these skills through both individual and group work in a small class setting. This course is a co- or prerequisite for CHM 111; students will be recommended for this course on the basis of a short placement exam. For these students successful completion of CHM 110 is required to enter any CHM courses with a CHM 111 prerequisite. Enrollment limited to 60.

Fall

CHM 111 Chemistry I: General Chemistry (4 Credits)

The first semester of our core chemistry curriculum introduces the language(s) of chemistry and explores atoms, molecules and their reactions. Topics covered include electronic structures of atoms, structure shape and properties of molecules; reactions and stoichiometry. Enrollment limited to 16 per lab section. Multiple sections are offered at different times, as detailed in the Schedule of Classes. At the time of registration students must register for both a lecture and a lab section that fit their course schedule. Corequisite: CHM 111L. {N}

Fall

CHM 111L Chemistry I Lab: General Chemistry Lab (1 Credit)

Lab Section. The first semester of our core chemistry curriculum introduces the language(s) of chemistry and explores atoms, molecules and their reactions. Topics covered include electronic structures of atoms, structure shape and properties of molecules; reactions and stoichiometry. Enrollment limited to 16 per lab section. Multiple sections are offered at different times, as detailed in the Schedule of Classes. At the time of registration students must register for both a lecture and a lab section that fit their course schedule. Corequisite: CHM 111. {N}

Fall

CHM 118 Advanced General Chemistry (4 Credits)

This course is for students with a very strong background in chemistry. The elementary theories of stoichiometry, atomic structure, bonding, structure, energetics and reactions are quickly reviewed. The major portions of the course involve a detailed analysis of atomic theory and bonding from an orbital concept, an examination of the concepts behind thermodynamic arguments in chemical systems, and an investigation of chemical reactions and kinetics. The laboratory deals with synthesis, physical properties and kinetics. The course prepares students for CHM 222/223 and replaces both CHM 111 and CHM 224. A student who passes this course cannot take either CHM 111 or CHM 224. {N}

Fall

CHM 118L Advanced General Chemistry Laboratory (1 Credit)

Lab Section for CHM 118.  This course is for students with a very strong background in chemistry and provides a foundation in basic lab technique, particularly for quantitative analytical measurements. It begins with an introduction to light as a tool for investigating aspects of chemical systems such as acid/base behavior and metal-ligand chemistry. The second half of the lab consists of a project module where students will develop greater independence in their chemistry skills while investigating the behavior of one particular chemical system in depth. Each student will also learn to keep a laboratory notebook, prepare scientific reports and presentations, and work safely in a chemical environment. Enrollment limited to 16. Corequisite: CHM 118. {N}

Fall

CHM 222 Chemistry II: Organic Chemistry (4 Credits)

An introduction to the theory and practice of organic chemistry. The course focuses on structure, nomenclature, physical and chemical properties of organic compounds and infrared and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy for structural analysis. Reactions of carbonyl compounds and alkenes are studied in depth. Prerequisite: CHM 111/111L, CHM 114/114L or CHM 118/118L. Corequisite: CHM 222L. Multiple sections are offered at different times. At the time of registration, students must register for both a lecture (CHM 222) and a lab (CHM 222L) section that fit their course schedule. {N}

Spring

CHM 222L Chemistry II Lab: Organic Chemistry Lab (1 Credit)

Lab section for Organic Chemistry. An introduction to the theory and practice of organic chemistry. The course focuses on structure, nomenclature, physical and chemical properties of organic compounds and infrared and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy for structural analysis. Reactions of carbonyl compounds and alkenes are studied in depth. Corequisite: CHM 222. Prerequisite: CHM 111/111L, CHM 114/114L or CHM 118/118L. Enrollment limited to 16. Multiple sections are offered at different times. At the time of registration, students must register for both a lecture (CHM 222) and a lab (CHM 222L) section that fit their course schedule. {N}

Spring

CHM 223 Chemistry III: Organic Chemistry (4 Credits)

Material builds on introductory organic chemistry topics covered in CHM 222 and focuses more heavily on retrosynthetic analysis and multistep synthetic planning. Specific topics include reactions of alkyl halides, alcohols and ethers; aromaticity and reactions of benzene; and cycloaddition reactions including the Diels-Alder reaction. Prerequisite: CHM 222/222L. Corequisite: CHM 223L. {N}

Fall

CHM 223L Chemistry III Lab: Organic Chemistry Lab (1 Credit)

Lab section. Material builds on introductory organic chemistry topics covered in CHM 222 and focuses more heavily on retrosynthetic analysis and multistep synthetic planning. Specific topics include reactions of alkyl halides, alcohols and ethers; aromaticity and reactions of benzene; and cycloaddition reactions including the Diels-Alder reaction. Prerequisite: CHM 222/222L (or equivalent). Corequisite: CHM 223. Enrollment limited to 16. {N}

Fall

CHM 224 Chemistry IV: Introduction to Inorganic and Physical Chemistry (4 Credits)

This final course in the chemistry core sequence provides a foundation in the principles of physical and inorganic chemistry that are central to the study of all chemical phenomena. Discussions include quantitative treatment of thermochemistry, chemical equilibria, electrochemistry and reaction kinetics. Corequisite: CHM 224L. Prerequisites: CHM 111/111L or equivalent. MTH 111 recommended but not required. Enrollment limited to 80. {N}

Spring

CHM 224L Chemistry IV Lab: Introduction to Inorganic and Physical Chemistry (1 Credit)

Lab section. This final course in the chemistry core sequence provides a foundation in the principles of physical and inorganic chemistry that are central to the study of all chemical phenomena. Discussions include quantitative treatment of thermochemistry, chemical equilibria, electrochemistry and reaction kinetics. Corequisite: CHM 224. Prerequisites: CHM 111/111L or equivalent. MTH 111 recommended but not required. Enrollment limited to 16. {N}

Spring

CHM 312 Polymer Chemistry (4 Credits)

Polymeric materials are ubiquitous in our society and play a vital role in many of the technologies that we use on a daily basis (e.g., clothing, electronic devices, drug formulations, medical implants). Chemistry is central to the development of new materials for advanced technologies and this course will provide an introduction to the fields of polymer chemistry and macromolecular assembly. Topics include methods and mechanisms in polymer synthesis and assembly, characterization of polymer structure and properties, and applications of polymers. Special focus will be given to polymers used in biomedical applications. Prerequisite: (CHM 111 or CHM 118) and CHM 222. An understanding of basic chemical principles and an introduction to organic chemistry will be necessary for students to understand topics in polymer chemistry. Enrollment limited to 15. {N}

Fall, Alternate Years

CHM 321 Organic Synthesis (4 Credits)

An examination of modern methods of organic synthesis and approaches to the synthesis of complex organic compounds with a focus on the current literature. Prerequisite: CHM 223. Enrollment limited to 24. {N}

Spring, Alternate Years

CHM 326 Synthesis and Structural Analysis (4 Credits)

Synthetic techniques and experimental design in the context of multistep synthesis. The literature of chemistry, methods of purification and characterization with a focus on NMR spectroscopy, mass spectrometry and chromatography. Prerequisite: CHM 223. Enrollment limited to 18. {N}

Spring

CHM 328 Bioorganic Chemistry (4 Credits)

Applications of chemical tools and synthetic molecules to the study of biological systems. Emphasis is on emerging strategies to study living systems at the molecular level, primary scientific literature and critical review of manuscripts. Discussions include biorthogonal chemistry, synthetic small-molecule probes to interrogate biological systems, protein engineering, proteomics, advances in DNA sequencing, genomics, directed evolution and natural product biosynthesis. Prerequisite: CHM 223. Enrollment limited to 18. {N}

Spring, Alternate Years

CHM 331 Physical Chemistry: Quantum Mechanics (4 Credits)

Quantum chemistry: an introduction to quantum mechanics, the electronic structure of atoms and molecules, with applications in spectroscopy. Prerequisites: CHM 118 or CHM224 and MTH 112 or MTH 114; strongly recommended: MTH 212 or PHY 210, and PHY 115 or PHY 117. {N}

Fall

CHM 332 Physical Chemistry: Thermodynamics and Kinetics (5 Credits)

Thermodynamics and kinetics: will the contents of this flask react, and if so, how fast? Explores the properties that govern the chemical and physical behavior of macroscopic collections of atoms and molecules (gases, liquids, solids and mixtures thereof). Prerequisites: CHM 118 or CHM 224, and MTH 112. Enrollment limited to 24. {N}

Spring

CHM 336 Light and Chemistry (4 Credits)

The interaction of light with molecules is central to studies of molecular structure and reactivity. This course builds on students’ understanding of molecular structure from the core sequence (CHM 111-224) to show how many types of light can be used to interrogate molecules and to shed some light on their behavior. The combined classroom/laboratory format allows students to explore light-based instruments in short, in-class exercises as well as in longer, more traditional labs. The course culminates with an independent project that allows students to explore some of the ways light is used in cutting-edge chemical research. Prerequisites: CHM 222 or equivalent. Enrollment limited to 20. {N}

Spring

CHM 338 Bio-NMR Spectroscopy and Imaging (4 Credits)

This course is designed to provide an understanding of the general principles governing 1D and 2D nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Examples from the diverse use of biological NMR in the study of protein structures, enzyme mechanisms, DNA, RNA, etc. is presented and analyzed. A basic introduction to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is also included, concentrating on its application to biomedical issues. Prerequisite: A knowledge of NMR spectroscopy at the basic level covered in CHM 222 and CHM 223.

Fall, Variable

CHM 346 Environmental Analytical Chemistry (4 Credits)

An introduction to some common environmental chemical processes in air, soil and water, coupled with a study of the crucial role of accurate chemical measurement of these processes. Lecture and laboratory featuring modern chemical instrumentation for spectroscopy (atomic and molecular) high performance chromatographic separations (both gas and liquid), electrochemistry as well as microwave- and ultrasound-assisted sample preparation, and a short project linked to local faculty research interests. Oral presentations and formal laboratory reports required. Prerequisite: CHM 118 or CHM 224 or equivalent. Enrollment limited to 20. {N}

Fall

CHM 357ph Selected Topics in Biochemistry-Pharmacology and Drug Design (4 Credits)

An introduction to the principles and methodology of pharmacology, toxicology and drug design. The pharmacology of several drugs are examined in detail, and computational software is used to examine drug binding and to assist in designing a new or modified drug. Some of the ethical and legal considerations relating to drug design, manufacture and use are also considered. Prerequisite: BCH 252 or equivalent. {N}

Fall, Variable

CHM 363 Advanced Inorganic Chemistry (4 Credits)

Application of group theory, coordination compounds, molecular orbital theory of main group compounds and other selected topics in inorganic chemistry. Prerequisite: CHM 118 or CHM 224. {N}

Spring

CHM 369 Bioinorganic Chemistry (4 Credits)

This course provides an introduction to the field of bioinorganic chemistry. Students learn about the role of metals in biology as well as about the use of inorganic compounds as probes and drugs in biological systems. Prerequisites: CHM 223 and either CHM 118 or CHM 224.

Fall, Variable

CHM 400 Special Studies (1-4 Credits)

Must be taken S/U.

Fall, Spring

CHM 430D Honors Project (4 Credits)

Offered every year (Fall and Spring)

Fall, Spring, Annually

CHM 432D Honors Project (6-12 Credits)

Offered every year (Fall and Spring)

Fall, Spring, Annually

Crosslisted Courses

BCH 252 Biochemistry I: Biochemical Structure and Function (3 Credits)

Structure and function of biological macromolecules: proteins and nucleic acids. Mechanisms of conformational change and cooperative activity; and bioenergetics, enzymes and regulation. Prerequisites: BIO 202 and CHM 223. Corequisite: BCH 253 is required for biochemistry majors. {N}

Spring

BCH 352 Biochemistry II: Biochemical Dynamics (3 Credits)

Chemical dynamics in living systems. Enzyme mechanisms, metabolism and its regulation, energy production and utilization. Prerequisites: BCH 252 and CHM 224. Corequisite: BCH 353 is required for biochemistry majors. {N}

Fall

Additional Programmatic Information

Honors Director

Andrew Berke

430d Thesis: 8 credits, full-year course; offered each year

432d Thesis: 12 credits, full-year course; offered each year

Requirements

Same as for the major, with the addition of a research project in the senior year culminating in a written thesis and an oral presentation. Faculty members will question honors students about their research.

To enter the honors program, you must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 in the major and a minimum overall GPA of 3.0. Students may apply no earlier than the end of the second semester junior year and no later than the beginning of first semester senior year.

Visit the Class Deans' website to learn more about the honors program, deadlines and applying. Application forms and a project proposal must be submitted to the chemistry honors director for approval by the department.

Evaluation

The final honors designation (Highest Honors, High Honors, Honors, Pass or Fail) will be based upon evaluation of the written thesis (50%), oral presentation (20%) and the GPA in the major (30%).

Deadlines

See the deadlines for 2023-24 Honors theses.

If you have questions regarding the honors program or deadlines, please contact Andrew Berke.

To graduate from Smith with a certification from the American Chemical Society, you must satisfy the following five requirements:

  1. Complete CHM 111/111L and CHM 224/224L (or CHM 118/118L)
  2. Take courses in each of the five major areas of chemistry: analytical, biochemistry, inorganic, organic and physical. To satisfy this requirement you would take:
    • Analytical: two out of three from CHM 326, CHM 336 and CHM 346
    • Biochemistry: BCH 252
    • Inorganic: CHM 363
    • Organic: CHM 222/222L
    • Physical: CHM 332
  3. Include a minimum of at least 12 semester hours of in-depth coursework. This is satisfied by taking four courses from the following list: BCH 352, CHM 223/223L, CHM 321, CHM 328, CHM 331, CHM 338, CHM 369.
  4. Have a total of 400 hours of laboratory experience. This can be achieved at Smith in many ways. A typical example is taking the general chemistry course, the required organic course and the two lab courses required for the chemistry major, which totals 215 hours. Two other courses with labs within your program and a one-semester special studies will give you more than 400 lab hours.
  5. Math and physics requirements include MTH 111 and MTH 112 or MTH 114. You will also need PHY 117 and PHY 118 and the accompanying labs.

Possible Schedule for Certification

Note that many of the courses can be taken at different times than given here; this is one possible choice.

First Year Second Year 
CHM 111 (with lab) CHM 223 (with lab)
CHM 222 (with lab) CHM 224 (with lab)
MTH 111 CHM 326 (with lab)
MTH 112 PHY 117 (with lab)
  PHY 118 (with lab)
   
Third Year Fourth Year
CHM 331 CHM 400/430 (with lab)
CHM 363 CHM 332 (with lab)
CHM 336 (elective; with lab) CHM 430 (with lab)
CHM elective CHM elective
BCH 252  

The following example shows one possible major pathway fulfilling minimum requirements for a major.

First Year Second Year 
CHM 111 (required; with lab) CHM 224 (required; with lab)
CHM 222 (required; with lab) CHM 223 (optional; with lab)
  CHM 326 (elective; with lab)
   
Third Year Fourth Year
CHM 331 (optional) CHM 363 (optional)
CHM 332 (optional; with lab) Two CHM electives
CHM 346 (elective; with lab)  
CHM 336 (elective; with lab)  

There are many possibilities for a major. For various career objectives it may be useful to take additional courses. Please discuss this with your adviser. Here are some example majors for a student who:

Schedule for a Professional Chemist

Note that the courses in the junior and senior years can be taken in many different arrangements from that given here; this is one possible choice.

First Year Second Year 
CHM 111 (with lab) CHM 223 (with lab)
CHM 222 (with lab) CHM 224 (with lab)
  CHM 336 (with lab)
   
Third Year Fourth Year
CHM 331 CHM 346 (with lab)
CHM 363 CHM 332 (with lab)
CHM 338 CHM 430 (with lab)
CHM 326 (with lab) CHM 430 (with lab)

Schedule in Preparation for Medical School

Consult with an adviser about the many possibilities here. You can also consult prehealth advising.

First Year Second Year 
CHM 111 (with lab) CHM 223 (with lab)
CHM 222 (with lab) CHM 224 (with lab)
  CHM 326 (with lab)
  BCH 252
   
Third Year Fourth Year
CHM 331 CHM 336 (with lab)
CHM 363 CHM 430 (with lab)
BCH 352  

Environmental Chemistry

Some of the public policy courses in the environmental sciences minor might be of interest; talk with an adviser.

First Year Second Year 
CHM 111 (with lab) CHM 224 (with lab)
CHM 222 (with lab) CHM 336 (with lab)
   
Third Year Fourth Year
CHM 346 (with lab) CHM 331
CHM 332 (with lab) CHM 363
GEO 301 (with lab) CHM 430 (with lab)
  CHM 430 (with lab)

Sophomore Year Start

A chemistry program is relatively easy to start even after one year without chemistry.

Second Year  Third Year
CHM 111 (with lab) CHM 223 (with lab)
CHM 222 (with lab) CHM 224 (with lab)
  BCH 252
   
Fourth Year  
CHM 331  
CHM 332 (with lab)  
CHM 346 (with lab)  
CHM 336 (with lab)  
CHM 321  

Junior Year Away

Planning ahead is crucial to doing a junior year abroad.

First Year Second Year 
CHM 111 (with lab) CHM 223 (with lab)
CHM 222 (with lab) CHM 224 (with lab)
   
Third Year Fourth Year
Elective Abroad CHM 331
  CHM 363
  CHM 346 (with lab)
  CHM 326 (with lab)

All students planning to take CHM 111 should complete the online placement exercise as soon as possible. CHM 111 is the introductory chemistry course for students who have had 0-1 years of high school chemistry. We recommend that students who have more extensive preparation in chemistry (2+ years of HS chemistry, a 4 or 5 on the AP Chem exam, IB experience) take CHM 118 and CHM 118L in the Fall. These students also have the option of placing directly into CHM 222 (Organic Chemistry I) in the Spring but should consult a member of the department before choosing this path.

Faculty

Andrew Berke

Chemistry

Associate Professor of Chemistry; Co-Director of Environmental Concentration

Andrew Berke

Scott Edmands

Biochemistry

Ph.D. Laboratory Instructor in Biochemistry and Chemistry

Scott Edmands

Elizabeth Jamieson

Chemistry

Professor of Chemistry; Director, Center for Aqueous Biogeochemical Research

Betsy Jamieson

Mohini Kulp

Chemistry

Senior Laboratory Instructor in Chemistry

Mohini Kulp

Kevin Shea

Chemistry

Professor of Chemistry; Chair of the Chemistry Department

Kevin Shea

Emeriti

Lâle Burk 
Senior Lecturer Emerita in Chemistry

George Fleck 
Professor Emeritus of Chemistry

Robert Linck 
Professor Emeritus of Chemistry

Thomas Hastings Lowry 
Professor Emeritus of Chemistry

Faculty Mentoring Plan

Smith College and the chemistry department consider faculty mentoring at the core of faculty development. We have implemented a mentoring plan that outlines specific activities designed to facilitate mentoring.

 

Research

Chemistry and Biochemistry faculty, as part of the STEM team at Smith, are undertaking a variety of research projects that are amenable to undergraduate participation. Undergraduate research can be done by students at all levels, as special studies, honors or summer research. It can also come in the form of shadowing or volunteering in a lab if you are not sure if research is for you, or if you have not had many chemistry classes yet.

If you are interested in doing research with us, you should start by reviewing the Faculty Research Interests section on this page and by attending any of the many faculty research talks presented during Chemistry lunch bags. Contact the faculty whose general research is of interest to find out about specific opportunities.

During the academic year, you will have to submit a Chemistry department application, in which you will be asked to describe your research interests and the labs you would be interested in working with (if any in particular).

All applications will be reviewed the semester prior to starting research and a research “match” will be suggested. While we would love to give all interested students a research opportunity, we only have so much space. So, if you don't get matched to a specific lab the first time, we invite and encourage you to submit another form the following semester!

Watch out for application deadlines (usually late November for the Spring semester and late April for the following Fall)

Summer research opportunities are organized separately via the SURF program and include funding. Consult the Summer Research Opportunities section in this page for specific details about this program.

For an overall description of STEM research at Smith you can explore this webpage.

Andrew Berke

Physical and Atmospheric Chemistry

My research focuses on the uptake of small organic molecules into complex (multicomponent) aerosol-mimicking solutions and the optical properties of aerosol particles generated from those complex solutions. The goal is to characterize aerosol optical properties, such as their ability to scatter light, as a function of particle size and chemical composition. The ability of airborne particles to scatter (and absorb) sunlight is one of the least understood parameters affecting net radiative forcing in the atmosphere, which is the technical way of saying either heating (positive forcing) or cooling (negative forcing). One inherent problem is that aerosol composition can be heavily influenced by local emission sources, meaning that a simple model system cannot fully account for regional variability in aerosol optical properties and atmospheric impacts. A way to confront this problem is to systematically tailor aerosol composition and measure its subsequent optical properties. This is the approach my lab takes, using a home-built cavity-enhanced absorption spectrometer.

David Bickar

Biochemistry

My research interests have diverged into three distinct areas. The first focuses on the mechanisms of electron transfer and oxygen reduction, the proteins that catalyze these reactions and the cell damage that can ensue when these reactions go wrong. My second area of research is to determine why a small group of structurally similar compounds are selectively toxic to the neurons in one small region of the brain. My last area of study is the design and preparation of self-organizing chemical systems, based on the ligand affinities and coordination properties of metal complexes.

Maren Buck

Organic/Polymer Chemistry

My research interests fall at the intersection of organic chemistry, polymer chemistry and materials science. We use a polymer bearing reactive, azlactone functional groups to assemble multifunctional hydrogels of interest in the contexts of drug delivery, in vitro cell culture, and tissue engineering and regeneration. We are currently developing both complex 2D and 3D hydrogel scaffolds functionalized with a broad range of chemical and biological motifs that can direct the behavior of mammalian cells cultured on these materials. A second major area of research focuses on the use of these azlactone-based polymers as macromolecular drug delivery vehicles. We are fabricating nanoscale polymeric micelles that can be used to deliver chemotherapeutics with control over where and when the drug is released. We are also working in collaboration with Sarah Moore’s lab in engineering to synthesize protein-polymer-drug conjugates that specifically target cancer cells as well as cells at the blood-brain barrier.

David Gorin

Organic and Bioorganic Chemistry

My research interests fall within organic and bio-organic chemistry. Exquisitely selective chemical catalysts and reagents are needed for the modification and functional perturbation of molecules in complex contexts, such as in biological samples. Since chemists have traditionally been concerned with the transformation of a single, pure starting material into a product, few reagents are capable of directing a chemical reaction to one substrate among many. My lab uses tools from synthetic chemistry and molecular biology to develop new reagents for the directed transformation of a target compound in a mixture.

Lesley-Ann Giddings

Natural Products Biochemistry

I am a natural products biochemist interested in: 1) bioprospecting extreme environments (e.g., acid rock drainage) for new bioactive agents produced by microbes; as well as 2) understanding the enzymology behind the assembly of these novel pharmacophores. My lab approaches these problems by using culture-dependent and culture independent methods (i.e., next-generation sequencing) to identify secondary metabolites. We also use basic biochemical techniques, including protein purification and enzyme kinetics, to characterize enzymes involved in secondary metabolic pathways. Current projects include exploring connections between metal resistance genes and biosynthetic gene clusters to find new bioactive secondary metabolites in metal-contaminated environments. We also characterize enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of siderophores, metal-chelating secondary metabolites, that help microorganisms thrive in iron-limiting environments. Characterizing these enzymes is important as they can be: 1) used for biocatalysis; 2) used in the synthesis of clinically approved siderophores and analogs; and 3) exploited as drug targets to prevent the virulence of human pathogens. My lab’s overall goals are to explore connections between the ecology of an environment and bioactivity as well as understand how microbial secondary metabolites are made.

Elizabeth Jamieson

Bioinorganic Chemistry

My research interest is in the field of bioinorganic chemistry. Specifically, my lab is interested in examining how complexes of the transition metal chromium damage DNA. We use differential scanning calorimetry to see how lesions formed by chromium alter the thermodynamic stability of the DNA helix. We are also interested in investigating the structure of some of these lesions using NMR spectroscopy and in seeing how they affect the structure of nucleosomes.

Kate Queeney

Physical Chemistry

My research uses the lens of physical chemistry to study chemical and physical processes that occur on solid surfaces. Our lab’s current focus is on understanding the ways that both surface chemistry (e.g. the functional groups that exist on a surface) and surface topography (the 3-dimensional structure of a surface) influence the interaction of biological entities like bacteria with those surfaces. An initial study, in collaboration with microbiologist Rob Dorit, showed that surface chemistry (hydroxyl groups vs. long alkyl chains) and surface topography (atomically flat vs. covered with 50-100 nm bumps) work in concert to affect the proliferation of biofilm-forming bacteria on silicon-based surfaces. We are now working on ways to increase the range of surface chemistries we can explore in these systems. One approach has been to attempt to selectively functionalize those nanoscale bumps—seeing if we can populate the sides and tops of the bumps with different functional groups. Another approach, this time in collaboration with polymer chemist Maren Buck. is to use polymer films that we can selectively modify to achieve a more continuous range of surface wettability (how hydrophobic the surface is) and ideally to separate out effects of surface wettability and surface charge. Underlying all our work is careful attention to fully characterizing the surfaces we make, using traditional surface science tools to have a deep understanding of the surfaces we make and how they evolve. Sometimes this leads us into productive detours in more fundamental physical chemistry, such as understanding how different two-dimensional patterns of functional groups affect surface wettability, or how nanoscale surface features affect optical measurements on those surfaces. Students in my lab will learn new techniques such as dynamic contact angle goniometry, ellipsometry, atomic force microscopy and surface infrared spectroscopy.

Kevin Shea

Organic Chemistry

I use organic synthesis to investigate new methods for carbon-carbon bond formation and to develop syntheses of biologically active molecules. Completed research has focused on the application of tandem Nicholas and Pauson-Khand reactions for the synthesis of tricyclic heterocycles. Ongoing research involves expanding the use of cobalt-alkyne complexes in organic synthesis. Our goals are to develop a tandem Diels-Alder/Pauson-Khand protocol for the production of tetracyclic compounds and a method for the synthesis of cyclic alkynes using the Nicholas reaction. An unrelated project involves a collaboration with Steve Williams in the Smith Biology Department which aims to identify natural products as drugs to combat lymphatic filariasis. A new project in the lab is focused on women's health and involves converting tea leaf waste into sustainable materials for the construction of menstrual pads for women who currently don't have reliable access to menstrual supplies.  

Alexandra Strom

Mechanistic Study and Catalytic Reaction Development

My research focuses on the development of new tools for synthetic chemists. The reactions we develop use organic and organometallic chemistry to create more efficient bond-forming reactions that cut out unnecessary steps in synthetic sequences and provide new pathways to complex chemical structures from simple building blocks. One project in my group is to functionalize the alpha position of carbonyl derivatives using iron catalysis. Another project in my group is using pericyclic reactions to build aromatic compounds. Our research uses mechanistic insight to guide discovery of these reactions.

Cristina Suarez

Physical Chemistry

My research interests focus on different areas of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Currently my main area of interest focuses on the application of solution NMR techniques to the analysis of interesting biochemical questions. We are working on the characterization of the structural and kinetic properties of lesioned short DNA structures. My lab uses a variety of NMR experiments (COSY, NOESY, exchange, etc.) to study these properties. We have also recently studied cation (Na+ and K+) transport via natural and synthetic ion transporters/channels. We are currently working on the synthesis of a cyclopeptidic transport system.

Summer Research Opportunities

Each summer Smith’s chemistry department offers a number of positions that let students participate in research in chemistry and biochemistry. To find out more about specific projects and research opportunities in the chemistry department, either:

  1. Attend one of several chemistry Lunchbag series, offered during the academic year, where faculty present an outline of their research at Smith.
  2. Directly talk to a faculty member.

Learn more about SURF student opportunities.

Research Experience for Undergraduates

At Smith, undergraduate research is integral to the study of chemistry. You have exciting opportunities to conduct research within the department and during the summer.

Students and faculty use an array of advanced instrumentation for research and in classes. The department houses the following instruments:

  • Bruker 300 MHz NMR spectrometer
  • Bruker 500MHz NMR spectrometer with four available probes: a 5 mm VT BBO probe, a 5 mm VT TBI probe, a 10 mm VT BBO probe, and a 10 mm probe for selective 19F/1H observation.
  • GC-MS
  • GC-FID
  • FT-IR spectrometer
  • UV-VIS spectrometers
  • AFM
  • Polarimeter
  • Atomic absorption spectrometer
  • Variable angle ellipsometer
  • Zeta PALS particle analyzer
  • Contact angle goniometer
  • Differential scanning calorimeter
  • Nd-YAG pumped dye laser
  • EZ-stat potentiostat/galvanostat
  • CEM Discover microwave

Extensive additional equipment is maintained in the following core facilities at Smith:

Why Study Chemistry at Smith?

Faculty and students in the chemistry department share a love for learning and applying what we learn in the classroom to interesting problems in the lab.

Resources & Lab Safety

Our Mission

At Smith, our mission is to promote a positive culture of safety. On the following link, you will find:

To see full details and practical safety information regarding regular research and instruction, please visit Smith's Research & Instruction Safety website.

RESEARCH & INSTRUCTION SAFETY

The American Chemical Society advocates for the safe practice of chemistry. We follow their guidleines and recommendations. Visit their site to learn about a variety of resources and tools

ACS CHEMICAL & LABORATORY SAFETY

To Help You In and Out of Class

  • Visit the Science Center Computing and Technical Services (CATS) supported software webpage to access a variety of scientific software.
     
  • Smith chemistry students have access to CHEMDRAW a chemical drawing tool that professionals use. To get your own copy of the tool, go to the CATS supported software webpage (link above) and follow their instructions.
     
  • WebMO is a web-based interface to computational chemistry packages. Instructions to use WebMO
     
  • The Jacobson Center will work with you to improve your writing and learning skills. The Spinelli Center for Quantitative Learning will support students doing quantitative work across the curriculum. They offer chemistry tutoring, workshops and class study sessions outside the regular classroom.

Study Abroad Adviser:  Maria Bickar (mbickar)

The chemistry major is designed to allow students to enjoy either a semester or a year away in a study abroad program. Students have gone to Australia, France, Great Britian, Italy and other destinations. Careful planning is essential. An example of a major pathway with the student spending junior year abroad can be seen in the Major Pathways page.

If you are considering study abroad, be sure to contact advisers in the Office for International Study to review additional details and credit requirements.

Paid Opportunities

Every semester the department offers the following paid opportunities that can help students gain practical and job-related experiences outside of the classroom:

Student teaching assistants to help instructors manage laboratory sections. If you meet the minimum classwork requirements and enjoy working with other students, the application period is typically towards the end of the semester before the course starts, although there may still be openings at the start of the semester.
Time commitment: 3 hours of introductory chemistry lab and 4 hours of an advanced lab per week.

Prep work positions for laboratory courses. We look for well-organized and dependable students to help set up our teaching labs. The work includes preparing solutions, as well as gathering and setting out reagents and equipment. The application period is the same as for teaching assistant positions.
Time commitment: hours vary and are flexible.

To apply for any of the above positions, click to download the form.

Tutoring is another way to get more teaching experience and it is a fantastic manner to practice your chemistry in preparation for the MCATs or GREs. Tutors are hired through the Spinelli Center with the recommendation of the department. We are looking for reliable and dependable students with a proven academic record who enjoy working one-on-one with other students.
Time commitment: 10 hours per week for a full-time tutor, but can be a shared position. Tutors are typically hired in April for the next academic year so you should contact faculty that you are interested in tutoring for in March.

Unpaid Opportunities

Examples of unpaid opportunities to get involved with the Smith science community include applying to be an AEMES mentor or a department liaison.

Student Prizes

In 2022 we graduated a new class of chemistry and biochemistry majors. Our students work hard and their efforts are often rewarded. The last couple of years, Smith has been the recipient of a record number of Fulbrights and other fellowships. Several of them were chemistry and biochemistry majors! This is the list of academic prizes awarded during the academic 2021-22 year.

  • ACS Division of Organic Chemistry Award in Organic Chemistry: (CHM) Miranda Wu '22 and Mona Munia '22
  • ACS Division of Inorganic Chemistry Award in Inorganic Chemistry: (CHM) So Hyun Park '24J
  • ACS Division of Physical Chemistry Award in Physical Chemistry: (CHM) Mona Munia '22
  • ACS Division of Analytical Chemistry Award in Analytical Chemistry: (CHM) Laura Bickart '23
  • National Iota Sigma Pi Undergraduate Award Recipient: (CHM) Halley Lin-Jones '22 and Melany Garcia '22
  • National Iota Sigma Pi Gladys Anderson Emerson Award Recipient: (CHM) Laura Bickart '23
  • American Institute of Chemists/New England Division Award: (CHM) Grace Ou ’22
  • Connecticut Valley Section of the American Chemical Society Award: (CHM) Mary Kasbo ’22, (BCH) Miranda Wu '22
  • C. Pauline Burt Prize: (BCH) Yeji Lee '22, (BCH) Sophie (Fubin) Song ’24
  • Hause-Scheffer Memorial Prize: (CHM) Halley Lin-Jones '22
  • Rosenfeld Award in Organic Chemistry: (CHM) Emily Kish ’24, Emma Whittemore ’24
  • Introductory Chemistry Achievement Award: Hannah Ross ’25, Jingyi Sze ’25, Laura Edwards ’25, Lily Weber ’25
  • Hellman Award in Biochemistry: (BCH) Sophie (Fubin) Song ’24.
  • pHunger Games Winners: (all CHM)
    1st place: 
    2nd place: 

 

Contact Department of Chemistry

Ford Hall 255B

Smith College

Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: 413-585-3806 Email: aavard@smith.edu

Administrative Assistant: Amy Avard

Department Chair: Kevin Shea