2023-2024 College Catalog

Chemistry, Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science


Andrew J. Piefer (Chair); John Dudek; Mark S. Erickson; Wayne G. McMahon






Chemistry, the study of matter, focuses on how substances are formed and transformed by chemical reactions. The study of chemistry gives students a working knowledge of chemical principles allowing them to perform chemical experiments; initiate and sustain research projects; and to think abstractly, conceptualizing reactions and relationships as they analyze data and draw conclusions. The student gains an appreciation for the methods and spirit of modern science.

The Chemistry Department, whose program is approved by the American Chemical Society’s Committee on Professional Training, offers Chemistry majors two tracks of study:

  • Bachelor of Science: This track is recommended for students anticipating graduate study in chemistry or careers in industrial chemistry and normally is taken for departmental certification to the American Chemical Society.
  • Bachelor of Arts: this track offers a broader general education, which has fewer required courses in the major program. It is recommended for students desiring careers in areas where chemistry knowledge is useful but not necessarily the main focus, like secondary education, health professions or law.

Students pursuing either track obtain a broad base in chemistry through required courses in analytical, inorganic, organic and physical chemistries, biochemistry, mathematics and physics. Upper level courses, including an original senior research project, enable students to probe more deeply into specific areas.

Majors in the B.S. and B.A. programs complete a yearlong senior thesis research project, which culminates in oral and written reports of their findings. The senior research project is full-time during January Term. The research projects may be carried out on campus or at an approved off-campus research facility.

The department faculty believe strongly that experimental work and research are central in the development of a scientist and regard laboratory study as the strongest aspect of the Chemistry program. To facilitate such study, all Chemistry students in laboratory work beginning in their first year and continuing throughout their college career use modern equipment and instruments.

To further promote the development of research skills, students are encouraged to participate as early as possible in ongoing faculty research projects and to design their own projects as their abilities increase. In addition, there are opportunities for collaborative research or internships in the Hartwick Center for Craft Food and Beverage or nearby university, hospital, and industrial laboratories. Majors also may take advantage of internships in a variety of career fields that require a knowledge of chemistry.

Chemistry majors have a wide range of career options available to them. Bachelor of Science majors may opt directly for careers in industry in areas such as chemical analysis, pollution control, research and development in manufacturing, and product quality control. They also may pursue advanced study in chemistry, which can lead to a wide range of careers in research, college teaching or industrial management.

Majors with a Bachelor of Arts may choose such careers as environmental analysis, industrial sales, business administration, geochemistry, high school teaching, art conservation, and political consulting. Alternately, one may pursue professional studies in optometry, dentistry, medicine, engineering, and law.