Undergraduate Program in Chemistry
The objective of the undergraduate option in chemistry is to produce graduates articulate in the fundamental concepts of the molecular sciences through a combination of coursework and laboratory experiences. The chemistry program at Caltech provides depth in the traditional areas of chemistry—organic and inorganic chemistry, chemical physics, theoretical chemistry, chemical biology, and biochemistry. Breadth in the program is found within the advanced coursework offerings and the specialized interests of the faculty, which may include topics such as: chemical synthesis and catalysis, chemical dynamics and reaction mechanisms, biochemistry, bioinorganic, bioorganic, and biophysical chemistry, and materials chemistry. Chemical research at Caltech is highly interdisciplinary, reflecting the increasing importance of molecular understanding to many fields of science. Major initiatives are fostering broad collaborations in energy and environment, molecular medicine, and nanomaterials. The outcome of the undergraduate program in chemistry is to prepare students for advanced graduate study and ultimately careers in teaching and research at colleges and universities, in research for government and industry, in the operation and control of manufacturing processes, and in management and development positions in the chemical industry.
A first-year general chemistry course is taken by all freshman students. The emphasis is on fundamental principles and their use in systematizing descriptive chemistry. To satisfy the Institute chemistry requirement, students may substitute at least two terms from Ch 21 ab or Ch 24 or Ch 41 ab for Ch 1 ab only after passing the chemistry placement exam. Exceptions will be granted only by petition to the chemistry curriculum and undergraduate studies committee. Students who did not pass the placement exam may take Ch 1 and Ch 41 simultaneously, but Ch 1 ab must be passed to satisfy the Institute chemistry requirement. The one-term required laboratory course (Ch 3 a) presents basic principles and techniques of synthesis and analysis and develops the laboratory skills and precision that are fundamental to experimental chemistry. The laboratory in the following two terms (Ch 4 ab), normally taken concurrently with Ch 41, introduces the student to methods of synthesis, separation, and instrumental analysis used routinely in research. Qualified students, with the instructor's consent, are allowed to substitute either Ch 4 a, Ch 8, or Ch/ChE 9 for the core requirement of Ch 3 a. Freshmen intending to major in chemistry are encouraged to take Ch 10 abc, which provides an introduction to research activities and opportunities in chemistry for undergraduates.
Beyond the freshman year, each student in the chemistry option, in consultation with his or her adviser, selects a suitable course of study under the supervision of the division. The requirements of the option are listed below. A student wishing to deviate from these requirements should submit an alternate curriculum, with justifications, for consideration by his or her adviser and the Chemistry Curriculum and Undergraduate Studies Committee. The chemistry option representative should be consulted for the future scheduling of courses not offered during the current academic year.
Undergraduates in the option must also take chemistry courses below the 100 level for a letter grade with the exception of the following courses, which are only offered on a pass/fail basis: Ch 1, Ch 3 a, Ch 90, and, if taken during the first or second terms of the freshman year, Ch 4 ab, Ch 21 ab, Ch 24, and Ch 41 ab.