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Coursework/Academic Help

Which general chemistry class sequence should I take? CHEM 2070-2080, CHEM 2090-2080, or CHEM 2150?

CHEM 2090 is the first semester of general chemistry for engineers while CHEM 2070 is intended for all other majors. Both engineers and other majors take CHEM 2080 as the second semester of general chemistry.

Students who scored a 5 on the AP Chemistry exam or received a sufficient score on the Chemistry Advanced Standing Exam (CASE) are eligible to enroll in CHEM 2150. CHEM 2150 is the beginning of the advanced honors track for chemistry majors but also enrolls many students pursuing biology and other related fields. While CHEM 2090-2080 and CHEM 2070-2080 are yearlong general chemistry series, CHEM 2150 allows students to complete general chemistry in one semester, freeing up the second semester for other classes. 

For more information, see the chemistry department website

Which organic chemistry class sequence should I take? CHEM 1570, CHEM 3530, CHEM 3570-3580, or CHEM 3590-3600?

CHEM 1570 and CHEM 3530 are intended for non-majors, or majors on an individualized track focusing on physical chemistry. The CHEM 3570-3580 series is generally taken by chemistry majors who are not on the accelerated track, biology majors, and pre-medical students. The CHEM 3590-3600 series usually consists of accelerated honors chemistry majors, but there are still premed and biology students in those classes. 

As a chemistry major, should I take the honors or the regular sequence?

Completing one of two honors curriculums with a GPA of 3.3 or higher allows chemistry majors to graduate cum laude. To obtain higher levels of Latin honors (magna cum laude or summa cum laude), chemistry majors must complete the honors seminar. More information can be found on the chemistry department website.

For students planning on attending graduate school, it is preferable to follow the honors sequence, especially regarding laboratory-based classes. However, the individual courses will depend on your subfield of interest.

Where can I find a tutor?

We will be partnering with Alpha Chi Sigma, the professional chemistry fraternity, to offer both group and one-on-one tutoring sessions. Look out for more info in the near future!

The Learning Strategies Center (LSC) offers free group tutoring to students in a multitude of subjects such as general and organic chemistry. If you are looking for one-on-one tutoring, you can contact the Undergraduate Program Assistant Donald Austin (da466@cornell.edu) to arrange for paid private tutoring. 

Laboratory Work

When should I start looking to join a research lab?

This is largely dependent on your schedule and future goals. Often, graduate schools will look favorably upon starting research earlier in your undergraduate years, but it is by no means a requirement and you should not feel pressured to start working in a lab before you’re sure you have enough time to properly commit to laboratory work.

How do I find a position in a research lab?

Paid positions can occasionally be found on the student employment website.

However, most students generally work for credit hours instead during the semester, and these positions can be found by emailing professors directly. Look through the chemistry department’s faculty page to see which professors conduct research that interests you, and reach out with a brief email stating your interest in their work and your relevant experience. Don’t worry if you don’t get an email back right away! Often, professors are busy and forget to respond. You can send a polite reminder email, but it’s usually wise to email multiple professors whose work interests you.

How do I find a summer internship?

If you’re looking to work in an academic research setting, it’s best to contact professors of interest directly by email.

For industry internships, websites like Indeed are often a great place to start. Your advisor and the PI in your lab will also usually have a good idea of where students have applied and been successful in the past, so don’t overlook them as a resource! If you’re still looking for more places to apply, you can always also contact career services.

Many students also spend summers doing research here at Cornell, so don’t feel too much pressure to apply to industry internships.

How do I find funding for my summer research?

Some summer research programs provide stipends, for example, the Amgen Scholars program, the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs funded by the NSF, and the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program at Caltech. If you are not participating in one of these programs, you can apply for the Summer Experience Grant funded by the Arts and Sciences college at Cornell.

If you are staying on campus to conduct chemistry research, you can apply for one of the fellowships funded by the chemistry department. These applications are sent out in January and are due in February, and recipients are notified in March.

You can also apply for a paid internship in industry. Many companies such as Merck, Bayer, Pfizer, ExxonMobil, and Dow have summer internship programs. Some students also apply to positions at national labs.

Other Advice

How do I get to know my professors in large classes?

One of the best ways to get to know your professors in large classes is to attend their office hours. This gives you an opportunity to not only review any topics you might need help with, but to also speak with your professors in smaller settings. If you attend office hours regularly, your professors will get to know your name and face. If you cannot attend office hours, you can always stay after class to ask your questions.

What kind of post-graduation plans do chemistry majors typically have? 

Chemistry majors tend to pursue additional post-graduate education such as graduate school, medical school, or veterinary school. Some chemistry undergraduates decide to enter the work force right after graduating, either by staying in academia, moving to industry (pharmaceuticals, materials, energy, etc.), or consulting. 

How many hours per week can I expect to spend on a chemistry class? 

This depends on which class you take. The majority of chemistry classes are four credits, but the amount of time you spend can differ greatly. In general, lab classes are more time consuming than lecture courses, especially because chemistry labs meet for three hour blocks either once or twice a week.

As a chemistry major, how much time will I be able to spend on extracurricular activities? 

Many chemistry majors are involved in research on campus, and spend anywhere from six to twenty hours a week on their projects. Outside of research, chemistry majors are involved in a variety of different organizations—how much time you spend depends on how you prioritize your time.

How is the chemistry major experience different for transfer students?

See our blog post “Tips for Transfer Students.”