Frequently Asked Questions from students...with answers.
Read below for questions about research, courses, the major, and more.
I am thinking about college and chemistry interests me: why should I choose Barnard?
Barnard is a small undergraduate liberal arts college for women in New York City. Small liberal arts colleges are usually places where the faculty is deeply dedicated to teaching. Barnard science faculty are available to students not just in the classroom, but in formal and informal office hours, in labs, and as academic advisors. Barnard faculty are committed to the success of all their students, and if you are willing to make the effort, we are willing to be there working with you throughout your college career.
Many undergraduate liberal arts colleges also have an excellent record in doing first-rate scientific research and preparing students for success in science and medicine. Barnard chemistry faculty have active research programs, often supported with funding from external public and private agencies like the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, or the Petroleum Research Fund. At universities, professors generally carry out their research with a large group, including postdoctoral students, graduate students, and undergraduates. At Barnard, undergraduates are the primary co-workers of the faculty. Thus if you do research chemistry here, you will have a lot of individual attention. Moreover our research instruments are here for your use. (At larger institutions, you might have a lower priority to use a state-of-the-art NMR, for example.)
Our New York location and our relationship with Columbia mean that there are also opportunities to work in a larger scale science environment, if you wish. Barnard chemistry and biochemistry majors frequently choose to do their senior theses in research groups in the Columbia Chemistry or Biology departments, at the Columbia University Medical Center, and at other nearby institutions.
First-Years and Sophomores
I want to study chemistry at Barnard: which course should I take first?
If you might be a chemistry or biochemistry major, we strongly urge you to take chemistry your first year. No matter what your potential major, as a science intrested student or for a student following the pre-health track starting with chemistry can make good sense.
Students begin their study of college chemistry with BC2001x. This one-semester General Chemistry course includes both lectures and laboratory. It is designed for students with some familiarity with chemistry from high school and a good foundation in mathematics (algebra).
Students with no previous chemistry background or with weaker mathematics may wish to consider taking up to a year of college math, following it with BC2001x the following fall.
What about taking General Chemistry at Columbia?
The Barnard and Columbia General Chemistry courses are not interchangeable: the subject matter is covered in different order. The Barnard course is designed to include in the first term those subjects important for understanding organic chemistry. For this reason, if you take General Chemistry I at Columbia (UN1403), then you must also take General Chemistry II at Columbia (UN1404) along with the General Chemistry Lab (UN1500) before taking Organic Chemistry, either at Barnard or Columbia.
Chemistry UN1604 at Columbia is an accelerated general chemistry course for students with AP credit. Students who take this course and the laboratory course (Chemistry UN1500 or UN1507) may then take the organic chemistry sequence at Barnard. However, we encourage students to take BC2001 at Barnard as it is designed as part of a four course sequence.
Similarly, students who have taken even a single semester of Organic Chemistry, whether at Barnard, Columbia or elsewhere may not take BC1002y or UN1404 for credit – these are introductory courses and are not appropriate for an advanced chemistry student.
For more details, see the Information for First Year and Prospective students.
I am a premedical (or predental) student. What chemistry courses should I take?
Can I place out of BC2001x with AP or IB?
No: students with AP scores of 4 or 5 in Chemistry are given 3 points of credit, but they must take BC2001x. There is no AP credit for chemistry lab.
I didn't take General Chemistry I (BC2001x) my first year: can I still major in chemistry or biochemistry?
Yes. The major can be completed in three years. Come speak to someone in the department to work out the details based on your background.
I have questions about the chemistry or biochemistry major: who can I ask?
Anyone in the chemistry department would be happy to answer your questions. Try to come during scheduled office hours: these are usually posted on each faculty member’s door; some are available on the WWW.
How do I choose a major advisor?
Major advisors are assigned by the Department Chair when you submit your major declaration form. You should feel free to consult others in the department whenever you have a question: we operate quite informally.
How do I get in a lab section? Do I have to enter a lottery?
The chemistry department does not hold lotteries: if you sign up properly for a laboratory course during the preregistration period, we will find a way to fit you in, even if it means adding sections. Limited space means that you may not get the day you want, but we will generally find a section that works for you.
There are no guarantees if your plans change and you decide to take the course after preregistration. If you want to add a lab, contact the instructor as soon as possible, and every effort will be made to fit you in. Students who ask to add labs the first day of classes are often accommodated, when there is room. But chemistry lab courses typically start right away, so we do not accept students into these courses after the first couple of days of classes.
We will find space for new transfer students, since they could not preregister, but they should be sure to come ask at the very beginning of the term, earlier if possible!
Everyone: General and Procedural Questions
How do I get approval for a summer course in chemistry?
Learning chemistry in a 14-week semester is already challenging; compressing this to 5 or 6 weeks is seldom a good way to learn and retain material. However we recognize that scheduling constraints sometimes make summer courses a necessary option. If you wish to get Barnard credit, be sure to get signed approval from the department chair before taking any course. Under no circumstances will approval be given for a summer semester of fewer that 5 weeks: this is a sensible college policy. Detailed information about requirements for summer courses and what is needed to get them approved may be found here.
What do chemistry and biochemistry majors do after they graduate?
Barnard chemistry and biochemistry alumnae mostly continue in science, and most do some graduate study. However it is quite common for students to work for a year or two, and then begin graduate or professional school. About one third of our alumnae are practicing physicians. Many are clinicians, and many are also engaged in basic research, at universities or in the pharmaceutical industry. Another third have Ph.D.’s in chemistry or chemistry-related subjects. Barnard chemistry alumnae are Professors at Caltech, Brandeis, Washington (Seattle), Carnegie-Mellon, and other fine universities. Others teach at undergraduate colleges like Rhode Island College and Xavier University (LA). Other related professions chosen by alumnae include Pharmacy and Pharmacology. Some graduates work in industry, at the bench as well as in sales or management. A few alumnae teach high school science. We also have several very successful alumnae lawyers and business people: good technical training can be very valuable in these areas.
If you wish to get Barnard credit for a course taken during the academic year at another institute detailed information about requirements for what is needed to get them approved here.
You need to take the Advanced Organic Chemistry Lab at CU that corresponds to Mod Tech Lab: CHEM UN3546. You would then also take Quantitative Annalysis Lab, which you would take after taking the Mod Tech equivalent.
Everyone: Student Research
Can I do research in the chemistry department for course credit? How is that arranged?
Yes, the department is very pleased to have students do research. To work safely and independently in lab, some background is needed, so students must complete a year of chemistry with lab before beginning research. In some areas, more advanced coursework may be needed.
Two courses, BC3597 and BC3599, are set up for student research in the chemistry department at Barnard. The former is for 2 credits, with an expectation of one afternoon per week (or the equivalent) in lab, with some additional work reading and analyzing results. The latter is for 4 credits, with the expectation of two afternoons (or the equivalent) of work per week, plus time for reading and analysis. The scheduling of research time is up to the sponsoring faculty member: sometimes a fixed schedule is necessary, while in other cases a more flexible arrangement may work. Some faculty have a weekly group meeting with their research students.
If you are interested in doing research, speak to any Professor whose area of study interests you. He or she will describe the projects that are on-going, and discuss what might be suitable for a student with your background. Keep in mind that time and space are both limited, so not every faculty member is able to offer research opportunities each term. Moreover your background and lab skills need to be appropriate for the proposed work.
Arrangements for BC3597 or BC3599 should be made well in advance, preferably during the pre-registration period the previous semester. Research projects take planning, so it is often very difficult to set them up at the beginning of the semester.
While you may take BC3597 or BC3599 more than once, only one independent research course is allowed per semester.
I am a premed: is research in chemistry or biochemistry still important for me?
Absolutely! Research experience shows that you know how to work independently over a period of time, how to deal with uncertainty, and that you have worked with complex advanced problems. All these are good markers for success in medical school too. Students who are in the Senior Thesis Program have a lot of experience talking about their research, so they may do especially well in Medical School interviews.
What about getting academic credit for doing chemically related research off-campus?
Chemistry BC3598 is a 4-point research course for sponsored research off-campus. The Chemistry department Chair (or other designated faculty) must approve this course. A member of the Chemistry department will speak to the proposed research mentor to approve the project and discuss the arrangements and expectations. This course has mandatory pass-fail grading. Since this is a 4 credit course, the normal expectation is about 8 hours per week of regularly scheduled time in the lab, with additional time for reading, writing, and data analysis.
Barnard chemistry students have done research for credit at places like Columbia University Medical Center, Sloan-Kettering, and Montefiore Hospital.
Arrangements for BC3598 should be made well in advance, preferably during the pre-registration period the previous semester. Research projects take planning, so it is often very difficult to set them up at the beginning of the semester.
While you may repeat research courses, only one independent research course is allowed per semester.
How do I apply for a summer internship in the Barnard Chemistry department?
Summer research in the Barnard Chemistry Department is competitive and arranged under the umbrella of the SRI, usually students apply and are accepted around spring break. Student stipends for ten weeks’ research are generous, with funding from various sources. Each year in February the department schedules faculty presentations where you can hear about possible research projects. Talk to all Professors whose area of research sounds interesting. Don’t be shy: we enjoy talking about our research! A simple application form is available; the deadline for application is typically in February. We usually have many more applicants that we have space or funding, so you should look for other opportunities as well. We give preference to students who will be doing Senior Theses the following year, and after that, to students who have completed BC3333/3335 and BC3338/3340. Good lab skills, enthusiasm, and ability to work well with others are other important qualifications.
How do I find a summer internships elsewhere?
There are many such programs (REU, SURF, etc.). Notices that come into the Chemistry department are posted in the 8th floor hallway, opposite room 813 (the General Chemistry lab). Some arrive early in the fall, but others come in the spring, so it pays to check back frequently. These are often very competitive, so apply to any of interest. Additional listings are managed through Barnard’s Hughes Science Pipeline Project
Chemistry and Biochemistry Majors
What courses are required to be a Chemistry or Biochemistry Major?
See the Barnard College Catalogue for major requirements. For each major, a four-page handout describing and a checklist are also available: click on the links below:
Can I major in chemistry or biochemistry and also study abroad?
With careful planning, Chemistry and Biochemistry majors can and do study abroad. Keep in mind that many science course have prerequisites, so you need to map out carefully what fits where among your major courses. Discuss this with a department member early in your college career. It is generally not a good idea to try to take required courses required for the major while abroad: it is difficult to find close equivalents to courses here. Plan to focus on the language and culture of your host country while abroad, and do the science courses at home. One semester abroad is quite manageable; two semesters is more challenging.
What about doing a double major?
Examples of double majors completed in recent years are Chemistry and Italian, Chemistry and Dance, and Chemistry and Political Science. Such combinations take a lot of planning, and leave little room for other electives. If this is something you are thinking about doing, map out the courses for your four college years and discuss this early on with someone from each department. Keep in mind that you may write two senior theses. While we do not encourage students to do double majors, we are happy to work with you if this is important to you.
What Physics is required for the major?
You need one year of calculus-based physics including lab. Barnard’s Physics BC2001x-2002y (4.5 points each term, including laboratory) is strongly recommended. The equivalent CU lecture courses are UN1401x-UN1402y. Since this course does not have a year-long lab, you should take the lab at Barnard: see the physics department to make arrangements. More advanced physics courses (UN1601x-UN1602y) are also ok, but those with lower numbers (UN1201x-1202y, UN1301x-1302y) are not acceptable. See the Physics department Chair for prior approval of any summer physics course; the Chemistry department Chair must also sign that the course is appropriate for the major.
What Calculus is required?
For the Class of 2020 and before:
1) Two semesters of math taken at college, including Calculus I and either II or III is required.
For the Class of 2021 and beyond:
1) Two Semesters of math taken at college
2) Completion of Calculus through Calculus II.
Further mathematics experience is always encouraged strongly for Chemistry and Biochemistry majors.