Chemistry Major

Chemistry Major



Chemistry is the branch of sciences that studies the composition, structure, properties, changes and interactions of matter. It underpins the efforts by scientists and engineers to improve life for humankind.

Offered by the Department of Chemistry and Life Science.

Chemistry is the branch of sciences that studies the composition, structure, properties, changes, and interactions of matter. Every material thing — from the foods we eat, to the medicine we take, to the air we breathe — is a chemical or a mixture of chemicals. Therefore, it is truly the central science and underpins much of the efforts of scientists and engineers to improve life for humankind. Since chemistry is the molecular science, military applications of chemistry rely on the understanding of the structure and changes at the molecular level. These application areas can include the synthesis and development of advanced materials and explosives, solving environmental problems, creating innovative biotechnology solutions, and chemical or biological sensing. 
The chemistry major includes all the courses recommended by the American Chemical Society, designed to provide cadets with basic instruction with comparable emphasis on the areas of analytical chemistry, biochemistry, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry and physical chemistry.  

The chemistry major provides an opportunity to earn an American Chemical Society (ACS) Certified Degree in addition to the baseline major. The chemistry major also offers an honors program in addition to the baseline and ACS Certified Degree.   

Chemistry majors have a lab requirement component.

This major offers an honors track. 

Educational Objectives

Through a broad-based and rigorous education in the chemical sciences that includes subdisciplines such as analytical, biochemistry, inorganic, organic, physical, and polymer chemistry with an emphasis on hands-on experience through integrated labs in each course; laboratory intensive courses, such as instrumental methods of analysis and advanced chemistry laboratory; and education through research, our cadets gain the intellectual, experimental, and communication skills to become effective scientific professionals, and competent and creative problem-solving leaders in the army.

Cadet Outcomes

  • Use information resources to gather, organize, and understand scientific material
  • Design and execute experiments to address a problem or question
  • Analyze and assess scientific data gathered in the laboratory
  • Effectively and clearly communicate scientific information in written and oral form to a variety of audiences
  • Understand the applications of chemistry in the army and society
  • Recognize relationships between the properties of a substance, its molecular structure, and its reactivity
  • Understand and apply the physical concepts of chemistry
  • Integrate professional ethics in decision making

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To learn more about this area of study, visit the Department of Chemistry and Life Science.

In addition to the 37 core curriculum courses, the chemistry major degree requires 13 major specific courses. Cadets interested in the American Chemical Society (ACS) certified degree will conduct research to enrich their laboratory experience and to further develop their scientific professional skills. Cadets may also pursue a chemistry major with ACS certification and honors designation. 

Required Courses

  • CH371: Analytical Chemistry
    • This course provides an overview of contemporary analytical techniques with a focus on fundamental concepts. Topics include complexometric titration, acid-base equilibria, separations, redox potentials, electrochemistry, and spectroscopy.
  • CH383/384: Organic Chemistry I/II
    • These courses focus on the relationship between chemical structure and the physical and chemical properties of molecules, to include relationships between free energy changes and equilibria, and between activation energy and rate of reaction. Reaction mechanisms and relationships between mechanisms, least energy path, intermediates, and transition states are also explored.
  • CH471: Polymer Chemistry
    • This course is an introduction to macromolecules and their properties. Topics include morphology, methods of polymerization and copolymerization, characterization, and testing.
  • CH472: Inorganic Chemistry
    • This course provides an in-depth study of main group and transition metal elements and their compounds, to include an emphasis on chemical bonding, and atomic and molecular structures that allow for a breadth of applications.
  • CH473: Biochemistry
    • This course focuses on biochemical systems at the molecular level with emphasis on structure-function relationships, metabolism, and regulation of systems and processes.
  • CH474: Instrumental Methods of Analysis\
    • This is a laboratory-based course designed to develop theoretical understanding and proficiency in the selection and use of modern instrumental methods of chemical analysis.
  • CH481/482: Physical Chemistry I/II
    • These courses focus on chemical thermodynamics with emphasis on chemical equilibrium, chemical kinetics, and intermolecular interactions. Topics include properties of real gases, kinetic theory of gases, laws of thermodynamics, diffusion, rates of reactions, and molecular reaction dynamics. Studies also include quantum mechanics of atoms and molecules, their interaction with radiation, and statistical thermodynamics.
  • CH487: Advanced Chemistry Laboratory
    • This is an integrative laboratory experience in which students further develop their knowledge and understanding of organic and inorganic syntheses, quantitative and qualitative instrumental analyses, and applications of physical chemistry principles pertaining to molecular structure and kinetics. Students develop and conduct independent projects that involve synthesis and characterization techniques based on their collective classroom and laboratory experiences. Students then present the outcome of their studies in a scientific presentation.

Elective Tracks

  • CHM1 Chemistry Major
  • CHM1A Chemistry Major with ACS Certification (requires 4.5 credit hours of research)
  • CHM1H Chemistry Major with Honors (includes ACS Certification) (requires GPA ≥ 3.5 in Chemistry Program Courses and completion of CH489 and CH490)

Sample Electives

  • CH362: Mass and Energy Balances
  • CH375: Advanced Biology
  • CH385: Introduction to Cell Biology
  • CH450: Bioengineering, Modeling and Analysis
  • CS350: Database Design and Implementation
  • EV350: Environmental Engineering Technologies
  • MA364: Engineering Mathematics
  • MA365: Advance Math for Engineers/Scientists
  • MA376: Applied Statistics
  • MC311: Thermal-Fluid Systems I
  • PH365: Modern Physics
  • PL390: Biological Psychology
  • XS391: Principle and Application of Environmental Chemistry
  • CH289/290: Introduction to Research I/II
  • CH389/390/391/392: Advanced Lab Projects I/II/III/IV
  • CH489/490: Individual Research I/II
  • CH491/492: Advanced Individual Study I/II

To learn more, view the full Chemistry Major Curriculum.

Cadets have numerous opportunities to participate in activities that will expand their intellectual and social interests within their field including scholarship opportunities, projects day participation, and summer Academic Individual Advanced Development (AIAD) program, USMA-run academic enrichment experience. 

Chemistry provides the foundation for a number of disciplines, such as biology, medicine, materials science, and environmental science. Therefore, possessing an understanding of the chemical sciences provides insights into a range of physical and biological phenomena that underpins much of the efforts of scientists and engineers to improve life for humankind. Our chemistry major curriculum is certified by the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific organization with the mission of advancing the broader chemistry enterprise. As an ACS approved program, our curriculum is recognized as offering a broad-based and rigorous chemistry education that gives cadets intellectual, experimental, and communication skills to become effective scientific professionals. In addition, the opportunity for cadets to enrich their education through research enables them to successfully compete for admission to competitive medical schools and for technical scholarships (e.g. National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP), Graduate Education for Minority (GEM) Students Fellowship, Purdue Military Research Initiative (PMRI)) to pursue advanced degrees in the chemical and biological sciences.

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Honor Societies:
Gamma Sigma Epsilon- Chemistry Honor Society
Golden Key - International Honour Society
Phi Kappa Phi - Oldest and Largest Collegiate Honor Society

To learn more about enrichment in this area of study, visit the Department of Chemistry and Life Science or the Center for Molecular Science.