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Chemistry

Department Overview

“Chemistry is an ambitious discipline, striving to understand the 
molecular logic of the myriad reactions occurring in our world.”
Janis Lochner, 
Robert B. Pamplin, Jr., Professor of Science

Chemistry is an experimental science. Ideas explored in the classroom come to life when tested in the laboratory. At Lewis & Clark, students strive to understand the nature of the chemical world around them. Chemistry students ask themselves a variety of questions: Why do chemical reactions occur? How do they occur? What are the fundamental theories that explain chemical phenomena? How can we make use of chemical reactions in medicine and technology?

The study of chemistry is divided into analytical chemistry, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, physical chemistry, and biochemistry. Chemistry majors at Lewis & Clark are exposed to each of these areas and develop an understanding of how chemists discover new phenomena and solve technological problems. In addition, students majoring in biochemistry, biology, or physics find it essential to know certain aspects of chemistry for greater insight into their own fields. The chemistry program at Lewis & Clark, which is certified by the American Chemical Society, challenges students to achieve these goals through excellence in coursework and research projects.

Introductory chemistry courses enroll as many as 180 students but are subdivided into much smaller lab, lecture, and discussion sections. Laboratory sections are capped at 24 students. Upper-level courses rarely exceed 20 students.

The chemistry faculty emphasize research as a teaching tool. Students are involved in research at all levels, initially assisting professors on research projects and ultimately performing studies of their own. Lewis & Clark students quickly discover that the challenge of research is exciting.

Research at a very sophisticated level takes place at Lewis & Clark. Rather than participating in a lab where the instructor has worked out the details of the experiment, students doing research at Lewis & Clark are testing new ideas and procedures. For example, a recent graduate who received honors in chemistry studied how DNA bending is affected by a carcinogen in cigarette smoke.

Students find special opportunities for funding their research projects through Lewis & Clark’s Student Academic Affairs Board or through grants received by their professors. Special grants are also available to provide income for students who choose to spend a summer working in Lewis & Clark’s chemistry research laboratories.

In some instances, students are able to use the resources of the surrounding community to conduct projects that require unusual instrumentation or facilities. Occasionally students conduct independent projects at Oregon Health and Science University, one of the largest research facilities in the Northwest. Other students have arranged independent projects through local industry.

The chemistry major includes a senior seminar. Seminars meet weekly in the fall semester; seminar speakers include students, faculty, and other professional chemists who discuss their current research as well as career opportunities for chemists. Each senior submits an abstract and makes an oral presentation of professional quality in the seminar series. Seniors who have demonstrated significant achievement may turn their senior seminar into a yearlong honors project.

Lewis & Clark’s chemistry students excel. Since 2005, four chemistry majors have received the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. Graduates have gone on to earn National Science Foundation (NSF), Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Hertz Foundation fellowships, which are some of the nation’s most coveted awards in science and engineering. With a major in chemistry, students can attend graduate school for advanced training in chemistry, biochemistry, chemical engineering, and environmental sciences; work as a chemist in an industrial, government, or academic laboratory; or go to professional school in medicine, medical technology, law, nursing, pharmacology, or veterinary medicine. With appropriate courses from Lewis & Clark’s graduate-level teacher education program, majors can also become licensed to teach chemistry in high school.

Equipment
  • A recent grant has funded 24 computer controlled data collection and analysis stations for the introductory chemistry laboratory.
  • First-year chemistry courses for science and nonscience majors: pH meters, UV-visible spectrophotometers, gas chromatographs, atomic absorption spectrometers.
  • Organic chemistry: FT-IR and FT-NMR spectrometers, GC/mass spectrometer, and molecular modeling.
  • Inorganic/physical chemistry: molecular modeling, FT-IR and FT-NMR spectrometers, GC/mass spectrometer, UV-visible spectrophotometers, digital voltmeters, bomb calorimeter, inert atmosphere boxes, vacuum line work, polarimeter, magnetic susceptibility balance, helium-neon lasers, scanning electron microscope.
  • Biochemistry: HPLC, gel electrophoresis, nanodrop spectrometer, lyophilizer, ultra centrifuge.
  • Analytical chemistry: FT-NMR and FT-IR spectrometers, confocal Raman microscope, GC/mass spectrometer, atomic absorption spectrometers with flame and graphite furnaces, UV-visible spectrophotometers, HPLC, potentiostat, oscilloscopes, refractometer.
Examples of student research
  • “Ab Initio Computational Studies of Conformationally Restricted Allenyl Cope Rearrangements” (published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society).
  • “Live Imaging of Proteinase Trafficking in Hippo-campal Neurons” (published in Molecular Biology of the Cell).
  • “The Effect of Doping with Ti(IV) and Sn(IV) on Oxygen Reduction at Hematite Electrodes” (published in the Journal of the Electrochemical Society).
Examples of positions obtained by chemistry graduates
  • Ph.D. candidate in molecular biology at Harvard University.
  • Faculty at University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute, San Diego State University, Pepperdine University, and Hamilton College.
  • Medical school students at the University of Washington, Oregon Health and Science University, and Ohio State University.
  • Ph.D. candidate in environmental chemistry at the University of California at Davis.
  • Graduate work in engineering at Stanford University, Yale University.
  • Chemist at Intel.

Chemistry

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