Frequently Asked Questions:

For High School Students Preparing for College and for Incoming Freshmen

What is the UST Chemistry Department like? What are my opportunities if I study there?

The UST Chemistry Department is an extremely active place with many opportunities for students to be actively involved.  In addition to taking courses taught by passionate professors in top-notch facilities, UST chemistry students much more deeply involved in departmental activities.  UST Chemistry compares favorably with all other schools in the state in the number of students involved in undergraduate research.  Over 40 students are involved in independent research projects with our faculty each year, and many of them present their work at professional conferences and in peer-reviewed journal articles.  Many of these research students start their projects as first semester freshmen.  Our chemistry club is 50 members strong and has been recognized for its outstanding activity by the American Chemical Society.  The UST Chem Club provides opportunities for new and old students to get to know each other and get involved with various service projects.  All of these opportunities help generate a very tight community of students and faculty that continues far beyond graduation.

What do graduates of the UST chemistry program do after receiving their degrees?

Our graduates, like all chemistry degree holders, have a multitude of opportunities in areas of research and technology, as well as in the health care industry.  Click here for more discussion of chemistry-related careers and here for listings of what our recent graduates have done after graduation.

What financial aid opportunities are there for chemistry majors?

For incoming chemistry students, in addition to the standard financial aid packages offered to all students by UST, we offer a competitive science scholarship.  See the website for more information.  Also, students who major in chemistry and who join the Air Force or Navy ROTC receive full tuition scholarships (contact the ROTC for more information).

What sequence of classes should I take for a chemistry major?

Like most science majors, the sequence of classes towards a chemistry major is very important.  In order to stay on course to graduate in 4 years, you should take both general chemistry (CHEM 111 and CHEM 112 or CHEM 115) and Calculus I and II (MATH 113 and 114) in your first year.  If students have interests in the health sciences or biochemistry, they should also take BIOL 201 and 202.  While this makes for a busy first semester, the prerequisite nature of many of our classes makes it important to take these classes as freshmen if at all possible.  The remaining sequence of courses for a chemistry major involves taking organic chemistry and physics as a sophomore, physical chemistry and analytical chemistry as a junior, and biochemistry, advanced inorganic chemistry, and electives as a senior.  Information from the UST Undergraduate Catalog, including required courses for majors along with course descriptions, can be found on our departmental website.

What is Chem 115H and who should take it?

Chem 115H is an accelerated general chemistry course that compresses the 2-semester sequence (Chem 111 and 112) into one course.  The course has Honors designation from the Aquinas Scholars program at UST, and students who have been accepted into that program have priority.  However, all students who have strong high school chemistry backgrounds should consider this course.  All students must pass an on-line screening exam prior to be allowed to register for Chem 115H.

What are the advantages of taking Chem 115H instead of the two semester sequence?

These are some of the advantages of Chem 115H:  First and foremost, it gives advanced students a course in which they are challenged.  This challenge may not necessarily seem like a good thing, but students of this caliber have in the past been incredibly bored in Chem 111, gotten into bad study habits, and lost their enthusiasm for the subject.  Another advantage of Chem 115H is that it is a smaller class.  Class discussions can be more animated than in the larger Chem 111 courses.  Furthermore, it is easier to make friends with other students with an interest in science, who make excellent peers for your remaining years of study.  Lastly, some more tangible advantages.  After taking Chem 115H, you qualify to take upper division chemistry classes in your first year (during the second semester).  Doing so opens up your schedule during your junior and senior years, when scheduling classes can be troublesome.  Finally, for those students in the Aquinas Scholars program, there are very few Honors courses for science students, so taking this class makes satisfying the scheduling requirements of the Aquinas Scholars program much easier (this problem has caused many students to drop out of the program in the past).

What are the disadvantages of taking Chem 115H instead of the two semester sequence? Is it a lot harder?

Accelerated General Chemistry (Chem 115H) is a more challenging course than Chem 111 and you will probably work harder at it than you would at Chem 111.  Again, this may or may not be a disadvantage in terms of getting into good study habits for future classes.  We appreciate that students are willing to accept the challenge and as such do our best to consider what grade the student would likely have received in Chem 111 when determining the Chem 115 grade.

I have taken an AP Chemistry course and scored high enough on the exam to get credit for Chem 111. What advantage does Chem 115 offer me since I’d only have to take one general chemistry class (Chem 112) anyway?

Students who choose to receive credit for Chem 111 based on an AP exam may begin with the second course in the regular general chemistry sequence (Chem 112).  Unfortunately, that class is not offered until the spring semester.  Perhaps as a result, literally half of the students who choose this route end up with a grade of C or lower in Chem 112.  We developed Chem 115 as a way to get advanced students into a chemistry class in the fall where they wouldn’t be bored by a repeat of what they learned in high school, but where they could also immediately get involved in the chemistry program in the fall semester.

I have taken general chemistry at another university and am transferring it to UST. Can I take Chem 115 as my second general chemistry class?

Unfortunately, no.  Since there is some overlap of material between Chem 115H and the first semester general chemistry class, students cannot receive credit for both.

What is the Chemistry Screening Exam like? What is its purpose?

The screening test for the chemistry department is intended to determine a student's ability in algebra, problem solving skills, and simple chemistry concepts.  Getting this information helps our department set students up to be successful in their first UST chemistry course.  In other words, we're trying to use it to make sure that students are adequately prepared for Chem 111 or, if they are very well prepared, to determine if they are better served by an accelerated course like Chem 115 (see above).  In preparing for this exam, you might brush up on a few things, but in general we don't encourage you to study too much for it.   We really just want to get a feel for what you know and what you might not know.  It is a pretty challenging test.  A very low score indicates that you probably wouldn't be successful in Chem 111 without some help (Chem 110, see below) and a high score implies that you will probably not be challenged enough in Chem 111 and should try the accelerated course.

What is Chem 110? Why would I be recommended for this course?

As described above, we developed the chemistry screening exam because many incoming freshmen were performing poorly in the first of our courses for science majors (Chem 111), usually owing to poor math and problem solving skills and/or a weak background in chemistry.  Rather than setting these students up to fail, we want to identify them and help give them the skills they need to succeed before enrolling in Chem 111.  These skills are taught in Chem 110, a one-credit course that is taught during J-term.  Students can take the course on-line, so they don't have to be on campus during J-term to take Chem 110.  By completing Chem 110 during J-term, students will be prepared to successfully complete Chem 111 in the spring semester and Chem 112 in the summer.  By doing so, they will be on the normal track for science majors.

How much math should I take in high school to prepare myself for college chemistry?

As much as you can.  One of the most frequent difficulties of students in general chemistry (and other introductory science courses) is comprehension of the math.  Exposure to calculus is good, but at a minimum students must be extremely proficient in algebra and trigonometry to be successful in college science courses.

What is the Larson Scholarship and how do I apply?

The Larson Scholarship is a scholarship given to selected upper-class students (usually seniors who have applied during their junior year) who have declared chemistry or biochemistry majors.  These scholarships are funded from an endowment whose funds were given to honor longtime chemistry faculty member William Larson.  Applications can normally be found on the website early in the spring semester.  Awardees are usually announced at the chemistry banquet in April.

How do I get involved with research?

Research experiences in the chemistry department are a great way to improve retention of what you learn because you have ?ownership? of the things you are learning.  Most of our faculty work with students throughout the year on cutting edge research that leads to presentations at national meetings or publications in peer-reviewed research journals.  There is a formal application procedure for summer positions.  Applications are available on the Chemistry Department website at the beginning of the spring semester.  However, students are encouraged to contact faculty individually at any time of the year, and can begin working any time.  Please review faculty research projects at their websites and contact those whose work interests you.  In most cases students can begin working as freshmen.  Having the initiative to perform research is frequently the most important factor in getting started.

Can I present the results of my research at off-campus conferences?

You are definitely encouraged to do so once your research has made sufficient progress that your results constitute a useful contribution to scientific knowledge.  Funds have been available to support student travel and meeting registration fees for local, national, and international meetings.

What is the Chemistry Club, what do they do, and how do I get involved?

The Chemistry Club is a student organization, generally with 40-50 members, that share an interest in something related to chemistry.  Not all students are chemistry or biochemistry majors, and students from all classes (freshman through seniors) are represented.  Club members support each other in their studies and perform outreach work in the community such as visiting elementary school classrooms to perform chemistry demonstrations and helping the local section of the American Chemical Society with their Chemistry in the Library program.  Several club members are also members of the Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society.  The chemistry club hosts an annual welcoming barbeque on the first Friday of the Fall Semester each year.

Can I study abroad if I am a chemistry major?

Yes!  Studying abroad is a great idea for all majors. A few things you need to do:

You need to plan--have a rough four year plan written so you know when you are going to take your chemistry courses and the allied requirements. That way you can work out when is the best time to go abroad.

If you are planning to study abroad then you need to check ahead of time that the courses that you will be taking abroad will transfer to St Thomas. Normally this means checking with the department chair.

You can take chemistry courses abroad,  (and several students have done this) depending on where you go. Unless you are fluent in a second language normally chemistry courses abroad are taken in English speaking countries--examples are the UK and Australia. You need to find the syllabus of the course (perhaps on the Web site of the University) and show it to the  chemistry department chair to get approval for the course.

You can also take general requirements abroad.  Check with Dr. Sarah Stevenson at the  International Education Center for help.

Should I consider taking extra classes in mathematics? If so, what classes should I take?

Absolutely! You can never take too much math. If your schedule will allow you to take two classes beyond MATH 114, you should take Multi-variable Calculus (MATH 200) and Linear Algebra (MATH 240). If you have only enough time to take one addition math class, take MATH 200 (Multi-variable Calculus).