Frequently Asked Questions

For high school students preparing for college (in some cases specific St. Thomas courses) and incoming freshmen.

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.

For incoming biochemistry students, in addition to the standard financial aid packages offered to all students by UST, we offer a competitive science scholarship. See the website, here, for more information. 

Like most science majors, the sequence of classes towards a biochemistry major is very important.  In order to stay on course to graduate in 4 years, you must take both general chemistry (CHEM 111 and CHEM 112 or CHEM 115), general biology (BIOL 201 and BIOL 202) and Calculus I and II (MATH 113 and 114). 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 biochemistry 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 sample academic plans can be found on the advising section of the biochemistry website.

Yes, and it is possible to graduate in four years if you plan your course work carefully. To stay on course you need to take MATH 108 and MATH 109 your first year and then MATH 114 right away in the summer after your first year or fall of your second year. Once this is done you can then begin the PHYS 111 and PHYS 112 sequence. See the advising section of this web site for more information.

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.

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).

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 the grading range tends to be much higher in CHEM 115H. 

Students who receive credit for CHEM 111 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

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.

The screening test for CHEM 115H is really to see how well students can handle the material that we’ll be skipping. In other words, we're trying to use it to make sure that students won’t be overwhelmed by the fact we will be spending little to no time on things such as stoicheometry, mole-mass conversions, ionic reactions, elemental properties, etc. You might brush up on a few things, but in general we don't encourage you 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 score of less than 50% (10/20) indicates that you probably don’t want to take the course, but in past years most students who ended up taking the class scored at least 12 or 13 out of 20.

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 biochemistry courses abroad, (and several students have done this) depending on where you go. It can be difficult to find the appropriate match due to the structure of the course and finding a laboratory that accompanies the class. 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 website of the University) and show it to the biochemistry committee chair and chemistry chair to get approval for the course.

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

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.

A research experience, in either the chemistry or biology department, is 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. For chemistry and biology, applications are available on the departmental websites 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.

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.

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.

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).