The Chemistry program at New College encourages and develops independence, scientific judgment and a high level of performance. From the beginning, you will work closely with faculty learning the research, communications and analytical skills and techniques necessary to succeed in the field. Tutorials, Independent Study Projects and the senior thesis provide opportunities for intensive study on specific topics and original laboratory research.
As a Chemistry student at New College, you’ll discover a research-rich education that is comprehensive in scope yet flexible enough in its design to allow you, while working closely with faculty, to pursue areas of specialized interest.
You will work side by side with faculty who are not only experts in their fields but who also offer unparalleled mentoring for our students. One professor literally wrote the book on how to teach organic chemistry. Another researches bioinorganic chemistry in medicine. Another conducts research in spectroscopy that aids radio astronomers in their search for complex molecules in interstellar space. Yet another, along with two Natural Sciences professors, received a grant to further their research into animal and plant development and gene expression. Through the grant, New College became one of only a small number of undergraduate institutions to have a real-time PCR instrument to measure DNA and RNA levels in tissue samples taken from organisms.
Our Biochemistry and Chemistry students also have a long tradition of being awarded prestigious undergraduate research grants. In the past five years, nine New College students have received highly prized National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) grants for the summer. The programs are sponsored by the National Science Foundation and are hosted in various universities. They are among the most prestigious summer programs in which an undergraduate can participate. Through this program, New College students conducted:
Our laboratories are well equipped for organic, inorganic and physical chemistry projects, as well as for biochemistry and molecular biology. You will also have access to research-grade instruments in laboratory courses and research projects. Research facilities include a 60 MHz and a 250 MHz NMR spectrometer, several FTIR and UV-visible spectrophotometers, a fluorimeter, high-pressure liquid chromatographs, an inert atmosphere glove box, electrochemical equipment, a GC-MS, a room-temperature microwave spectrometer and a real-time PCR machine.
All faculty members in Chemistry have active research programs with interesting projects that can engage undergraduate students. Students can synthesize structurally and functionally interesting new molecules and study their properties, isolate proteins and study their activities, or study the rotational and vibrational modes of molecules using a state-of-the-art microwave spectrometer to learn about the chemistry of the universe.
Because of the laboratory work students are expected to do for their senior theses, faculty members mentor students extensively, often working side by side with them in the laboratory. And when it comes time to do your thesis, our faculty work with you to help develop and refine your ideas for the project and to help you plan it out step by step. Since our faculty in Chemistry graduated from top institutions in the field, they are also there to help with career counseling and writing letters of recommendation for students and alumni in the discipline.
No matter what your interest, you will do in-depth laboratory research on an original problem and receive extensive laboratory training that will show you how to think deeply about a scientific problem. This training, along with the senior thesis project that is required for graduation, means our students have a very high acceptance rate to some of the top graduate schools. In recent years, we have graduated students who have gone into Ph.D. programs in chemistry at MIT, Berkeley, Caltech, Johns Hopkins and Emory University.
Our students must complete seven contracts, three Independent Study Projects and a senior thesis project to graduate. Contracts consist of three to five academic activities — courses, tutorials, internships, independent reading projects, etc. — that will develop your personal educational goals during a semester.
Here’s a list of recent course offerings in Chemistry:
General Chemistry I
This is the first course in a two-semester general chemistry sequence that is intended for first-year students and designed for all science students interested in chemistry-related fields. Students are expected to complete General Chemistry I and II and Organic Chemistry I and II and their respective labs to satisfy the two years of chemistry required by many graduate and medical school programs. This semester will cover atoms, atomic structure, stoichiometry, and bonding.
General Chemistry II
This course is a continuation of General Chemistry I. Topics this semester will include thermodynamics, chemical kinetics, equilibrium, acid-base chemistry and electrochemistry.
General Chemistry Laboratory
This is a rigorous laboratory course to accompany General Chemistry. Development of laboratory technique, problem-solving skills, quantitative data analysis and communication skills will be stressed. Experimental work will include calorimetry, chemical equilibrium, acid-base chemistry, spectroscopy, and kinetics.
Organic I, Structure & Reactivity
This is the first course of a two-semester sequence in Organic Chemistry and covers the core of how the chemical structure of organic compounds relates to chemical reactivity. We review fundamental chemistry concepts and then use basic principles to predict the reactivity of organic compounds. Our purpose is to understand how and why reactions occur rather than memorizing a large vocabulary of reactions. We will emphasize recognition of structural similarities and grouping by like processes so that the student achieves a coherent understanding of the basis of chemical reactivity. The course covers substitution, elimination and electrophilic addition processes.
Organic II, Structure & Reactivity
This course continues the theme of how chemical structure relates to reactivity of organic compounds. The first part is the reactions of carbonyl compounds and carboxylic acid derivatives. The second part covers radical reactions, sugars, amino acids, and macromolecular chemistry.
Organic Chemistry Laboratory
This laboratory explores the preparation and characterization of organic compounds. We will also study a reaction in detail to explore the reaction mechanism. All students will have direct access to most research instrumentation.
In this course the entire periodic table is our domain. We begin with atomic theory and electronic structure, periodic properties, molecular orbital theory, symmetry, and applications of group theory. Next, we will turn our attention to the main group elements. Topics include structure and bonding of molecular compounds, metals, and ionic solids. The chemical reactivities of the various groups and the individual elements of the periodic table will be related to periodic trends. In the final section of the course we focus on the colorful topic of transition metal chemistry including bonding, thermodynamics and kinetics of complex formation and ligand substitution. Required for a concentration in chemistry.
Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory
This laboratory course will provide experience and training in aspects of inorganic synthesis, reactivity, and characterization, especially of transition metal complexes. Required for a concentration in chemistry.
This course will provide an in-depth look at atomic and molecular structure. The course will begin with the fundamentals of quantum mechanics and move from there to discuss underlying physical principles of chemical bonding and molecular spectroscopy. The course will also have an extensive computational chemistry component and will include an overview of current topics in experimental physical chemistry.
Physical Chemistry: Thermodynamics of Biomolecular Systems
This course will cover key concepts of thermodynamics and kinetics, illustrated by their application to the structure, function, and interactions of large molecules of biological interest. The applications covered will include enzyme kinetics, electrophoresis, consideration of free energy and surface tension as applied to biological membranes, and many others. This course satisfies the one-semester Physical Chemistry class requirement for the Biochemistry AOC.
Physical Chemistry Laboratory
Students will perform a variety of physical chemistry and kinetics measurements. The emphasis of the course will be on modern instrumental methods and data analysis using sophisticated mathematical software. Students will be exposed to many techniques, including IR and UV-Vis spectroscopy, spectrofluorimetry, calorimetry, and surface tensiometry.
Biochemistry I, Protein Structure and Function
This course will be an in-depth study of protein and nucleic acid structure, function, and regulation. The focus of the class will be on molecular mechanisms of protein function. Mechanisms of human diseases will also be discussed. The last two weeks of the course will include advanced topics chosen by the students themselves.
Biochemistry II, Metabolism and Advanced Topics
This course will be a continuation of Biochemistry I. We will cover advanced topics including sugar, amino acid, lipid, and nucleotide metabolism as well as eukaryotic mechanisms for transcription regulation. The last two weeks of the course will include advanced topics chosen by the students themselves.
This class will allow students to get experience using a variety of modern techniques in biochemistry and molecular biology. Experimental design, laboratory methods, and data analysis will be emphasized. Students will learn to do protein purifications, enzyme essays, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), restriction enzyme digestions, DNA ligation and transformation of E. coli. Students will do a research project during the course.
The functions of inorganic centers in biological systems will be examined. Why certain metals are involved in specific functions, mechanisms of metalloenzyme-catalyzed reactions, synthetic structural and functional models, and physical methods used to study bioinorganic systems, are some of the topics we will discuss. Additionally, we will examine in some depth several specific problems in bioinorganic chemistry. Using this approach, course participants will gain substantial practice in reading the primary literature, and will experience the way in which research on a particular problem unfolds.
Chemistry and Society
In this course students learn concepts that form the foundation of knowledge common to all chemists, within the context of society and the environment. The one-semester course is designed for general interest students and is also recommended for natural sciences and premedical students who are shown to need additional background in chemistry prior to taking General Chemistry. It is particularly relevant for Environmental Studies students. In this course, no prior knowledge of chemistry is assumed. Topics include atomic and molecular structure, bonding, reactivity, chemical equilibrium, properties of gases, liquids, and solids, fossil fuels, acid rain, global warming, and the ozone layer.
Chemistry Inquiry Laboratory
This laboratory focuses on purification of compounds and the determination of chemical structure by spectroscopic methods. The lab emphasizes group work and collaboration.
This course is an introduction to environmental chemistry and covers material about the chemistry of the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, and the lithosphere. Specific topics will include ozone depletion, acid rain, and the chemistry of aerosols and of colloids and surfaces. These topics will be investigated quantitatively using models and methods developed in the General Chemistry sequence, including acid-base equilibria, kinetics, and thermodynamics.
This course will cover various advanced topics in molecular biology. The focus will be on transcription regulation and on methods used in molecular biology. We will discuss methods such as in vitro transcription, reverse transcription, PCR, site-directed mutagenesis, and cloning. A lab component will be included in the course.
For a complete list of courses, click here.
After graduating from New College, Justin Walensky (’05) earned his Ph.D. from the University of California, Irvine, and joined the faculty as an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Missouri, where he is researching the coordination and organometallic chemistry of the actinides in fundamental understanding of molecular and electronic structure as well as bonding. Additional areas of his research include Density Functional Theory of actinide-containing compounds, small molecule activation, main group chemistry (P, As, Se, Te), and the synthesis and luminescence of gold compounds. He is a past recipient of a Glenn T. Seaborg Institute Fellowship from Los Alamos National Laboratory and was a Robert A. Welsh Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow. He also received a CIBA Young Scientist Travel Award from the American Chemical Society and earned the Nuclear Forensics Junior Faculty Award from the Department of Homeland Security. Justin’s New College thesis was on “Post Flow-Through Experiment Characterization of Volcanic Tuff and Carbonate Rock Cores from the Nevada Test Site: Implications for Sm, U, Np, and Pu Transport.”
New College is proud of the many Chemistry graduates who have contributed to the field. Here’s a sampling of some of our graduates:
Sample of Graduate and Medical Schools Attended by NCF Students in Chemistry
Each academic experience builds toward your senior thesis project. It’s required for graduation, and our students tell us that while it’s demanding, it’s also one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives. Here are some thesis projects in Chemistry:
“atTACN Hyperoxaluria with Progress Towards the Synthesis of the Novel Ligand Bn2TCMA” by Katriana Nugent
“Investigating the Role Of RNA Helicase A in Endogenous Small Interfering RNA Pathways in Caenorhabditis elegans” by Christian Ortiz
“Reactive Oxygen Species Likely Induce Pro-Inflammatory Gene Transcription and P53 Activity Following Oxygen-Glucose Deprivation in Cultured Microglia” by David Hartmann
“Partial Synthesis of Fe(III) – Tetraamido Macrocyclic Ligands as Potential Green Oxidation Catalysts” by Eric Andreansky
“TACN and jibing toward synthetic models of oxalate degrading metalloenzymes” by Erinn Brigham
“The Microwave Spectroscopy of Small Molecules with Methyl Rotors” by Ian Finneran
“Bdippza: Synthesis and Metal Complexes of a New Monoanionic [N20] Heteroscorpionate Ligand” by Benjamin Kriegel
“Mn-doped (CdS)ZnS Quantum Dots as Sensitizers for Sensitized Solar Cells” by Kaitlin Lovering
“The Search for MicroRNAs Encoded by the Influenza A Virus” by Kathleen Maxwell
“Ebbs and Glows: Quantifying Small RNA Concentrations in C. elegans” by Richard Decal
“The Purification and Charachterization of C. elegans Cytoplasmic Malate Dehydrogerase” by Wei Gu
“Exogenous Expression of DNA Pilot Protein H with Mutated Colied-Coil Domains Inhibits Bacteriophage ΦX174” by Lindsey Young
“Towards the Synthesis of 1,4-Dibenzyl-1,4,7-Triazacyclononane-7-Monoacetate for a Potential Mimic of Oxalate Degrading Enzymes” by Alexandria Liang
“Microwave Spectroscopy of Mono-Substituted Benzenes at Room Temperature” by Benjamin Reinhold
“Reactions of Magnesium and Zinc Salts with Acetol and Carbon Dioxide as Models for Catalysis by Rubisco” by Julie Elena Horowitz
“Partial Synthesis of Novel Ligands for the Catalytic Activation of Hydrogen Peroxide in Pursuit of Green Oxidative Chemistry” by Daniel Kaplan
“Synthesis of an NLO Active Organic Molecule” by Nikash Patel
“Using Real-Time RT-PCR to Measure the Changes in the Expression of Caenorhabditis Elegans Genes Involved in the Regulation of “Free” Iron and Defense Against Oxidative Stress.” by Steven Pauff
“Synthesis of Novel Ligands Towards the Goal of Superoxide Dismutase Synzymes” by Robert Schmidt
“Purification and Characterization of C. elegans Malate Dehydrogenase with the Use of Deae Ion-Exchange, Affinity and Gel Exclusion Chromatography” by Christopher Shanks
“Design and Partial Synthesis of N, NBis(2-(1H-imidazol-4-yl)ethyl)-3-aminopropanamide for Potential Autism Chelation Therapy” by Jonathan Breidbord
“Short Intramolecular Hydrogen Bonds: Derivatives of Malonaldehyde with Symmetrical Substituents” by Jacqueline Hargis
“Sythesis of the Ligand 1,4,7-Triazacyclononane-Monopropionate for a Potential Manganese Superoxide Dismutase Mimic” by Simone E. Novaes-Card
“A Study of RNA Helicase A Expression in Caenorhabditis elegans Using a rha-l-gfp Reporter” by Eugenia Samoilova
“Post Flow-Through Experiment Characterization of Volcanic Tuff and Carbonate Rock Cores from the Nevada Test Site: Implications for Sm, U, Np, and Pu Transport” by Justin R. Walensky
“Choices in Green Chemistry” by Mary Whelan
“Analysis of the ATPase Activity of C. elegans RNA Helicase A” by Cynthia Marie Griffin
“Synthesis of NLO-Active Amphiphiles and Incorporation into Polyelectrolyte Multilayers” by Analiz Rodriguez
“Ligand Synthesis for a Potential Manganese Superoxide Dismutase Mimic” by Ellen L. Wolfgang
“Synthesis and Characterization of Three Monoaza-9-Crown-3 Derivatives” by Eric Anthony Hill
“Identification and Kinetic Studies of the Reaction Between Mg (O3SCF3)2 and Acetol: A Model for the First Step in the Catalytic Pathway of RuBisCO” by Korin E.Wheeler
“Malate Dehydrogenase: Cloning, Purification, and Characterization” by Danny Steve González
“Towards a Biochemical Basis for Mood Disorders: Regulation of the G Protein, Gg, By Tyrosine Phosphorylation in a Human Neuroblastoma Cell Line, Sh-SY5Y and Rat Brain” by Maame Brodwemaba Nketsiah
“Subcloning Purification and Partial Characterization of Malate Dehydrogenase from C. elegans” by Ira Do
“Overexpression of the RG-Rich Binding Domain of C. elegans RNA Helicase A and RNA Binding Measurements of C. elegans and E.Coli RNA Binding Proteins” by Yuliya Kislyak
Don’t be fooled by our small size. The truth is that New College boasts some of the top natural sciences programs in the country, and our Chemistry AOC is no exception. Top faculty combined with small classes and state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment mean that you receive all of the personalized attention of a liberal arts college with resources often available only at the graduate school level.
The 56,000-square-foot Heiser Natural Sciences Complex includes teaching and research labs for chemistry, biochemistry, biology, bioinformatics, computational science, mathematics and physics. A state-of-the-art Optical Spectroscopy and Nano-Materials laboratory and a research greenhouse are part of the complex. Our chemistry labs, which include a 24-station teaching lab with transparent fume hoods, are well equipped for organic, inorganic, and physical chemistry projects, as well as for biochemistry and molecular biology. Within them, students have access to research grade instruments like a 60 MHz and a 250 MHz NMR spectrometer, several FTIR and UV-visible spectrophotometers, a fluorimeter, an inert atmosphere glove box, electrochemical equipment, a GC-MS, a room-temperature microwave spectrometer, and a real-time PCR.
A $9.7 million project added a third wing to the Heiser complex in 2017, housing labs, classrooms and faculty offices, increasing space by more than 50 percent.
You might also be interested in…