|• Winter 2004||Magazine Archive & Search • Muhlenberg Home|
Muhlenberg’s Chemistry Department:
By Christine Murphy
What do you remember about chemistry? Chances are good that you weren’t a chemistry major, but you probably took a chemistry class at some point. Some of us remember that rotten-egg smell wafting down the halls in high school, indicating that budding chemists were working with sulfur. Or perhaps you had a chemistry set as a kid, dipping litmus paper into orange juice to see what color it would turn. If you’ve helped to build a model volcano for your son or daughter’s science fair project, you know about chemical reactions. We didn’t know then that that rotten egg smell could be more toxic than cyanide or that the fumes from the volcano could include carcinogens. How times have changed. Now budding chemists at Muhlenberg work in state-of-the-art fume hoods and are especially careful to avoid exposure to toxic chemicals.
At Muhlenberg, chemistry students are dedicated to putting in the time and effort it takes to become safety conscious, successful scientists, under the watchful eye of accomplished instructors.
With nine full-time faculty members, the chemistry department is one of the larger academic departments on campus. Those faculty members serve a small group of 44 studious undergraduates majoring in chemistry and biochemistry, but according Professor Don Shive, chair of the chemistry department, the department serves an enormous number of students. “Chemistry is a service course for the sciences,” he says. “Most science majors and all pre-med students are required to take a year or two of chemistry.” In addition, since most chemistry classes require three hours of lecture and three hours in the lab each week, high demand is placed on a chemistry instructor’s time.
To complete the chemistry major at Muhlenberg, students must complete courses in general, organic, analytical, physical and inorganic chemistry, as well as advanced labs, physics courses and calculus courses (see related sidebar for details). And with 10 required courses, even a minor in chemistry is quite rigorous.
It’s worth the work, though; chemistry grads routinely make their way to medical, dental and graduate schools such as Thomas Jefferson, Kirkwood, Penn State, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and the University of Washington. Other recent graduates have begun careers with companies including Merck (see related story, page 10), Lancaster Labs, Air Products, Fuji Hunt Photographic Chemicals, and Schering-Plough.
Muhlenberg also offers an interdisciplinary major in biochemistry, one of only 94 biochemistry programs in the United States accredited by the American Chemical Society. Interdisciplinary studies, which combine courses from more than one subject, allow students to explore an area of interest from several perspectives. “Biochemistry appeals to students who are interested in understanding living systems in terms of chemistry,” says Shive, noting that biochemistry is often a good fit for pre-med students.
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