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Major and Minor

Explore and Discover. The undergraduate major grounds students in the fundamentals of modern chemistry and provides exposure to cutting-edge research and contemporary instrumentation in the field. The core coursework introduces the foundational disciplines of organic, analytical, inorganic, biological, and physical chemistry, supported by a variety of practical experimental experiences in the laboratory. After successfully completing the core coursework, students delve deeper into a concentration of their choice and are strongly encouraged to participate in original research.

Major | Minor | Teacher Licensure | Declaring a Major/Minor

Major in Chemistry

The Department of Chemistry offers one primary major, which meets the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) guidelines for approved programs of study in chemistry.


The chemistry program is organized into four parts:

  1. A general chemistry course sequence (CHEM 1601-1602 and 1601L-1602L or AP credit) serves as an entry point into the major.
  2. Foundation courses in the five major disciplines of chemistry: analytical (2100), biochemistry (BSCI 2520), inorganic (3010), organic (2221-2222 or 2211-2212), and physical (3300 or 3310).
  3. Eight credit hours of laboratory courses past 1601L-1602L. Four hours will come from laboratory courses (2221L-2222L, 2100L, and 3315) associated with foundation courses. There are also 6 credit hours of a capstone laboratory (4965-4966) designed to provide advanced laboratory experience.
  4. Completion of a minimum of 6 credit hours of in-depth chemistry courses. These in-depth courses build upon the content of foundation courses or integrate concepts from these foundational disciplines.

General Requirements for All Majors

  • Two semesters of calculus (8 credit hours). MATH 1300/1301 is preferred; MATH 1200/1201 is accepted.

  • Two semesters of physics with lab (8 credit hours): PHYS 1501-1502 or 1601-1602, with 1601L-1602L, or 1911-1912 with 1912L.

  • BSCI 1510 is not explicitly required for chemistry majors, but is a pre-requisite for BSCI 2520.
  • CHEM 1601-1602, 1601L-1602L or AP credit, two semesters of organic chemistry with laboratory (CHEM 2211-2212 or 2221-2222 with 2221L-2222L), one semester of analytical chemistry (CHEM 2100 with 2100L), one semester of physical chemistry with lab (3300 or 3310 with 3315), one semester of biochemistry (BSCI 2520), and one semester of inorganic chemistry (CHEM 3010).
  • An additional 6 credit hours of upper-level, in-depth electives (CHEM 2000’s). Note that no more than 3 credit hours of CHEM 3860 may count toward the major.
  • Either 6 credit hours from CHEM 4965-4966 series or CHEM 3980, 4980, or 4999.

Required Chemistry Courses for All Majors

CourseTotal Hours Towards Major
CHEM 1601-1602 & 1601L-1602L or AP credit0
CHEM 2221-2222 (or 2211-2212) & 2221L-2222L8
CHEM 2100 & 2100L4
CHEM 3300 or 33103
CHEM 33151
BSCI 25203
CHEM 30103
*Two in-depth chemistry courses6
CHEM 4965-49666
Minimum Hours in the Major34

* In-depth chemistry courses include all 2000-level and higher chemistry courses not explicitly required, except for CHEM 3600, CHEM 3333, and 3980-4980-4999. Other in-depth chemistry courses are Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (ChBE) 3200 and 3250, Earth and Environmental Sciences (EES) 4600, Environmental Engineering (ENVE) 4600, and any 5000-level chemistry lecture courses. Qualified seniors interested in 5000-level courses must obtain approval from the course instructor, their adviser, and the director of graduate studies in chemistry. Further details are found in the Academic Policies for the College of Arts and Science

In-Depth Chemistry Courses

In-depth chemistry courses help to define a focus area within chemistry. Students should consult with their major adviser regarding focus area options, or formulate an individualized focus area option. All the options for concentrations in chemistry meet the guidelines approved by the American Chemical Society for the chemistry major. Recommendations for in-depth courses for the specialized major options are provided below. Independent research is encouraged as an elective for all options of the chemistry major and can be used as an immersive experience toward the degree requirements. Up to 3 credit hours of CHEM 3860 (undergraduate research) may be counted toward the in-depth chemistry electives.

Chemical Sciences Focus:

All majors who are thinking of pursuing a career in chemistry—either in industry or academia—should consider this option. This focus area provides a solid, broad foundation of chemistry on which to build. Given the interdisciplinary nature of modern chemistry, having this broad background allows for the greatest flexibility in future career pathways and provides excellent preparation for graduate programs in chemistry.

Suggested in-depth chemistry electives: CHEM 3120, 3300 or 3310, 3860

Additional recommended courses: CHEM 3600, Math: statistics, differential equations, linear algebra

Chemical Biology Focus:

Using chemical tools and concepts to investigate biological systems is fundamental to chemical biology. The journal Nature Chemical Biology defines chemical biology as “the use of chemistry to advance a molecular understanding of biology and the harnessing of biology to advance chemistry.” Biological chemistry builds upon the disciplines of medicinal chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacology, genetics, bioorganic chemistry, and organic chemistry.

Suggested in-depth chemistry electives: CHEM 3020, 3710, 4720, 5420, 3860
Additional recommended courses: BSCI: 2210/2210L (genetics), 2201 (cell biology)

Environmental Chemistry Focus:

Environmental chemistry investigates the chemical phenomena that occur in nature. Environmental chemistry is multidisciplinary in nature, spanning atmospheric, aquatic, and soil chemistry with a reliance on analytical chemistry for methods of analysis. Therefore, the environmental chemistry option builds upon a strong background in analytical chemistry. Fundamental issues such as groundwater pollution, wastewater treatment, ozone depletion, and greenhouse gas emissions require an understanding of environmental chemistry.

Suggested in-depth chemistry electives: CHEM 3120, 3300, or 3310; EES 4600 (geochemistry)

Additional recommended courses: ENVE 4600 (environmental chemistry), EES 1080 (Earth and atmosphere), 1030,1030L (oceanography)

Materials Science Focus:

Materials chemistry is concerned with designing and synthesizing new materials with specific useful properties and determining the relationships between the desired physical properties and the composition and structure of these new materials. Materials chemistry encompasses all size regimes from bulk materials to nanoscale materials. Synthetic chemistry is utilized to create these devices or building blocks. Analytical techniques such as scanning tunneling electron microscopy or atomic force microscopy are used to probe the composition and architecture of the structures. Synthetic chemistry (inorganic and organic), physical chemistry, and analytical chemistry are all important components of this field.

Suggested in-depth chemistry electives: CHEM 3120, 3300 or 3310, 3630, 2610, 5610, 5620

Additional recommended courses: MSE 1500, 2500 (materials science I & II)

Recommended Courses

Additional math courses, such as MATH 2300 and MATH 2820, are highly recommended for the chemistry major, particularly those who are interested in physical chemistry, spectroscopy, or computational chemistry, and those who are planning to attend graduate school in chemistry. In addition, BSCI 1510 is a pre-requisite for BSCI 2520, and thus must be taken prior to enrollment.

Double Majors

With appropriate planning, it is possible to major in chemistry and additional majors. In fact, it is common for our majors to double major in fields with common course coverings, such as mathematics; chemical engineering; medicine, health, and society; biological sciences; computer science; and physics, to name a few. We do have some who double major in areas outside of STEM, including economics, music, and education or educational sciences.

Consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies as early as possible to begin planning your major or double major. Note: it is not possible to double major in chemistry and biochemistry or chemical biology due to the number of overlapping required courses.

Note: Students may not add a major(s) past the fifth day of the first semester of their senior year.

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The Minor in Chemistry

The minor in chemistry requires 18 hours of coursework, including 4 credit hours from CHEM 1602 and 1602L or AP credit, and 14 credit hours selected from any of the courses acceptable for the major in chemistry. Fifteen of the 18 credit hours must be uniquely counted towards the chemistry minor. At least half of the credit must have been obtained from coursework taken at Vanderbilt University.

Note: Per university policy, students may not add a minor(s) after the last day of classes in the second semester of their senior year.

To have a minor adviser assigned, please contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

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Teacher Licensure

Candidates for teacher licensure in chemistry at the secondary level should contact Peabody College for more information. Within the chemistry major, one semester of the Capstone Laboratory (CHEM 4965-4966) sequence will be considered fulfilled by completing the Peabody student teaching requirements. For those interested in completing honors in chemistry, as well as licensure in teaching, you would begin honors research during the fall of your junior year and defend your thesis in the fall of your senior year.

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Declaring a Major or Minor

Obtaining an Academic Adviser

Currently, first-year students are assigned a pre-major adviser through CASPAR. Once they declare a major, students then obtain an adviser through the relevant department (typically at the start of their third semester at Vanderbilt). If you are a first-year student, and you intend to major in chemistry, please contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies for additional information.

For those interested in majoring in chemistry or double majoring, consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies as early as possible to begin planning your courses.

Director of Undergraduate Studies:
Dr. Katie Clements
Office: Stevenson Center 7835

All advisers will be assigned by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. For more information, contact the DUS via this form.

Students will need to submit a request to add the major through the following link on the University Registrar’s website here: Once approved, notice will be sent to you and your adviser. If you have any requests it is best to contact the DUS prior to submitting the form.

If you are requesting a double major or minor, you will need additional signatures from multiple departments. Note that it is not possible to double major in biochemistry or chemical biology due to the number of overlapping required courses. In addition, some double majors require significant communication between departments, so it is recommended you plan this as early as possible.

Per university policy, students may not add a major(s) past the fifth day of the first semester of their senior year and may not add a minor(s) after the last day of classes in the second semester of their senior year.