Stacey Argabright, Regents Science 336
Phone: 507-786-3104

St. Olaf traditionally graduates more chemistry majors than any other four-year college in the United States. The college also ranks in the top five as a source of students who obtain the Ph.D. in chemistry and related fields. Chemistry faculty members have a fine record of achievement in teaching and research; several have won prestigious national awards. Students enjoy state-of-the-art instrumentation and computers in both the laboratory and the classroom.

The Chemistry Department offers an array of courses in the traditional areas of chemistry (organic, analytical, physical, inorganic). Courses in biochemistry, organometallic chemistry, medicinal chemistry, and other topics introduce students to interdisciplinary and bridging sciences that utilize a chemical perspective.

The department has an active summer research program in which faculty and students work together to investigate problems of current interest. Students graduating with chemistry majors have had excellent success in gaining admission to graduate and professional schools and in obtaining employment opportunities. A major in chemistry may lead to employment in chemical research and in related areas such as medical applications of chemistry, environmental chemistry, and materials science. A chemistry major also provides an excellent background for continued education in professional schools in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, and related fields.

Overview of the Major

An overview of general options for the chemistry major, including the major and the American Chemical Society (ACS) approved emphasis may be found at

Four First-Year Options
Select one of the following options:
Option A:
CHEM 121
CHEM 123
CHEM 126
General Chemistry
and Atomic and Molecular Structure
and Energies and Rates of Chemical Reactions
Option B:
CHEM 122
CHEM 126
Introductory Chemistry
and Energies and Rates of Chemical Reactions
Option C:
CHEM 125
CHEM 126
Structural Chemistry and Equilibrium
and Energies and Rates of Chemical Reactions
Upper-Level Core Courses
CHEM 247
CHEM 253
Organic Chemistry I
and Synthesis Laboratory I (0.25)
CHEM 248
CHEM 254
Organic Chemistry II
and Synthesis Laboratory II (0.25)
CHEM 255
CHEM 256
Analytical Chemistry
and Analytical Laboratory (0.25)
CHEM 371
CHEM 357
Physical Chemistry
and Physical Laboratory (0.25)
Department Seminars
Attendance at 12 departmental seminars after declaration of major

After the first year, the order of courses is not prescribed, but CHEM 248 Organic Chemistry II does serve as prerequisite to several upper-level courses. Upper-level courses in addition to this core set are also required, as described under requirements for the major. Gaining experience in the laboratory is an important aspect of the major, and students are encouraged to participate in research either on-campus with St. Olaf faculty or at other institutions.

Intended Learning Outcomes for the Major


See Academic Honors

The Chemistry Department seeks to encourage and recognize students who give evidence of creative and independent scholarship. A variety of opportunities are available for students to take a much greater responsibility for setting their goals and realizing the achievements of their education. Going beyond the regular course work, which introduces the theory and practice of chemistry, distinction challenges students to raise questions worthy of scientific investigation. Opportunities for distinction projects include, for example, summer research either on or off campus, CHEM 297 Independent Research (0.25, 0.50, 1.00)CHEM 298 Independent StudyCHEM 398 Independent Research, and faculty-approved literature research projects. All projects for distinction will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

A full description of the distinction process is available at  

Recommendations for Graduate and Professional Study

Students planning graduate work in chemistry should expect to take additional optional courses above and beyond the single optional course required for the general major. In particular, students interested in graduate school should take CHEM 386 Advanced Inorganic Chemistry by the end of the junior year so that they have taken the background courses relevant to the Chemistry Graduate Record Examination prior to fall of the senior year, when that examination is typically taken.  CHEM 255, CHEM 256, CHEM 371, and CHEM 357 should also be taken in advance of or during the semester when the Chemistry GRE is offered.

American Chemical Society Emphasis

The St. Olaf College Chemistry Department is approved by the Committee on Professional Training of the American Chemical Society (ACS); this enables the Department to award ACS-certified degrees in chemistry. Students can earn an ACS-certified degree if they complete the chemistry major and the American Chemical Society emphasis. This optional ACS emphasis provides a path for students to complete a more rigorous and encompassing chemistry degree. This is especially important for students entering the job market after graduation as it signifies to employers that these students have additional background above the standard major. It should be noted that chemistry courses taken for the ACS emphasis will count towards the elective course for the chemistry major. 

Special Programs

St. Olaf chemistry majors have a number of options for special study, both on-campus and elsewhere. On-campus programs that may include chemistry topics include concentrations in biomolecular science, environmental studies, and neuroscience. Study abroad and away programs include the cooperative B.A.-B.S.E. engineering programs at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Minnesota, where students may earn a degree in engineering; the Oak Ridge Science Semester; biochemistry at Lancaster University (Lancaster, England); and the study of medicinal chemistry on an January term abroad program in Jamaica. Internships in local industrial settings are also possible. Consult the Smith Center for Global Engagement or the Piper Center for Vocation and Career for more information on these programs.