Hartwick chemistry and biochemistry students partner directly with faculty to perform a wide variety of ongoing independent research projects ranging from the biochemical (chemical sensing in bacteria and yeast proteomics) to the synthetic (color changing imides and multi-step organic synthesis).
Of course we get outside too! There are environmentally focused field research projects at Pine Lake and other local state parks that examine water and soil chemistries. Chemistry and biochemistry students work in the Hartwick Center for Craft Food and Beverage as interns and are involved in research projects that grow from the local craft beverage industry.
The Department of Chemistry is housed on the 4th floor of Johnstone Science Center and Miller Hall. We share the floor with the Department of Nursing and the Biotechnology Center.
In addition to standard laboratory equipment such as pH meters, top-loading and analytical balances, Vernier computer interface units, and chemistry-specific software, the chemistry department maintains sophisticated instruments that are available for student use in their courses and on research projects.
The center of the chemistry department is the research and instrument suite. Four individual research labs provide space for students to work one-on-one with chemistry faculty, and additional research space exits for our students in the Environmental and Biotechnology Centers in the Johnstone Science Center. Instruments are housed in one of two instrument suites that are easily accessed from the surrounding classrooms. The biochemistry classroom/lab is located in the Biotechnology Center.
Q: What is chemistry?
A: Chemistry, the study of matter, focuses on how substances are formed and transformed by chemical reactions. The study of chemistry gives students a working knowledge of chemical principles allowing them to perform chemical experiments, initiate and sustain research projects, and to think abstractly, conceptualizing reactions and relationships as they analyze data and draw conclusions. The student gains an appreciation for the methods and spirit of modern science.
Q: What is biochemistry?
A: Biochemistry, the interface between chemistry and biology, is concerned with the chemistry of biological reactions, and the regulation of these reactions. This rapidly growing field of study includes the investigation of chemical changes in disease, drug action and other aspects of medicine as well as in nutrition, genetics and agriculture. The work being done in biochemistry in terms of medical, pharmaceutical and genetic engineering research will have increasing impact on our society. It is imperative, therefore, that people involved in research and businesses in these areas not only are capable scientists, but are educated to deal with moral and ethical questions arising from the advance of biochemical knowledge. The study of biochemistry as part of a liberal arts education fosters the development of the broad perspective and analytical abilities necessary to deal with such questions.
Q: What is environmental chemistry?
A: Environmental chemistry is a sub-discipline of chemistry that investigates environmental issues and the underlying chemical reactions that drive natural environmental processes. It connects Earth’s processes, human behavior, and the potential for human behavior to cause environmental problems. This rapidly growing field investigates environmental pollution, fate and degradation of pollutants, evaluation of the quality of air, water, soil and oceans, and deals with remediation methods and processes, green chemistry and sustainable resource management. This is a practical field that can help develop sustainable human existence through implementing practices, knowledge and ethical standards in remediation and protection of our environment.
Q: Should I be a chemistry, biochemistry, or environmental chemistry major?
A: Choosing a major may be the most difficult decision for most college students. If you are in the undecided category you are not alone. Perhaps the best way to start is to consider what you like doing when no one is around to tell you what to do. Hobbies, for example, can often turn into vocations, the best part of which may be that you get paid for what you are doing. While it might not be possible to translate a hobby directly into a major, your everyday likes and dislikes can be helpful clues to the major that might be right for you. If you like watching science programs like NOVA on TV, if you like reading science books and magazines, if you like doing puzzles, if you are curious about the natural world and how it works, if you like to tinker with cars, build model airplanes or tweak a stereo system, a career in science may be right for you.
Apart from what you like to do, you should also consider your aptitudes and what you are good at. If you want to be a research scientist you need to have curiosity, persistence and patience. You need to be able to work hard on a project and enjoy doing it even if it fails. You need to be able to weather disappointment and frustration, take criticism, and still persevere. You need to have the stamina to burn the midnight oil in your studies and spend nights in the lab when an experiment requires your extended attention. The rewards are also plentiful; in addition to employment opportunities there is the excitement of discovery, the pride of achievement, and the feeling that you are part of a team that shares your aims and contributes to society.
Finally you should consider career and employment opportunities offered by the major. A major in chemistry, biochemistry or environmental chemistry provides numerous opportunities for employment in industry, graduate work, medical school and even law school to name a few.
Q: What special opportunities do I have as a chemistry or biochemistry major at Hartwick?
- Internships and Off-Campus Opportunities:Off-Campus internships in chemistry are available throughout the year, especially inJanuary Term and during the summer.
- Student affiliate membership in the American Chemical Society (ACS).
- Research and senior thesis: Regardless of what you end up doing with your chemistry background, experience in the methods and processes of scientific investigation is an invaluable component of your education in science. The chemistry department welcomes students at all levels who want to gain experience as chemists and see what it is like to actually do chemistry. You can volunteer to help out in an on-going research project, or you could enroll for credit in full-time research during January Term. All of our majors must complete a year-long research project during the senior year.
- An important part of your research experience is the communication of results to a broader audience. All majors are required to make a public presentation of their results on campus and the department encourages seniors to make presentations at regional or national undergraduate research conferences.
- The combined experience of research and oral presentation is invaluable in developing professionalism and self-confidence along with creative thinking and communications skills. The department also pays attention to improving your writing skills as you progress to the final written report of your work. Your work is archived at the college and preserved for future generations of students who might want to build on what you have done for their own research.
- Access to instrumentation: As you progress through your courses you are able to use instruments outside of class time for your research.
- Lab assisting through work study and College employment: In addition to providing financial assistance, lab assisting, either as a teaching assistant or in lab preparations, is a great way to get experience, practice your chemistry skills, and even learn more chemistry along the way. The department encourages all students to gain experience through lab assisting opportunities.
Q: What is the difference between the B.A. and B.S. tracks?
A: The American Chemical Society (ACS), the national professional organization for chemists, sets the standards for education and employment in the various fields of chemistry. The B.S. degree meets the full range of requirements set by the ACS and as such it entitles you to ACS certification. Extensive experience in chemistry along with ACS certification obtained through the B.S. program give you an edge in applying for employment or for graduate work in chemistry. Students who intend to pursue a career in chemistry are strongly advised to opt for the B.S. degree.
The B.A. has fewer requirements in chemistry and represents the minimal course work you need to be recognized as a chemist for employment or graduate school. The B.A. is especially popular with students who want a major in chemistry but who are not going to pursue a career in chemistry, such as those interested in secondary school teaching. It is also a preferred option for students wishing a double major in chemistry and another field of interest, such as math or art.
Q: When should I start a major in chemistry, biochemistry, or environmental chemistry?
A: For a major in chemistry, biochemistry, or environmental chemistry it is best to start in your first year with CHEM 107 and 108. The chemistry major is very structured in accordance with standards set by the American Chemical Society. Each course builds on material from previous courses so many of our courses need to be taken in proper sequence making it very difficult to make up for time lost in the first year. Starting a chemistry major in your sophomore year will require overloading or summer study at an accredited college or university. The two terms of general chemistry in your first year are not wasted even of you decide not to major in chemistry. General chemistry is required for most majors in the sciences and is useful in others. If you decide not to major in science, you can still count one of your chemistry courses towards the college’s Liberal Arts in Practice science requirements.