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Course Descriptions - Reed College Catalog

Major Requirements - Reed College Catalog
- Chemistry
- Biochemistry & Molecular Biology (Interdisciplinary major)
- Chemistry-Physics (Interdisciplinary major)
- Chemistry-Environmental Studies (Interdisciplinary major)

The First Year

Transfer Credit in Chemistry
Transfer Credit in Geology


AP Credit

Junior Qualifying Exam

Senior Thesis
- Library Research Guide + Information for Seniors

Dual Degree Programs

Summer Work & Research

Beyond Reed: Careers

Beyond Reed: ACS-DGR, Directory of Graduate Research



The First Year

There are many ways for Reed students to arrange their course schedules, but students who are considering majoring in the sciences should certainly take the introductory course in their field of interest during their first year. For a number of reasons, students who plan to major outside the sciences are also strongly encouraged to take science courses that will satisfy the Group C requirement during their first year at Reed.

Chemistry students are encouraged to take the introductory courses in chemistry and mathematics during their first year. A common pattern for students who begin studying chemistry in their first year looks like this (info about AP Credit):

First Year
Second Year
Fall
Spring
Fall
Spring
Hum 110
Chem 101
Math 111
Hum 110
Chem 102
Math 112
Chem 201
Math 211
Phys 100
Group A or B
Chem 202
Chem 212
Phys 100
Group A or B

Students who wait until their second year to begin studying chemistry should consider this pattern:

Second Year
Third Year
Fall
Spring
Fall
Spring
Chem 101
Math 111
Phys 100
Group A or B
Chem 102
Math 112
Phys 100
Group A or B
Chem 201
Chem 311
Math 211
Group A or B
Chem 202
Chem 212
Group A or B

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Transfer Credit in Chemistry (updated March 23, 2013)

Students who take chemistry courses at other institutions can often transfer this work to Reed for academic credit. Students majoring in chemistry and related fields are generally not encouraged to take summer courses in their major discipline at other institutions, and students considering summer courses should discuss their options with their academic adviser (some routine exceptions to this policy include students who are getting a late start on chemistry or who wish to study abroad).

Most transfer credit requests relate to Chemistry 101/102 ("General Chemistry") and 201/202 (Organic Chemistry). Both Reed courses are two-semester lecture-conference-laboratory courses. Full transfer credit is allowed for these courses only if the transfer course contains lecture and laboratory work of comparable content.

Portland State University Info: PSU offers two chemistry sequences during the summer. PSU Chem 221/222/223 lectures + 227/228/229 labs are equivalent to the Reed's Chemistry 101/102. PSU Chem 334/335/336 lectures + 337/338 labs are accepted as a replacement for Chem 201/2 for Reed students who do not intend to major in chemistry, biochemistry, etc.. Chemistry students that want to take PSU organic chemistry courses should discuss their options with the Reed organic chemistry faculty.)

"Comparable content" for the lecture portion of a transfer course can usually be satisfied if the course is intended for chemistry majors at the other institution. Chemistry courses taken at community colleges are problematic in this respect since these colleges do not offer four-year degree programs.

"Comparable content" for the laboratory portion of a transfer course is usually determined by the number of hours spent in lab. The transfer course should require at least 2/3 or more of the scheduled lab hours required by the corresponding Reed course (Chem 101/102 has 78 hours of scheduled lab work and Chem 201/202 has 104 hours of scheduled lab work).

Although Reed's "credit transfer" form asks for the signature of the department chair, Chemistry department policy is to have the appropriate Reed instructor review the transfer request before it goes to the department chair. Requests relating to Chem 101/102 should be reviewed by either Prof. Fry, Geselbracht or Glasfeld. Requests relating to Chem 201/202 should be reviewed by Prof. LaLonde or Shusterman. Please bring documentation regarding course content with you, including at least one of the following: course syllabus, college catalog, Web URL for course description, textbook name/author + chapters covered.

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Transfer Credit in Geology (updated March 23, 2013)

Over the years a few Reed students have attempted to satisfy the Group C requirement by taking college-level courses in geology only to discover that this is, at best, a tricky proposition.

According to the Reed College catalog the Group C requirement can be met by completing a “minimum of two units from the physical sciences (chemistry, physics) or two units from the biological sciences in courses that contain both lecture and laboratory components.” Although Reed College does not offer course work in geology, we view geology as a physical science. Therefore, students can, in principle, satisfy the Group C requirement by completing geology courses at other accredited institutions. If the geology course work does not add up to two Reed units, it may be combined with credit from chemistry and/or physics. Geology credit cannot be combined with biology credit.

This seems straightforward, but a surprising number of students have found that they were unable to complete the Group C requirement with geology courses because they either:

- conflated "geography" (or "geosciences", "marine sciences", etc.) with "geology" and enrolled in a course that could not be considered a physical science;
- enrolled in a geology course that involved the wrong kind (or an insufficient amount) of laboratory work;
- earned some geology credit, usually by taking Geo201/202+204/205 at Portland State University, but it was not enough to satisfy the Group C requirement.

Let's consider these problems (and their possible solutions) one at a time.

First, to avoid enrolling in a course that will not be considered a physical science, a student should always get approval for a transfer request before enrolling in the class. Geology courses are currently evaluated by Dr. Shusterman in the Chemistry department (astronomy courses are evaluated by physics faculty). If you are interested in getting Group C credit for a geology or geology-like course, please contact Dr. Shusterman and provide a syllabus and course description (URL's to a course's web page are also appreciated).

Second, in order to make sure that your Introduction to Geology course contains the proper sort of lab, you should consult the instructor of the geology course. Geology lab work is evaluated by comparing it to Group C lab work a student might have performed at Reed. In a typical Reed chemistry or physics lab, phenomena are studied through controlled experimentation, quantitative measurements are made, experimental parameters are varied, observations are repeated, and hypotheses are tested by studying relationships between variables (observations). Because introductory (and even advanced) geology labs tend to be heavily weighted towards field observations and/or the use of mapping equipment, they lack these experiences and are unacceptable for Group C credit. A geology lab is also inadequate if it routinely meets for fewer than three hours per week (the norm in a Reed science lab).

Information about lab courses may be difficult to obtain from college catalogs. In most cases, a student will need to contact the instructor of the geology course and have the instructor read the above paragraph (ask the instructor to read http://academic.reed.edu/chemistry/Info.html#transfergeo). If the instructor thinks that the lab passes muster, the next step is to ask the instructor to certify in writing that 1) the lab activities are of the proper sort for Group C credit and 2) the lab meets a satisfactory number of hours each week. This can be accomplished most easily by having the instructor send a short email to this effect to Dr. Shusterman (mailto:alan@reed.edu).

Geology at Portland State (PSU). Currently, the introductory geology sequence at PSU, Geo 201+204 (lab) and 202+205 (lab), can be applied to Group C. These courses do not, however, provide two units of Reed credit. The only solution to this problem is for the student to take an additional physical science course. We recommend that a student take a one-quarter course in introductory (200 level) chemistry or physics with lab at PSU, or take a one-semester course in chemistry or physics at Reed (remember: your science course must include a lab).

Although PSU offers several advanced geology courses that include labs, these usually do not contain a satisfactory lab component (see above). Many Reed students have asked about Life in the Universe (Geo 345), Life of the Past (Geo 430), and Geology of Portland (Geo 399). None of these courses contains a satisfactory lab component and none may be taken for group C.

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AP Credit (updated March 24, 2013)

Students who have earned a score of 4 or 5 on the AP Chemistry exam may receive one unit of college credit.

Students who would like to combine their AP experience with Reed chemistry courses have several options open to them. However, in no case will a student ever receive more than two units of college credit for any combination of AP, Chemistry 101, and Chemistry 102.

Most often, we expect that students planning to continue their education in Chemistry at Reed will complete both Chemistry 101 and 102. At this point, the AP credit will be rescinded (students who complete only 101 will keep their AP credit).

A student who has earned a 5 on the AP exam and who has also earned an A or A- grade in Chemistry 101 may, after consulting with the Chemistry 102 instructor, be excused from Chemistry 102 lecture, but not the lab. Upon successful completion of the 102 lab, this student will receive a total of two units of college credit for AP, 101 lecture and lab, and 102 lab. The student may also enroll in Chemistry 212 or 230 (with the instructor's consent) while completing the Chemistry 102 lab.

Occasionally, a student who has earned a 5 on the AP exam, but who has not taken Chemistry 101, may, after consulting with the Chemistry 102 instructor, enroll in Chemistry 102 (lecture and lab). This student will receive a total of two units of college credit for AP and 102, but it is expected that this student will complete Chemistry 101 or its equivalent before enrolling in more advanced chemistry courses, such as Chemistry 201.

Other placement options may be available to students who have earned high scores in IB and foreign chemistry programs, but the exact nature of these options must be worked out on a case-by-case basis in consultation with the Chemistry department.

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Junior Qualifying Exam

From the Reed College Catalog...

After declaring their major, students must pass a qualifying examination administered by the major department and/or interdisciplinary committee before being allowed to begin a thesis in the senior year. These examinations are given near the end of the junior year. The objectives of the qualifying examination are to gauge the student's mastery of his or her discipline or related disciplines, to serve as a diagnostic aid in identifying weaknesses in the student's preparation for advanced study or thesis work in that discipline, to assist the student in unifying his or her knowledge of a major field of study, and to assist the major department or interdivisional committee in assessing the effectiveness of its own program. It is possible that a student who does not demonstrate competence in a field may be required to take further work. The review may also identify those who appear to need more time to develop their capabilities for the sustained independent work of the senior thesis. A second failure of the qualifying examination will debar the student from candidacy for a degree in that department, but the student may be encouraged to transfer to another department or division.

The qualifying examination is not meant to qualify only the best students and in actuality does not operate that way. The student's performance in the examination as well as in all previous coursework is discussed in full departmental or divisional meetings to assess the student's readiness to begin work on a thesis.



Different combinations of qualifying examinations must be completed by students majoring in chemistry, biochemistry & molecular biology (BMB), environmental studies-chemistry (ES-Chem), and chemistry-physics. All students must pass an oral examination offered by the Chemistry department. Interdisciplinary majors - BMB, ES-Chem, chemistry-physics - must also pass a second junior 'qual' appropriate to their field of study:

  • BMB majors - Biology department qual
  • ES-Chem majors - ES qual
  • chemistry-physics majors - Physics department qual

    Junior qualifying examinations are normally taken towards the end of the junior year. It is also possible in exceptional circumstances to take the qualifying examination at the start of the senior year (students should consult with their academic adviser about when and which examination to take). Announcements regarding the junior qualifying examinations, when they will be offered, and how to sign up for them, are posted during the spring in the Chemistry Building and in campus publications.

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Senior Thesis

Library Research Guide + Information for Seniors

From the Reed College catalog...

The distinctive feature of a student's senior year is the sustained investigation of a carefully defined problem—experimental, critical, or creative—chosen from the major field and considered as one part of an overall senior-year program. The problem is selected, then developed through the year by the student, with the support of the faculty adviser. At the conclusion of the year, the student submits to community scrutiny a thesis describing the problem and its attempted resolution.

The thesis involves substantially more than the writing of a long paper in a course; it requires the development of new knowledge and a wide variety of skills and permits the student to integrate all aspects of his or her academic experience.

The candidate for graduation takes a final comprehensive two-hour oral review under the direction of the major division, department, and/or interdisciplinary committee. The oral examination may cover the work of the student's entire program, but emphasis is on the thesis and major field. The committee of examiners typically includes faculty members from the student's own department and division, a second division, and, on occasion, professionals from outside the college.




If this sounds like a unique educational experience, you are right. The senior thesis requirement is the single most distinctive (and some say "defining") aspect of a Reed education.

Thesis work in chemistry, chemistry-physics, and biochemistry-molecular biology consists of an original scientific research investigation that is carried out for two semesters on a single topic. "Original research" means that research topics are drawn from (or just tantalizingly beyond) the frontiers of knowledge. Students, along with their faculty mentors, learn science by actually doing it, by carving a path into the unknown in the hope of making discoveries that have never been made before. Original research is not easy - reading a textbook is certainly quicker - but original research is the only way to create anything new.

The first step in beginning thesis work is to find a thesis advisor. Senior chemistry majors should discuss research topics with three or more chemistry faculty in the first few days of the fall semester before asking a faculty member to serve as their advisor. (Interdisciplinary majors should consult with their academic adviser, or a member of their interdisciplinary committee, on the best way to identify a thesis adviser.)

It is also possible for students to develop and pursue their own thesis research ideas, or to arrange to carry out research in an off-campus laboratory (e.g., at Portland State University or at the Oregon Health Sciences University). All such "independent" thesis projects must be approved by the Reed Chemistry faculty, and the student must arrange for one Reed chemistry faculty member to act as the "adviser of record".

Another useful step is to read a short article offering 'advice to students at the start of their scientific careers' ("Scientist: Four Golden Lessons" by physicist Steven Weinberg, Nature, 27 Nov 2003, 426, 389).

Recent titles of Senior Theses in Chemistry are listed on the department's Theses web page. Students are also encouraged to explore the "thesis tower" in the College library and read past theses.

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Dual Degree Programs

Reed College does not offer a program in chemical (or any other type of) engineering. However, this does not mean that Reed students are prevented from studying chemical engineering. Most graduate programs in chemical engineering will admit Reed students who graduate with a degree in chemistry. It is also possible for Reed students to earn a degree in chemical engineering by combining three years of study at Reed with two years of study at another cooperating institution. Students who satisfy these requirements earn degrees at both institutions.

More information about dual degree programs can be found in the Reed College Catalog. Please read the sections under "Engineering" and "Three-Two" (students interested in earning a degree in chemical engineering should add Chemistry 101/102 and 201/202 to the list of required Reed courses).

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Summer Work & Research

Reed College does not offer summer courses, but we do offer a summer work/research program each year to a limited number of Reed students. The number of students who are offered places in this program depends on the availability of funds (funds for graduating seniors are very limited) and the availability of faculty/staff to supervise student work.

Summer workers are generally paid for ten weeks of full-time work. Projects typically involve one of the following: collaborative research with faculty, development of course materials (includes development of new laboratory experiments, Web pages, etc.), operation of the nuclear reactor, and restocking of teaching laboratories and related stockroom duties.

Announcements regarding summer employment opportunities, when it will be offered, and how to sign up, are posted during the spring in the Chemistry Building.

Nationally, many universities and laboratories also offer paid summer internships. A few of these organizations will send advertisements to Reed for posting in the Chemistry Building (watch the bulletin boards). Others rely on web-based advertising. A few useful sites:

- NSF-REU (National Science Foundation - Research Experience for Undergraduates) A guide to REU sites around the nation.
- Internships for Undergraduate Chemistry Students (American Chemical Society)
- Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (sponsored by Department of Energy)

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Beyond Reed: Careers

Looking beyond that diploma? The Career Services office in Greywood is ready and waiting to help you take the next step. Also check out these online services:

Log into Career Services' IRIS resources to find out what Reed chemists go on to do by searching the alumni directory by major.

Visit the Office of Career Services online and pore through a rich set of resources on career exploration, internship, and job search tools, and general information and resources on graduate and professional school.

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