Chemical Sciences Major

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About the Major

Chemistry is often known as "the central science" because of the key position it occupies in modern science and engineering. Most phenomena in the biological and earth sciences can be described in terms of the chemical and physical behavior of atoms and molecules, and chemical principles also underlie much progress in medicine and engineering. In addition, chemical systems are fascinating and often beautiful in their own right. Recent developments in the chemical sciences are increasingly directed toward the study of phenomena at the nanoscale, the size range intermediate between individual molecules and macroscopic matter. The ability to measure, understand, and control the properties of matter on these size scales allows us to draw conceptual and practical connections between the submicroscopic world of atoms and molecules and the macroscopic world with which we interact.

UC Merced offers an undergraduate major leading to a B.S. degree in the Chemical Sciences. All of our programs meet the requirements for approval by the American Chemical Society. The curriculum is designed to meet the needs of students who plan to end their formal education with a bachelor's degree as well as those who wish to go on for an advanced degree. The UC Merced chemistry B.S. graduate is well prepared to pursue a career in chemistry or an allied field. We offer both a basic chemistry program and three emphasis tracks in biological chemistry, environmental chemistry, and materials chemistry, which allow students to pursue interdisciplinary areas within a degree program that is still focused on chemistry.

Learning Outcomes

Graduates from the Chemical Sciences program will have demonstrated:

1. Fundamental knowledge and skills. Students are able to describe the major concepts and theoretical principles in chemistry. They can identify the central ideas underlying the principal subfields of chemistry‐‐ analytical, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry‐‐as well as the broader interdisciplinary subfields of biological, environmental and materials chemistry. Students are able to operate modern chemical instrumentation, perform chemical syntheses and carry out other essential chemical experiments with strict adherence to sound laboratory techniques as well as good safety and hygiene practices. They know how to use modern webbased methods to effectively search the scientific literature.

2. Scientific methodology. Students have developed the ability to integrate the aforementioned fundamental knowledge and skills into scientific inquiries. They can formulate well‐defined and quantitative questions, develop testable hypotheses, design and execute experiments, analyze and interpret the results and reach appropriate conclusions. They are also able to critically analyze the work of other scientists and assess its correctness, importance, and relevance.

3. Communication and teamwork skills. Students are able to write organized and concise reports and present technical information using electronic media, posters and oral presentations. They have developed the communication and teamwork skills that allow them to work effectively both as leaders and as team members in a group.

4. Citizenship, ethics, role of chemistry in society. Students have an appreciation for the role of chemistry in the global society as well as the central role chemistry plays in other scientific disciplines such as biology, medicine, environmental science, and engineering sciences. They conduct themselves ethically and responsibly in science‐related professions.

Careers

A degree in the chemical sciences opens the door to a wide variety of careers in industry or government service, forensic chemistry in crime laboratories, commercial fields such as patent law and scientific writing, and high school science teaching. Many chemistry majors go on to graduate study to prepare for careers in teaching and/or research at the college or university level, or research positions in the chemical, pharmaceutical, electronics or other high-tech industries. A major in chemistry is also an excellent foundation for medical school or other careers in the health sciences.

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Requirements

In addition to adhering to the UC Merced and School of Natural Science requirements, the additional requirements that must be met to receive the B.S. in Chemical Sciences at UC Merced are:

The Chemical Sciences major consists of 18-20 courses (7 lower division and 11-13 upper division, depending on emphasis track) designed to give all students a common foundation of core knowledge specific to the discipline.

Lower Division Major Requirements [46 units]

  • BIO 1: Contemporary Biology [4 units]
  • CHEM 2: General Chemistry 1 [4 units]
  • CHEM 8: Principles of Organic Chemistry [4 units]
  • CHEM 10: General Chemistry II [4 units]
  • CSE 20: Introduction to Computing I** [2 units]
  • MATH 21: Calculus of a Single Variable I [4 units]
  • MATH 22: Calculus of a Single Variable II [4 units]
  • MATH 23: Multivariable Calculus [4 units]
  • MATH 24: Linear Algebra and Differential Equations [4 units]
  • MATH 32: Probability and Statistics [4 units]
  • PHYS 8: Introductory Physics I [4 units]
  • PHYS 9: Introductory Physics II [4 units]

**Math 015: Introduction to Scientific Data Analysis (2 units) or CSE 005: Introduction to Computer Applications (4 units) may be taken in place of CSE 020.

Upper Division Major Requirements [23 units]

  • CHEM 100: Organic Synthesis and Mechanism [3 units]
  • CHEM 101L: Advanced Synthetic Laboratory [2 units]
  • CHEM 111/BIO 101: Biochemistry I [4 units]
  • CHEM 112: Quantum Chemistry and Spectroscopy [3 units]
  • CHEM 113: Chemical Thermodynamics and Kinetics [3 units]
  • CHEM 115: Instrumental Analysis and Bioanalytical Chemistry [3 units]
  • CHEM 120: Inorganic Chemistry [3 units]
  • CHEM 150: Inorganic and Materials Chemistry Laboratory [2.0 units]
  • CHEM 153: Physical Chemistry Laboratory [2.0 units]
  • CHEM 155: Instrumental Analysis Laboratory [2.0 units]
  • CHEM 194: Ethics and Communication in Chemistry [1.0 unit]

Additional Requirements for Emphasis Tracks

Biological Chemistry Emphasis Track

  • BIO 102: Advanced Biochemistry and Molecular Biology [4.0 units] or
  • CHEM 122: Advanced Biochemistry and Molecular Biology [4.0 units]
  • Two other upper division biology courses [7-8 units]

AND

One of the following in-depth course electives:

  • Any other 3- or 4-unit CHEM course numbered 100-189 [3 or 4 units]
  • Any 200-level CHEM course (instructor approval required) [3 units]
  • ESS 100: Environmental Chemistry [4.0 units]
  • MSE 118: Introduction to Nanotechnology and Nanoscience [3.0 units]

Chemistry Emphasis Track

  • Any two of the following in-depth course electives:
    • Any other 3- or 4-unit CHEM course numbered 100-189 [3 or 4 units]
    • Any 200-level CHEM course (instructor approval required) [3 units]
    • ESS 100: Environmental Chemistry [4.0 units]
    • MSE 110: Solid State Materials Properties [4.0 units]
    • MSE 118: Introduction to Nanotechnology and Nanoscience [3.0 units]

Environmental Chemistry Emphasis Track

  • ESS 100: Environmental Chemistry [4 units]

AND

Two of the following environmental course electives:

  • ESS 102: Chemical Processes in the Soil Environment [3.0 units]
  • ESS 103: Geochemistry of Earth Systems [3.0 units]
  • ESS 106: Instrumental Methods in Environmental Systems [3.0 units]
  • ESS 108: Surface and Colloid Chemistry of Earth Materials [3.0 units]
  • ENVE 171: Environmental Organic Chemistry [3.0 units]

Materials Chemistry Emphasis Track

  • ENGR 45: Introduction to Materials [4 units]

AND

One of the following materials electives:

  • CHEM 140: Nanoscale Materials Chemistry [3.0 units]
  • ENGR 170: Introduction to Electron Microscopy [3.0 units]
  • MSE 110: Solid State Materials Properties [4.0 units]
  • MSE 113: Materials Characterization [4.0 units]
  • MSE 114: Polymeric Materials [4.0 units]
  • MSE 115: Ceramic Materials [3.0 units]
  • MSE 116: Composites [3.0 units]
  • MSE 118: Introduction to Nanotechnology and Nanoscience [3.0 units]
  • MSE 119: Materials Simulations [3.0 units]

Transfer Students

Transfer students who wish to major in Chemical Sciences should complete two semesters of general chemistry with laboratory, two semesters of organic chemistry with laboratory, one year of calculus-based physics with laboratory, and mathematics through multivariable calculus.

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Courses

CHEM 001: Preparatory Chemistry [3]

Preparation for general chemistry. Units of measurement, dimensional analysis, significant figures; elementary concepts of volume, mass, force, pressure, energy, density, temperature, heat, work; fundamentals of atomic and molecular structure; the mole concept; acids and bases; stoichiometry; properties of the states of matter; gas laws; solutions, concentrations. Note: CHEM 1 satisfies no requirements other than contribution to the 120 units required for graduation. Designed for students who need additional help prior to enrollment in General Chemistry. May not be taken for credit after credit has been earned for CHEM 2.  [Syllabus]

CHEM 002: General Chemistry I [4]

First semester of a two-semester general chemistry sequence. Stoichiometric calculations, types of chemical reactions, properties of gases, thermochemistry, introduction to chemical equilibrium, basic atomic structure and atomic orbital theory, periodic properties, and chemical bonding. The concepts and quantitative skills introduced in lecture are reinforced by a laboratory section. Prerequisite:  Pass chemistry placement exam OR complete CHEM 1 with C- or better OR score 3 or better on chemistry AP exam.  [Syllabus]

CHEM 008: Principles of Organic Chemistry [4]

Molecular shapes and charge distributions; resonance; electron delocalization; organicstructures, nomenclature and isomerism, stereochemistry; optical activity; organic reactions; IRspectroscopy; intermolecular forces. Rational approaches to organic mechanism are emphasized. Prerequisite: CHEM 2 or CHEM 10.  [Syllabus]

CHEM 010: General Chemistry II [4]

Second semester of a two-semester general chemistry sequence. Chemical kinetics, acid-base, ionic, and gaseous equilibria, chemical thermodynamics, electrochemistry, main-group and transition-metal chemistry, nuclear chemistry. The concepts and quantitative skills introduced in lecture are reinforced by a laboratory section. Prerequisite: CHEM 2.  [Syllabus]

CHEM 90X: Freshman Seminar [1]

Examination of a topic in chemistry.  

CHEM 95: Lower Division Undergraduate Research [1 - 5]

Laboratory, field, theoretical, and/or computational research under the supervision of a faculty member on a topic of mutual interest. A written report is required.  

CHEM 98: Lower Division Directed Group Study [1 - 5]

Permission of instructor required. Pass/No Pass grading only.  

CHEM 99: Lower Division Individual Study [1 - 5]

Permission of instructor required. Pass/No Pass grading only.  

CHEM 100L: Organic Chemistry Laboratory [1]

Laboratory experiments in synthetic methods and chemical and spectroscopic characterization of organic and inorganic compounds. Emphasis on microscale techniques. Prerequisite: CHEM 100 (may be taken concurrently).  [Syllabus]

CHEM 100: Organic Synthesis and Mechanism [3]

Reactions, syntheses, purification and characterization of all of the major classes of organic compounds. Includes standard organic reaction mechanisms and bioorganic mechanism. A retrosynthetic approach to synthetic design is emphasized. Prerequisite: CHEM 8 and CHEM 10.  [Syllabus]

CHEM 101L: Advanced Synthetic Laboratory [2]

Laboratory experiments in synthetic methods and chemical and spectroscpoic characterization of organis and inorganic compound. Emphasis is on microscale techniques. Prerquisite: CHEM 100 (may be taken concurrently).  [Syllabus]

CHEM 111: Biochemistry I [4]

Advanced course on proteins, enzymes, enzyme kinetics and carbohydrates metabolism in living organisms. Prerequisite: CHEM 100. Normal Letter Grade only. (Note: Cross-listed with BIO 101)  [Syllabus]

CHEM 112: Quantum Chemistry and Spectroscopy [3]

Theory and practical application of molecular quantum mechanics. Schr?dinger equation and matrix representations of quantum mechanics; simple exactly solvable model problems; calculation of observable properties; vibrational and electronic wave functions; approximation methods; quantum mechanics of spectroscopy. Prerequisite: CHEM 10, MATH 24 and PHYS 9. Normal Letter Grade only.  [Syllabus]

CHEM 113: Chemical Thermodynamics and Kinetics [3]

Statistical mechanics, thermodynamics and chemical kinetics, taught from a perspective that develops the behavior of bulk matter from molecular properties. Prerequisite: CHEM 112. Normal Letter Grade only.  [Syllabus]

CHEM 114L: Physical Chemistry and Instrumental Analysis Laboratory [2]

Laboratory experiments in spectroscopy, electrochemistry, separations, and kinetics, including biochemical and biophysical applications.
 [Syllabus]

CHEM 115: Instrumental Analysis and Bioanalytical Chemistry [3]

Spectroscopic, electrochemical and separation methods of chemical analysis including bioanalytical techniques. Prerequisite: CHEM 112 (may be taken concurrently).  [Syllabus]

CHEM 120: Inorganic Chemistry [3]

Descriptive inorganic chemistry, reactivity, inorganic spectroscopy, group theory and crystallography. Prerequisite: CHEM 8 and CHEM 10. Normal Letter Grade only.  [Syllabus]

CHEM 122: Advanced Biochemistry and Molecular Biology [4]

Mechanisms of amino acid, nucleic acid, and lipid metabolism plus advanced mechanisms of gene expression, signal transduction, and regulation of gene expression. Prerequisites: BIO 101 or CHEM 111.
 [Syllabus]

CHEM 130: Organic Spectroscopy and Computation [3]

Modern methods and tools employed for the determination of organic molecular structure including NMR [1D and 2D FT], IR and UV spectroscopy. Applications of quantum mechanical concepts and methods to understand and predict organic structures and reactivities. Computational modeling methods, including force field and quantum mechanical computer calculations. Prerequisite: CHEM 100 and CHEM 112.  [Syllabus]

CHEM 131: Molecular Spectroscopy [3]

Time-dependent quantum mechanics; interaction of radiation with matter; electronic spectra of atoms and molecules; vibrational, rotational and Raman spectra; magnetic resonance spectroscopy; X-ray, neutron and electron diffraction. Prerequisite: CHEM 112. Normal Letter Grade only.  

CHEM 133: Biophysical Chemistry [3]

Biochemical kinetics, solution thermodynamics of biochemical systems, multiple equilibria, hydrodynamics, energy levels, spectroscopy and bonding. Three-dimensional structure of proteins, forces that stabilize protein structures, protein folding, prediction of protein structure from sequence. Three-dimensional structure of DNA and RNA, sequence-specific recognition of DNA and RNA, RNA-catalyzed processes. Prerequisite: CHEM 111 or BIO 101 and CHEM 113. Normal Letter Grade only.  

CHEM 140: Nanoscale Materials Chemistry [3]

An introduction to the properties of matter on size scales intermediate between atoms or molecules and bulk matter, with emphasis on metallic and semiconductor nanoparticles. Synthesis, characterization, physical and chemical properties and applications of these materials. Prerequisite: CHEM 100, CHEM 113 and CHEM 120. Normal Letter Grade only.  

CHEM 147: Materials Chemistry Laboratory [3]

Laboratory course in materials synthesis and physical properties of complex materials. Combines synthetic skills with fundamental physical understanding and characterization in approximately equal proportions to relate materials synthesis to materials function.
 

CHEM 150: Inorganic and Materials Chemistry Laboratory [2]

Laboratory experiments focusing on the synthesis and characterization of inorganic compounds.
 [Syllabus]

CHEM 153: Physical Chemistry Laboratory [2]

Introduces students to modern laboratory instrumentation and experimental techniques in physical chemistry. It consists of a number of experiments that use different techniques to explore fundamental concepts in spectroscopy, kinetics, and chemical thermodynamics. Prerequisites: CHEM 112.  [Syllabus]

CHEM 155: Instrumental Analysis Laboratory [2]

Introduces students to the major concepts of instrumental analysis and to some of the instrumental techniques most commonly used in analytical and bioanalytical chemistry. It emphasizes the use of modern, commercial instrumentation to perform quantitative and qualitative analyses of the physical properties and chemical composition of samples.  [Syllabus]

CHEM 190: Advanced Topics in Chemistry [3]

In-depth treatment of a timely advanced topic in chemistry as selected by the faculty. More than one section covering different topics may be offered. Permission of instructor required. Normal Letter Grade only.  

CHEM 194: Ethics and Communication in Chemistry [1]

This course addresses two key competencies that all professional chemists need: scientific ethics and oral communication skills. Scientific and professional ethics are taught through lectures, readings, and discussion of case studies. Oral communication skills are addressed through lectures and by having each student present a scientific seminar.  [Syllabus]

CHEM 195: Upper Division Undergraduate Research [1 - 5]

Laboratory, field, theoretical, and/or computational research under the supervision of a faculty member on a topic of mutual interest. A written report is required.  

CHEM 198: Upper Division Directed Group Study [1 - 5]

Permission of instructor required. Pass/No Pass grading only.  

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Assessment Plan

Timeline and Goals

The Chemical Sciences faculty has defined a set of program learning outcomes. Assessment of these outcomes will be phased in on an annual basis as outlined below:

Outcome Initiate Collection
of Evidence
Evaluate
Evidence
Initiate
Response
1. Fundamental Knowledge and Skills Spring & Summer 2009 Summer & Fall 2009 Fall 2010
2. Scientific Methodology Fall 2009
Spring & Summer 2010
Summer & Fall 2010 Fall 2011
3. Communication and Teamwork Skills Fall 2010
Spring & Summer 2011
Summer & Fall 2011 Fall 2012
4. Citizenship, Ethics, Role of Chemistry in Society Summer 2012 Summer & Fall 2012 Fall 2013

For example, we will collect evidence concerning outcome 1 at the end of spring semester and the beginning of summer of the current academic year. That evidence will be evaluated during summer and fall of next academic year, and the chemistry faculty will meet sometime during fall semester to decide what modifications in the program, if any, should be made. These modifications may involve adding or deleting courses, changing course content, sequence, or prerequisites, or changing the instructors assigned to particular courses. Substantive changes to individual courses or to the program will require formal approval by the faculty of the School of Natural Sciences and then by the campuswide Undergraduate Council. These change requests will be submitted before the end of fall semester, allowing adequate lead time for any course or program modifications to take effect the following fall semester.

Programmatic Learning Outcomes (PLOs)

Our PLOs are based in part on the "student skills" specified as goals for chemistry undergraduate programs by the American Chemical Society's Committee on Professional Training. We have refined and reorganized their list and made some other modifications to reflect the character of UC Merced's program. The PLOs specified for the Chemical Sciences major are:

  1. Fundamental Knowledge and Skills — Students are able to describe the major concepts and theoretical principles in chemistry. They can identify the central ideas underlying the principal subfields of chemistry — analytical, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry — as well as the broader interdisciplinary subfields of biological, environmental and materials chemistry. Students are able to operate modern chemical instrumentation, perform chemical syntheses and carry out other essential chemical experiments with strict adherence to sound laboratory techniques as well as good safety and hygiene practices. They know how to use modern web-based methods to effectively search the scientific literature.
  2. Scientific Methodology — Students have developed the ability to integrate the aforementioned fundamental knowledge and skills into scientific inquiries. They can formulate well-defined and quantitative questions, develop testable hypotheses, design and execute experiments, analyze and interpret the results and reach appropriate conclusions. They are also able to critically analyze the work of other scientists and assess its correctness, importance, and relevance.
  3. Communication and Teamwork Skills — Students are able to write organized and concise reports and present technical information using electronic media, posters and oral presentations. They have developed the communication and teamwork skills that allow them to work effectively both as leaders and as team members in a group.
  4. Citizenship, Ethics and Role of Chemistry in Society — Students have an appreciation for the role of chemistry in the global society as well as the central role chemistry plays in other scientific disciplines such as biology, medicine, environmental science, and engineering sciences. They conduct themselves ethically and responsibly in science-related professions.

Evidence

Achievement of program learning outcomes will be assessed through four types of evidence: specific questions embedded in final exams in upper-division lecture courses, review of submitted laboratory reports from upper-division laboratory courses, review of student research reports from CHEM 195 courses, and an exit questionnaire given to graduating seniors.

Outcome one (fundamental knowledge and skills) will be assessed mainly through performance on specific questions on final exams in upper-division lecture courses required of all Chemical Sciences majors:

  • CHEM 100 (Organic Synthesis and Mechanism),
  • CHEM 111 (Biochemistry I),
  • CHEM 112 (Quantum Chemistry and Spectroscopy),
  • CHEM 113 (Chemical Thermodynamics and Kinetics),
  • CHEM 115 (Instrumental Analysis and Bioanalytical Chemistry), and
  • CHEM 120 (Inorganic Chemistry).

From each final exam written by the course instructor, at least two questions on the final exam will be selected as assessment questions. Responses to the questions will be evaluated by the instructor and a second faculty member. An assessment ranking of excellent, good, fair, or poor will be assigned to performance on these questions independent of overall student performance and course grade. Only the exams from declared Chemical Sciences majors will be used unless there are fewer than ten majors in the course, in which case a random selection of other exams will be used to bring the total number of assessed exams to ten.

Laboratory reports from CHEM 101L (Advanced Synthetic Laboratory) and CHEM 114L (Physical Chemistry and Instrumental Analysis Laboratory) will be evaluated for partial assessment of outcomes one, two, and three. Two reports from each course will be selected as assessment reports. The instructor and a second faculty member will evaluate each report and assign a score of excellent, good, fair, or poor for each of the three objectives. For each report, the work of five Chemical Sciences majors, selected at random, will be assessed; if there are fewer than five Chemical Sciences majors in the course, the work of all of the majors will be used. Written reports from CHEM 195 (Undergraduate Research) will also be evaluated for partial assessment of these first three outcomes. Of all of the Chemical Sciences majors taking CHEM 195 each semester, five will be selected at random and their semester-end reports will be read and scored as excellent, good, fair, or poor in each of the two outcomes by a faculty member other than the research advisor.

Finally, all graduating seniors will be asked to complete an online exit survey which will used in partial evaluation of the first three learning outcomes and as the sole method of evaluating the fourth. The survey will ask students about their career plans (employment, graduate or professional schools); their GRE, MCAT, or other test scores (a useful objective measure of learning outcome #1, particularly for those students who elect to take the GRE chemistry subject test); and questions designed to probe attitudes related to ethics and citizenship. Details of the survey are still under development.

We are aware that the above metrics do not allow direct assessment of oral communication skills or of teamwork. A possible approach to assessing oral communication is to require that all students taking CHEM 195 participate in a year-end poster session. They would prepare posters based on their research under the guidance of their faculty mentors, and present them for evaluation by the group faculty. Teamwork could be evaluated by the students' research mentors and/or by the teaching assistants or faculty supervising the students in the advanced laboratory courses where some work is done collaboratively. These options are still under discussion.

Process

Collection of evidence will be performed each semester (for evidence based on student work) and at the end of each academic year (the exit survey). Assessment and action on each outcome will be performed on a four-year cycle, one outcome per year. By averaging data over four years, we hope to avoid making excessively large or numerous changes in the program based on small amounts of data or an anomalously weak single class. Also, by focusing on one learning outcome at a time, more attention can be paid to each important element of the program.

Participants

Collection and analysis of direct evidence (based on final exam questions and laboratory and research reports) will be carried out by the chemistry program faculty each semester as part of the normal administration of our courses. As the evaluation of evidence described in part C requires input from other faculty besides the one teaching the course, School of Natural Sciences staff may be tasked with photocopying exams and reports to allow later evaluation by other faculty. The online exit survey will be written by the chemistry program faculty and administered at the end of each academic year by either School of Natural Sciences staff or our Office of Institutional Planning and Analysis.

The chemistry program faculty will meet annually to disseminate the results of the assessment for that year's selected learning outcome and discuss appropriate responses. These may include adding or deleting courses from the curriculum, changing course content, sequence, or prerequisites, or changing the instructors assigned to particular courses. Changes in courses or program requirements must be proposed and justified by the chemistry group faculty, approved by the Natural Sciences curriculum committee and, if substantive, by vote of the full Natural Sciences faculty, and finally approved by the campuswide Undergraduate Council. Authority for making teaching assignments rests with the Dean of Natural Sciences, but the recommendations of the program faculty are usually accepted.

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