Chemistry and Biochemistry are rapidly advancing disciplines that study the properties of matter, and use this knowledge to solve pressing societal problems, including energy, sustainability and human health. Making advances in these areas requires a deep understanding of the chemistry and biochemistry, but in addition, often requires learning how to work in interdisciplinary teams, or on projects that extend beyond the boundaries of traditional chemistry and biochemistry.
Chemistry and Biochemistry are allied molecular sciences. Chemistry studies the properties and chemical transformations of matter in all forms and environments, and creates new chemical forms and properties. Biochemistry studies chemical and physicochemical processes and substances that occur within living organisms. These two molecular science disciplines consider both theoretical questions (why) as well as practical problem solving (how).
An Undergraduate degree in chemistry or biochemistry prepares students for a wide variety of career paths in industry, medicine, academia, Many UMD degree recipients are employed in the chemical, energy, food/agriculture, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology industries where they develop new medicines, consumer and agricultural products, advanced materials, or use their analytical skills to evaluate product or environmental quality. Others obtain positions in government labs (e.g. NIH, FDA, NIST, EPA, NRL, etc.). Students interested in careers as science educators can earn K-12 teaching certification through the UMD College of Education concurrently with their Chemistry and Biochemistry studies.
Our degree programs also prepare students for postgraduate studies. Many students use their undergraduate education as a starting point for advanced studies in other areas, including the health professions (e.g., M.D., D.D.S., Pharm.D, etc.), law (J.D., often specializing in patent, environmental, or regulatory law), business (M.B.A.), education (M. Ed.), public health (MPH), library and information sciences (MLIS) or public policy (MPP). Some pursue advanced degrees (M.S. and Ph.D.) in chemistry, biochemistry, and related STEM fields (e.g. biophysics, medicinal chemistry, toxicology, environmental chemistry, material science, bioengineering, etc.).
While at UMD, chemistry and biochemistry majors have opportunities to undertake research projects for credit (CHEM 399) with our award-winning departmental research faculty or with affiliated scientists at nearby government labs (e.g. FDA, NIST, USDA, etc.). There are also opportunities to join student groups that promote professional development and facilitate networking amongst students, faculty, and professionals in the field. These include the Alpha Chi Sigma professional fraternity, the campus chapters of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), and the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBBChE).
Undergraduate Programs in Chemistry and Biochemistry
The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry offers three complementary undergraduate degree programs. The programs follow similar paths in years 1 and 2, featuring foundational courses in general, organic and analytical chemistry, laboratory courses, and supporting coursework in mathematics and physics as well as in the University-wide General Education program. The three programs differ mainly in the types and number of upper-level courses taken in years 3 and 4.
The Chemistry BS Program provides a rigorous in-depth education in all the traditional sub-disciplines of the field. Students also gain hands-on experience through state-of-art advanced laboratory courses in physical and analytical chemistry. With appropriate electives, this curriculum can lead to an American Chemical Society (ACS) Certified Degree. This pathway provides comprehensive preparation, and is ideal for students who intend to pursue careers as professional scientists and/or obtain advanced degrees in Chemistry and related research fields.
The Biochemistry BS Program is similar to the Chemistry BS, but emphasizes additional advanced coursework in biochemistry and biological sciences, including an advanced biochemistry laboratory course. This program also provides excellent preparation for students who aim to work as professional scientists and/or pursue advanced degrees in Biochemistry and related research fields.
The Chemistry BA Program leads to a bachelor’s degree in the chemical sciences with sound foundational studies in each of the traditional sub-disciplines (analytical, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry as well as biochemistry). However, by having fewer specific course requirements in the third and fourth years, this program provides more flexibility for students to pursue interdisciplinary studies. This degree program is particularly suitable for students who intend to (1), double major, minor or obtain certificates in outside areas such as business, public policy, public health, data science, information studies, journalism, etc.(2) earn K-12 teaching certification (3) pursue advanced degrees in the health professions, business, or law.
Navigating the Curriculum
Linked below are sample four-year plans for chemistry and biochemistry majors. These plans can be adapted to other situations, such as students who declare later than their first year or transfer from other institutions. All majors have an assigned academic advisor to assist them in choosing courses and other professional opportunities.
AP Chemistry & Transfer Credit
First year and transfer students with a strong chemistry background, demonstrated by a score of 5 on the Chemistry AP exam, may, after consultation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, take Organic Chemistry I without completion of the CHEM146 prerequisite. All majors, regardless of Chemistry AP score, complete CHEM177 (Introduction to Laboratory Practices & Research).
Under some circumstances, students are able to obtain transfer credit for chemistry or biochemistry course work taken at other institutions. Current students who are considering taking courses at other institutions must obtain the course syllabus, and consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies in advance to determine if the course is eligible for transfer credit. Transfer students should consult directly with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, who will evaluate the student transcripts and determine transfer credits.
American Chemical Society Certification
Chemistry and Biochemistry majors have the opportunity to complete degrees certified by the American Chemical Society (ACS), indicating the highest level of training in the discipline. Majors who complete the certification requirements will receive a certificate from the ACS indicating their degree is ACS certified. To be certified:
- Chemistry majors, as part of their program, must complete BCHM 461 or BCHM 463 as one of their upper level elective classes.
- Biochemistry majors must complete CHEM 401 (Inorganic Chemistry) in addition to the rest of the major requirements. CHEM 401 is offered only in the spring semester.