The Chemistry department provides students with knowledge and understanding of the composition, structures, properties, and transformations of natural and man-made substances through classroom work, laboratory work, and seminars. Advanced courses offered by the department are designed to meet the needs of students who are preparing for graduate work in chemistry or related areas, for medical or dental school or related health professions, for high school teaching of chemistry, and for a wide variety of chemistry-related positions in industry and government.

Courses appropriate for prospective majors

For Non-Science Majors

CHEM 111, Topics in Chemistry, is designed for students who do not intend to pursue additional study in the sciences; it does not count toward the Chemistry major or any other major in the sciences and is not accepted by medical schools. A student starting with this course who later decides to take chemistry at the 200-level or to become a major will need to take CHEM 131/132 or CHEM 141 and consult immediately with the department chairperson to plan the rest of his/her course work.

For Prospective Majors, Science Majors, and Pre-Health Students

Students planning to enroll in Chemistry courses MUST take the Chemistry and Math Placement Exams. The Math placement test determines eligibility to enroll in either version of introductory chemistry and the Chemistry placement test determines eligibility to enroll in Chem 141.

Two introductory level chemistry courses are offered in the fall semester of the first year, but it is essential to understand the difference between them:

CHEM 131/132, General Chemistry with Lab, is a two-semester introductory sequence for science majors or pre-health students. These courses include lecture and lab, and students must select a lab that corresponds to the specified lecture.

CHEM 141, Accelerated General Chemistry with Lab, is a one-semester introductory course for especially well-prepared science majors or pre-health students. Students place into this course by their performance on the Chemistry Placement Exam given in the summer before the first year.

It is highly recommended that science students take CHEM 131/132 in the first year, especially those who want to study abroad during the junior year. CHEM 131 is offered only in the fall and is a pre-requisite for CHEM 132, which is offered only in the spring.

MATH 170 & 171, Single Variable Calculus and Multivariable Calculus, should be taken as early as possible to allow a wider choice of chemistry electives in upper-class years.


Chemistry/Math Placement Information

Chemistry Placement Exam: The Chemistry Placement Exam is a 63-question, 75-minute exam assembled by Dickinson's chemistry department. Its purpose is to allow the department to determine your readines for college-level chemistry by assessing your comprehension in three basic areas: General Mathematics, General Chemistry Knowledge, and Specific Chemistry Knowledge.

Who should take the exam?
All students who plan to take Chemistry courses must take the exam. Many majors (including Biology, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Neuroscience, and Earth Sciences) require Chemistry courses, and all Pre-Health students must take Chemistry courses regardless of major.

Where do I find the Chemistry Placement Exam?
The placement exam can be found on the Student Forms tab of the Dickinson Gateway.

Math Placement Exam: The Chemistry department has found that there is a strong correlation between a student's high school math background and their future success in Chemistry. Consequently, all students planning to take Chemistry must take the Math Placement Exam.

Students must receive a Math Placement score of 13 or higher to enroll in CHEM 131. If you receive a Math Placement score of 10 - 12, you may enroll in CHEM 131 only if you have a chemistry placement score of 30 or higher. If you receive a score on the Math Placement Exam between 13 - 15, the Chemistry Department recommends that you purchase Calculations in Chemistry by Donald J. Dahm and Eric A. Nelson (ISBN: 13: 978-0393614367) for use during the summer and once you enroll in CHEM 131. If your Math Placement score is below 10, you will need to successfully complete MATH 151 before enrolling in CHEM 131.

The Mathematics Placement Information page contains a list of entry-level Mathematics courses at Dickinson, an interactive placement guide, and other useful information. The Mathematics Placement Exam can be found on the Student Forms tab of the Dickinson Gateway.

Advanced Placement: course credit and/or placement: Students who earn 4 or 5 on the Chemistry AP Exam will receive General College Credit. Those students planning to continue with Chemistry must take the Chemistry Placement Exam. Students who place into CHEM 141 will have the General College Credit changed to Chemistry General Credit upon successful completion of 141.

You can call the Chemistry department at 717-245-1329, or email the department coordinator (Janice Wiss) at for more information.

Transfer Credits:  Transfer students planning to major in Chemistry should confer with the chairperson as early as possible in order to assess the student's background and plan future chemistry courses. It is necessary that the student bring a course description, and a course syllabus for the department chairperson to fully evaluate courses. For Dickinson students who wish to take chemistry courses at another institution, the department strongly recommends that students have those courses approved by the department as eligible for transfer prior to enrolling.

For course descriptions and requirements for the major, refer to the Academic Bulletin: Chemistry.

Courses that fulfill distribution requirements

Lab Sciences (Division III)
CHEM 111; CHEM 131; CHEM 132; CHEM 141

Suggested curricular flow through the major

Possible Routes throughthe Chem Major Track 1 - two semesters of Introductory Chemistry Track 2 - one Semester of Introductory Chemistry Good Option for Both Tracks
First Year 131, 132 141, 243 Math
Sophomore Year 241, 242 and 243 241, 242 (and possibly 244) Physics
Junior Year 341, 347 and 244 341, 347 and 244  
Senior Year 490, 342 490, 342  


The above are suggested, but other options exist. Track 2 students can take 244 in the second year and a 490 or 342 in the third year, for example. The first course before the comma is the Fall semester course and the courses(s) following the comma are taken in the Spring. Students who plan to study abroad should plan their course sequence early and consult with their advisor

A research experience may be fulfilled by completion of an approved laboratory-based research project at Dickinson (eight weeks during summer or a two-semester research project) or at an off-campus site.

Students interested in graduate study in chemistry should consult with their advisor to select additional course(s) in chemistry and related sciences as necessary.


The faculty will award Honors to a chemistry major based on the candidate's complete undergraduate chemistry program. This includes all courses required for the major, the student's grades and the successful completion of a two semester (or a summer) research project. A minimum GPA of 3.40 is required in all courses that count toward the major, including math and physics courses and transfer courses that receive chemistry credit, at the conclusion of the seventh semester (typically the fall semester of the senior year) of study. The Honors research project usually entails joining an established research project in a faculty mentor's laboratory. Honors will be awarded based on the faculty's determination that the candidate has successfully passed at least two of the three segments of an Honors defense: written dissertation, public oral presentation of results, and oral defense in front of the faculty. Results of Honors research should be disseminated in a public forum. For the specific guidelines and procedures see the Chemistry Department web site.

Independent study and independent research

Independent study or research is available to students who are prepared for it. Normally this requires the completion of CHEM 131/132 or CHEM 141 as a minimum. More advanced courses are required for most independent research projects. Interested students should talk with faculty members in the department to arrange a topic for independent work

Chemistry majors who desire a degree that is certified by the American Chemical Society are required by the Chemistry department to complete an approved research experience. This experience gives the researcher an insight and depth of understanding of Chemistry that can be obtained in no other way. Some students fulfill their requirement with approved off-campus industrial or academic internships.

Opportunities for off-campus study

The Dickinson Science Program in England
Chemistry students have the opportunity to study for a semester or a year at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, England. This Dickinson program is overseen by an on-site Dickinson faculty member who advises students and teaches courses.

The Dickinson Science Program in Australia
Chemistry students have the opportunity to study for one semester at the University of Queensland (UQ) in Brisbane, Australia. The University of Queensland offers a variety of outstanding science programs. UQ was recently selected as "Australia's University of the Year."

Additional Remarks

Chemistry Club: The Chemistry Club is a student-run organization that is open to all students interested in Chemistry. The Chemistry department and the Chemistry Club schedule a variety of programs such as outside speakers, trips to Chemistry meetings and graduate schools, seminars, field trips, and picnics. Most activities are open to all students and faculty. In addition, many majors are active in the Pre-Health Society.

Careers: Currently about one-third of Chemistry majors plan careers in the health professions. Many Chemistry graduates continue their studies in graduate schools and obtain advanced degrees that qualify them for positions in industry. A significant number of graduates accept jobs in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries immediately after graduation from Dickinson.