Why major in Chemistry or Biochemistry?

Small, personal programs

Jordan reading room students

Each year, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry graduates around 40 majors, with an approximately equal split between biochemistry and chemistry majors. Both groups share a common curriculum for the first two years. Classes are taught separately from the non-majors track, which allows for smaller class sizes and more in-depth discussions. Once students begin taking advanced courses in their specific majors, classes become even smaller and more personal.  
Some of the advantages enjoyed by our majors include: 
  • greater one-on-one contact with professors
  • hands-on experience with research grade equipment in undergraduate laboratories
  • unique, project-based laboratories emphasizing critical thinking and trouble shooting skills
  • individual advising 
Chemistry and biochemistry majors are also encouraged to engage in undergraduate research. With over 50 research faculty associated with the department, students can find several options that match their interests. Majors are also welcome to contact faculty in other departments if their research is of interest.  

Flexible degrees that prepare you for multiple career paths

Undergraduate Research

Chemistry is often referred to as the “central science” because it connects the physical, life, and applied sciences. A Bachelor of Science in chemistry or biochemistry provides you with a degree that can take you anywhere you want to go.  Those interested in medical or dental school will find that either program of study fulfills the medical/dental school requirements and leads to high MCAT/DAT scores. As a result, our majors experience a high acceptance rate into these professional schools. Students who are interested in a research career will find that their solid foundation in chemistry and biochemistry allows them to branch into other fields of study at the graduate level or focus in on a specific area of chemistry that piqued their interest.  Thinking law school, pharmacy school, or just getting a job right out of college?  A degree in chemistry or biochemistry will prepare you for any of these as well.  Students interested in careers in chemistry can check out the Chemistry & Biochemistry Job Board or the career site run by the American Chemical Society. Additionally, the Career Center here on campus provides numerous resources and opportunities to help you determine where your ND degree will tak you.

State of the art learning facilities

Jordan Hall of Science

Jordan Hall of Science was designed specifically for science education. From large interactive lecture halls to the digital visualization theater (DVT), this building is state of the art. The chemistry lab facilities are no exception. Each chemistry laboratory offers students ample space to carry out their work in a safe and engaging environment. The connected data analysis rooms provide students a place to analyze data and discuss results. The chemistry lab spaces are equipped with research grade instrumentation, and our majors get hands-on experience with this equipment. In addition to our basic instrumentation, such as a 400 MHz NMR, infrared (IR) spectrometers, gas chromatographs, and UV/Vis spectrophotometers, our laboratory curriculum puts students in the driver’s seat while using fluorescence spectroscopy, circular dichroism, lasers, and GC-linked mass spectrometry. Students also gain experience handling air and moisture sensitive chemicals using Schlenk lines and glove boxes. Overall, this represents an unsurpassed practical education in the sciences.

Work hard & play hard

Undergraduate Research

Students in both majors become tight-knit groups built through common interests and experiences. Outside the classroom, study groups, friendships, and even “Bookstore Basketball” teams form. You will be each other’s support system for the four years you are here, as well as each other’s professional network well into the future. The chemistry and biochemistry degree programs are challenging programs of study that parallel your expectations for a Notre Dame education, yet our majors find ample time to participate in a variety of university activities. These include club and team sports, marching and concert band, service, and dorm activities just to name a few. Our students will attest that these extracurricular activities provide a break from your studies and allow you to fully experience college life at the University of Notre Dame.    

Want to find out more?

If you are considering a major in chemsitry or biochemistry and have questions, please feel free to contact Dr. DeeAnne Goodenough-Lashua (undergraduate advisor) or Prof. Jon Camden (Director of Undergraduate Studies).

FAQs for those considering chemistry or biochemistry as a major

What can I do with a degree in chemistry or biochemistry?

A Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry or biochemistry provides you with a foundation that can take you anywhere you want to go. Some of the many career paths our students have chosen include: medicine, research, pharmaceuticals, law and nursing. Each year we also have a number of students who choose to go into teaching, service or directly into the workforce in a science related field. 

Does a chemistry or biochemistry degree prepare me for medical or dental school?

Those interested in medical or dental school will find that either program of study fulfills the medical/dental school requirements and leads to high MCAT/DAT scores. As a result, our majors experience a high acceptance rate into these professional programs.

Can I study abroad if I am a chemistry or biochemistry major?

Absolutely. Each year we have a number of students who choose to study abroad. When and where you choose to go will depend on a number of factors including language requirements, whether you want to take science classes abroad or not, and your plans for post-graduation. The best thing to do is sit down with the chemistry/biochemistry advisor who can help you determine your best options.

Can I have a second major or minor if I am majoring in chemistry or biochemistry?

Definitely. Approximately 50% of our students have a second major, and an additional 25% of our students choose to have one or more minors. The second half of the junior year and the senior year in both programs are relatively light. Therefore, there is plenty of time to fit in the courses for your other program(s) of study.

I started off in a different major.  If I switch to chemistry or biochemistry, will I still be able to graduate on time?

Switching from another College of Science major during the first four semesters is usually easy. During this period, all science students are taking the fundamental science courses. Even if you have taken a different course number, or taken a course out of sequence from our majors, there is a good chance we can still count those credits. Students from the Colleges of Engineering, Business, or Arts and Letters who are considering switching should meet with the chemistry/biochemistry advisor as soon as possible so she can determine how your existing classes fit into our requirements. Most students can still easily graduate on time if they make the switch prior to the beginning of their junior year. The “What If” tool in the Graduation Progress System (GPS) is a great way to get an initial look at how your existing courses will fit into an alternative major or minor.

Can I use my science AP credits?

You cannot use your Chemistry AP credits. After that, it depends on a number of factors. Biochemistry majors cannot use biology AP credits, but chemistry majors can count them as a general elective (i.e. not for science electives or preprofessional programs). Both chemistry and biochemistry will count physics AP credits if you score high enough to meet the appropriate physics course level for the major. Both chemistry and biochemistry also allow the use of Calc I and Calc II AP credits.  Another factor is whether or not you are considering medical school. Many medical schools want to see that you have taken the college level courses and therefore do not accept AP credits. Finally, it depends on how confident you feel with the material. Upper level science courses assume you have taken the introductory courses here. Therefore, they build off the content included in these college level courses. The question you should ask yourself is this: do the benefits of using your AP credits outweigh the benefits of seeing this material taught by Notre Dame professors? We often encourage incoming students to use their non-science AP credits but to consider taking all of their science classes here, even if the major allows the AP credits to transfer. This will give you a great start to your academic career.

I am considering transferring from another school.  How do you decide if my courses will transfer?

Our two primary concerns are your overall success at Notre Dame and whether or not you can graduate within four years (total combined for both schools). As we review a course syllabus from another institution, we look to see how the content of the course you took compares to the content our students have seen here. We need to see that the primary concepts covered by your course are the same and that you will be fully prepared for the upper level courses you will encounter in our program. We want to ensure that you can move into our program with confidence. It is not in anyone’s best interest if you find yourself struggling to fill in gaps. We also want to ensure that a sufficient number of courses will transfer so that you are still on track to graduate at the end of four years. You should contact the chemistry/biochemistry advisor early in the application process to ensure that you are able to complete your requirements for an on-time graduation.