Why Study Chemistry?
Chemistry applies to most processes occurring in the world. Chemists study the action of molecules transmitting nerve impulses, determine the structure of biological macromolecules supporting the trunk of a Douglas fir tree, develop polymers for use as coronary artery patches, and prepare superconducting materials used in magnetic resonance imaging instruments. In addition, they study soil nutrients to maximize crop yields, develop methods to care for our environment, synthesize new materials, and develop theories about chemicals and their reactions. Chemistry provides a critical foundation for our understanding of the biological and physical principles of our world.
The study of chemistry is directed toward understanding the fundamental nature of matter, the changes in its composition, and the energy changes accompanying these transformations. To study chemistry is to gain an understanding of the world around us by learning chemical principles, integrating them with other fields of study, and applying chemical knowledge to real world problems.
An education in chemistry can undergird interests in molecular biology, the influences of science and technology on the environment and society, careers in the health field, the study of pure chemistry, and other disciplines. Whatever your interests in chemistry or science in general, you will find programs to meet your needs at PLU.
Why Study Chemistry at PLU?
Chemistry at PLU affords an education in all the essential areas of chemistry with an emphasis on the application of this knowledge to important problems of today. Foundations of chemistry are developed in general, organic, physical, and analytical chemistry courses. Experience in the lab and use of sophisticated chemical instrumentation and computers are integrated with classroom studies. Courses in specialized and advanced areas are offered to further our graduate’s preparation in chemistry.
The Chemistry Department has been accredited by the American Chemical Society since 1964. The Bachelor of Science degree can be earned with American Chemical Society Certification and/or emphases in biochemistry or chemical physics. Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Arts in Education degree programs in chemistry are also offered, as is a minor in chemistry.
Chemistry majors at PLU have frequent, direct interaction with faculty. Most majors engage in research projects where they work closely with faculty. Research projects involving student participation include both theoretical studies of matter and applied investigations. Examples include studies of properties of polymers widely used in industry, research on mechanisms of enzyme actions, structure elucidation of antimicrobial peptides and biomineralization.
Other faculty research interests include environmental chemistry, conformational studies of enzyme inhibitors, laser characterizations of polymers, crystal and molecular structure, electronic and magnetic properties of inorganic complexes, and molecular modeling.
The Rieke Science Center, completed in 1985, brings all the laboratory sciences at PLU together into one superb facility. Modern equipment and pleasant facilities highlight the department. Included in Rieke Science Center are instrument rooms, a reading room, Ramstad Student Research Laboratory, an open laboratory allowing flexible scheduling, and specialized facilities for radioisotopes and electronics.
The Chemistry Department is fortunate to own nearly a million dollars in instrumentation for hands-on use by students in our teaching and research laboratories. A track record of success in obtaining grants from the National Science Foundation and other agencies, together with assistance from the university, has made it possible for our department to have research-grade instrumentation such as a 500 MHz Fourier transform nuclear magnetic resonance (FTNMR) spectrometer, matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometer (MALDI-TOF MS), spectrofluorometry, inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrophotomer (ICP AES), differential scanning calorimeter (DSC), Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometer, laser light scattering instrumentation, gas chromatography with mass selective detection (GCMS), high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), Silicon Graphics workstations for molecular modeling and computational chemistry, and various other computers and assorted equipment.
During the past 40 years grants and endowed funds have funded summer undergraduate research. Many students have had the opportunity to present oral scientific papers at American Chemical Society meetings, and a number of student research works have been published in scientific journals.
Careers for Chemistry Majors
A PLU degree in chemistry provides graduates with the skills and knowledge to seek a wide variety of employment. Careers include, but are not limited to, applied and theoretical chemistry, biochemistry, clinical chemistry, medicine, dentistry, medical technology, environmental studies, chemical engineering, law, and teaching. A variety of chemistry degree programs can be formulated out of the diverse course offerings, depending on your vocational and intellectual interests.
For those interested in medicine, dentistry, research and development, or university teaching and research, graduate study is essential. PLU’s chemistry graduates are well prepared for admission to these programs. Students have been accepted at University of California (Berkeley and Davis), California Institute of Technology, Columbia, Duke, Harvard, Iowa State, Northwestern, Oregon State, Stanford, and Washington. Many have attended medical and dental programs at University of California (Irvine and Davis), George Washington, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington. PLU graduates are or have been on the faculty at Harvey-Mudd College, University of Illinois (Champagne-Urbana), Moorhead State, the University of Nevada (Reno), and the University of New Mexico.
Our graduates have found successful careers at many industries including Allied Chemical, ARCO, AstraZeneca, Battelle Northwest, Boeing, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Ciba-Geigy, CH2M Hill, DuPont, Genetic Systems, Georgia Pacific, Huls America, Merck, NOAA, Pfizer, U.S. Oil, and Westinghouse Hanford. Others have entered medical technology programs, military service, graduate programs in law or business, or taken teaching positions in secondary education.
Additional Opportunities for Chemistry Majors
Cooperative Education provides opportunities to earn and learn by working at chemistry-related industries. Four credits may be earned through learning agreements and courses analyzing work in society. Two separate work experiences are available, either half-time while taking classes or as a full-time experience. Many opportunities exist for part-time student work within the chemistry department and the science division.