Please note: This is NOT the most current catalog.


Chair, Fall 2009-10: Gregory W. Muth, biochemistry
Interim and Spring 2009-10: Beth R. J. Abdella, bio-organic chemistry (on leave Fall Semester)

Faculty, 2009-10: Douglas J. Beussman, analytical and bio-analytical chemistry, mass spectrometry, forensic science, chemical instrumentation (on leave); Erik M. Epp, chemistry education, physical chemistry; Robert M. Hanson, chemical informatics, computational modeling, organic chemistry; Paul Jackson, analytical and environmental chemistry, separations science, liquid and gas chromatography; Laura Listenberger, biochemistry; Gary L. Miessler, inorganic chemistry, organometallic chemistry, photochemistry of transition metal complexes; Wesley A. Pearson, organic chemistry, reaction mechanisms, stereochemistry; Janice L. Pellino, biochemistry; William Roberts, organic chemistry; Jeffrey J. Schwinefus, physical and biophysical chemistry, physical chemistry of nucleic acids and macromolecules; Mary M. Walczak, chemistry education, physical and analytical chemistry, spectroscopy, electrochemistry

St. Olaf traditionally graduates more chemistry majors than any other four-year college in the United States. The college also ranks in the top five as a source of students who obtain the Ph.D. in chemistry and related fields. Chemistry faculty members have a fine record of achievement in teaching and research; several have won prestigious national awards. Students enjoy state-of-the-art instrumentation and computers in both the laboratory and the classroom.

The Chemistry Department offers an array of courses in the traditional areas of chemistry (organic, analytical, physical, inorganic). Courses in biochemistry, organometallic chemistry, environmental chemistry, medicinal chemistry, and other topics introduce students to interdisciplinary and bridging sciences that utilize a chemical perspective.

The department has an active summer research program, in which faculty and students work together to investigate problems of current interest. Students graduating with chemistry majors have had excellent success in gaining admission to graduate and professional schools and in obtaining employment opportunities. A major in chemistry may lead to employment in chemical research and in related areas such as medical applications of chemistry, environmental chemistry, and materials science. A chemistry major also provides an excellent background for continued education in professional schools in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, and related fields.


An overview of general options for the chemistry major, including the general major and the American Chemical Society certified major may be found at Students majoring in Chemistry generally begin their major with Chemistry 121/123/126, Chemistry 125/126, or Chemistry/Biology 125/126/127 during their first year. Organic Chemistry and Synthesis Laboratory (Chemistry 247, 248, 253 and 254) generally are taken sophomore year, followed in the junior and senior years with Analytical Chemistry (255/256) and Physical Chemistry (357/371). After the first year, the order of courses is not prescribed. Upper-level courses in addition to this core set are also required, as described below. Gaining experience in the laboratory is an important aspect of the major, and students are encouraged to participate in research either on campus with St. Olaf faculty or at other institutions.


Requirements for a Graduation Major

Majors must complete Chemistry 125 (or 121 and 123), 126, 247, 248, 255, 371, laboratory courses 253, 254, 256, 357, and one additional course from 252, 260, 379, 380, 382, 384, 386, 388, or 391. The Chemistry/Biology integrated course sequence (Chemistry/Biology 125,126 and 127) may be substituted for Chemistry 125 and Chemistry 126. In addition, students majoring in chemistry must take either Physics 124 and 125, or Physics 130, 131, 232; Mathematics through courses 126 or 128; and attendance during junior and senior years at 12 departmental seminars. Completion of at least one course credit in independent research (or completion of a summer research experience) is strongly recommended for students planning careers in chemistry. For more information, see

Requirements for a license to teach Chemistry in grades 9-12

A chemistry major who wishes to teach chemistry in grades 9-12 in Minnesota must hold a valid Minnesota teaching license in chemistry. In addition to the chemistry major, additional science courses and the professional education sequence are required. A license to teach grades 5-8 in Science is also available with additional course requirements. Interested students should consult with a faculty advisor in the Education Department for details of requirements and available options.


The Chemistry Department seeks to encourage and recognize students who give evidence of creative and independent scholarship. A variety of opportunities are available for students to take a much greater responsibility for setting their goals and realizing the achievements of their education. Going beyond the regular course work, which introduces the theory and practice of chemistry, distinction challenges students to raise questions worthy of scientific investigation. Opportunities for distinction projects include, for example, summer research either on or off campus, Level II Independent Study (Chemistry 298), Level III Independent Research (Chemistry 398), Advanced Laboratory (Chemistry 375), and faculty-approved literature research projects. All projects for distinction will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

A full description of the distinction process is available at


St. Olaf College is accredited by the American Chemical Society through its Committee on Professional Training. Prospective majors in chemistry who expect to comply with the minimum requirements of the committee will take the following courses: Chemistry 125 (or 121 and 123), 126, 247, 248, 253, 254, 255, 256, 357, 371, 378, 379, 382, 386, and at least 1.25 additional laboratory credits selected from 373, 374, 375, 380, 384 or 398. The Chemistry/Biology integrated course sequence (Chemistry/Biology 125, 126 and 127) may be substituted for Chemistry 125 and Chemistry 126. In addition, ACS-certified majors are required to take two mathematics courses beyond calculus II (Mathematics 126 or 128). This requirement is typically fulfilled by taking Mathematics 220 and one of Mathematics 226 or 230.

Students planning graduate work in chemistry should complete most of these courses, even if they do not fulfill all of the requirements for ACS certification. In particular, students interested in graduate school should take Chemistry 386 by the end of the junior year so that they have taken the background courses relevant to the Chemistry Graduate Record Examination prior to fall of the senior year, when that examination is typically taken.


St. Olaf chemistry majors have a number of options for special study, both on campus and elsewhere. On-campus programs that may include chemistry topics include concentrations in biomolecular science, envrionmental studies, neuroscience, and biomedical studies. Off-campus programs include the cooperative B.A.-B.S.E. Engineering Programs at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Minnesota, where students may earn a degree in engineering, the Oak Ridge Science Semester, and the study of medicinal chemistry on an Interim abroad program in Jamaica. Internships in local industrial settings are also possible. Consult the International and Off-Campus Studies Office or the Center for Experiential Learning for more information on these programs.


106 Forensic Science

This course introduces the fundamentals of forensic science. Lectures focus on how samples are collected and analyzed and what information can be obtained. Actual case studies will be used to supplement lectures. Topics will include hair analysis, paint analysis, drug screening, arson investigation, ballistics, DNA analysis, and fingerprint analysis. This course is also available with a laboratory component, as Chemistry 107. Offered alternate years in the Spring semester.

107 Forensic Science with Lab

In addition to the in-class experience shared with Chemistry 106 and described above, this course offers a laboratory component with experiments that feature the use of forensic techniques to collect and analyze evidence including fingerprinting, drug analysis, alcohol investigation, DNA fingerprinting, and fiber analysis. Students attend three classes and one 3-hour laboratory per week. Offered alternate years in the Spring Semester.

111 Chemistry and the World

Students explore aspects of chemistry that are encountered in the world. Basic concepts in chemistry, such as matter and bonding, acid/base chemistry, and solution chemistry, are discussed within the context of society at large. Laboratory experiences complement the class material, and students have opportunities to explore chemistry principles. Students attend three hours of class and one 3-hour laboratory per week. Does not count toward the major. Offered annually in the Spring Semester.

120 Chemistry of Life's Beginning

This brief study of the structure and function of molecules common to living organisms such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and DNA includes speculation on the formation of the solar system and the early chemical history of the earth and examination of possible mechanisms by which smaller and then larger molecules may have formed, from which the present great diversity of life has evolved. Prerequisite: high school chemistry or biology. Offered during Interim.

121 General Chemistry

This course provides a study of chemical stoichiometry and equilibrium at a level and pace appropriate to students with little or no background in chemistry. The combination of this course and the Interim course 123 provides coverage of topics equivalent to those in Chemistry 125. Students planning to continue in Chemistry should consider concurrent registration in Mathematics 120 or 121. Students attend three classes and one 3-hour laboratory per week. Offered annually in the Fall Semester.

123 Atomic and Molecular Structure

This course, a continuation of Chemistry 121, examines atomic and molecular structure, including classical and quantum theories, bonding models, molecular orbitals and coordination chemistry. Chemistry 121 and 123 together are equivalent in content to Chemistry 125 and are designed to prepare students for Chemistry 126. Prerequisite: Chemistry 121. Offered during Interim.

124 A Matter of the Environment with Lab

This course covers the material of Chemistry 119, with an additional laboratory component. Laboratory work explores the characteristics and analysis of hazardous and beneficial materials. Counts towards environmental studies major and concentration; does not count toward Chemistry major. Offerd during Interim.

125 Structural Chemistry and Equilibrium

This study of chemical stoichiometry, equilibrium, acid-base chemistry, coordination chemistry, and atomic and molecular structure supplies the fundamental background on which all later chemistry courses depend. It includes applications of equilibrium principles to acid-base chemistry. Students attend three classes and one 3-hour laboratory each week. Prerequisites: high school chemistry and physics. Students planning to continue in Chemistry should consider concurrent registration in Mathematics 120 or 121. Placement via online placement exam is required. The course cannot be taken in conjunction with or after credit in Chemistry 121. Offered annually in the Fall Semester.

125 Integrated Chem/Bio I: Chemical Concepts with Biological Applications

This course introduces chemical concepts that are important for students pursuing a study of chemistry or biology. Topics include atomic structure, the Periodic Table, bonding interactions within and between particles, water and its solutions, biological membranes, chemical reaction types, chemical stoichiometry, equilibrium systems, acids and bases, introduction to protein structure. Examples are often pulled from the realm of biological molecules and processes. Students attend three classes and one 3-hour laboratory each week. Prerequisites: high school biology, chemistry and physics. Placement via online placement exam is required. Concurrent registration in Mathematics 120 or 121 is recommended. Offered annually in the Fall Semester.

126 Energies and Rates of Chemical Reactions

This course provides a sequential introduction to physical chemistry. Beginning with an introduction to statistical aspects of chemical equilibria, it explores the relationships between energy, entropy and equilibria (thermodynamics); oxidation-reduction reactions and electrochemistry; transitions between phases; and rates of reactions. Students attend three classes and one 3-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisite: Chemistry 125, or 121 and 123 and Mathematics 120 or 121 or permission of instructor. Offered annually in the Spring Semester.

126 Integrated Chem/Bio II: Thermodynamics and Kinetics with Bio Relevance

This course introduces physical chemistry with an emphasis on thermodynamics and kinetics of biologically relevant systems. Topics include probability as the driving force for chemical reactions; the relationship between chemical bonding energetics, entropy, and equilibria; oxidation-reduction reactions and electrochemistry; and rates of reactions, including enzyme-catalyzed reactions. Laboratory experiments and activities illustrate lecture topics and introduce new concepts. Prerequisites: Chemistry/Biology 125 and Math 120 or 121. Offered during Interim.

127 Integrated Chemistry/Biology III: Molecular and Cellular Biology

This course builds on the principles learned in Chemistry/Biology 125/126 and explores how chemistry informs major principles of cellular and molecular biology and genetics. Topics include cell structure, metabolism, movement, signaling, division, and molecular and Mendelian inheritance. The course emphasizes problem-solving, quantitative reasoning, the scientific method, and scientific writing through lectures, discussions, readings, writing assignments, and lab work. Students attend three classes and one 3-hour laboratory each week. Prerequisite: Chemistry/Biology 126. Offered annually in the Spring Semester.

247 Organic Chemistry I

Organic chemistry is the study of compounds containing carbon, emphasizing the structures and mechanisms of reaction of these molecules. This course focuses on structure, nomenclature, and reactions of aliphatic and alicyclic compounds, including aspects of stereochemistry and spectroscopic identification of these compounds. A full treatment of introductory organic chemistry requires subsequent enrollment in Chemistry 248. Prerequisite: Chemistry 126, or Chemistry/Biology 127, or permission of instructor. Offered annually in the Fall Semester.

248 Organic Chemistry II

This course is a continuation of Chemistry 247 topics. Chemistry 248 delves into the chemistry of functional groups, especially those that play a role in the reactivity of biomolecules such as carbohydrates, lipids, proteins ,and nucleic acids. Together, Chemistry 247 and 248 provide a full treatment of introductory organic chemistry. Prerequisite: Chemistry 247 or permission of instructor. Offered annually in the Spring Semester.

252 Organometallic Chemistry

Students study the structure, bonding, and reactions of compounds containing metal-carbon bonds. Special topics include applications of organometallic chemistry to the synthesis of organic compounds, homogeneous catalysis, and biochemistry. Examples illustrate organometallic chemistry as a bridge between organic and inorganic chemistry. Students use bibliographic and electronic searching software to prepare research papers based on the current literature. Prerequisite: Chemistry 247. Offered during Interim.

253 Synthesis Laboratory I (0.25)

This laboratory course introduces students to the synthesis and characterization of organic, organometallic and inorganic compounds and serves as a general introduction to green chemistry. Students purify the materials they produce by techniques such as chromatography and characterize them using optical rotation measurements, infrared spectroscopy, and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Students attend one 3-hour laboratory each week. P/N only. Prerequisites: previous or concurrent registration in Chemistry 247. Offered annually in the Fall Semester.

254 Synthesis Laboratory II (0.25)

This course is a continuation of Chemistry 253. Students gain more experience with techniques used in Chemistry 253 and in addition use gas chromatographic/mass spectrometric analyses. Students attend one 3-hour laboratory each week. P/N only. Prerequisites: Chemistry 253 and previous or concurrent registration in Chemistry 248. Offered annually in the Spring Semester.

255 Analytical Chemistry

Students not only investigate the theory of modern analytical chemistry, but also examine the statistical treatment of errors, equilibrium, activities, acid/base chemistry, spectroscopy, electrochemistry, and separations. The accompanying lab course, Chemistry 256, illustrates the topics discussed in Chemistry 255. Students taking this course use computers for solving problems. Prerequisite: Chemistry 126 or Chemistry/Biology 127 or permission of the instructor. Concurrent registration in Chemistry 256 is required. Offered each semester.

256 Analytical Laboratory (0.25)

Students enrolled in this lab course practice techniques of modern analytical chemistry using state-of-the-art instrumentation, including pH meters, liquid chromatographs, and a variety of spectrophotometers. Data acquisition via computer-interfaced instrumentation and electronic record-keeping is emphasized. Students practice and develop group skills by working in "companies" throughout the semester. P/N only. Prerequisite: concurrent registration in Chemistry 255. Offered each semester.

260 Medicinal Chemistry in Jamaica: An International Perspective (Abroad)

In this course students will gain an appreciation for the drug development process, including how natural products are isolated, how their structures relate to activities, and how research into the mechanism of disease leads to the targeted development of drugs. Issues relating to medicinal chemistry in a developing-world context, medicinal plants, and the chemical basis of folk medicine will be discussed. Prerequisites: Chemistry 248 and 254. Offered alternate years during Interim.

294 Internship

298 Independent Study

357 Physical Laboratory (0.25)

Students perform experiments that illustrate the principles of physical chemistry and utilize modern instrumentation. Students characterize the thermodynamic properties of a biopolymer, perform spectroscopic measurements of molecular energy levels, calculate quantum mechanical quantities using computer workstations, and investigate the thermodynamics and kinetics of chemical reactions. Students also develop their scientific writing skills by preparing reports in the style of scientific publications. P/N only. Prerequisite: concurrent registration in Chemistry 371. Offered each semester.

371 Physical Chemistry

Students delve further into the topics of kinetics, thermodynamics and atomic and molecular structure that were introduced in the first-year courses, with an emphasis on the mathematical aspects of chemistry. Specific topics include reaction mechanisms, the laws of thermodynamics, statistical thermodynamics, equilibrium, quantum mechanics, spectroscopy, and molecular orbital theory. Prerequisites: Chemistry 126 or Chemistry/Biology 127 or permission of instructor and concurrent registration in Chemistry 357. Previous completion of Physics 124 or 130 is recommended. Offered each semester.

373 Experimental Biochemistry (0.25)

This lab course is highly recommended to enhance the study of biochemistry and as preparation for further research in biochemistry and related fields. The course focuses on the isolation, purification, manipulation, and characterization of proteins, DNA, and RNA. The course aims to provide continuity in experimentation that is investigative in nature. Emphasis is placed on the collection, interpretation, and presentation of data. P/N only. Prerequisite: previous or concurrent registration in Chemistry 379. Offered each semester.

374 Advanced Synthesis Laboratory (0.25)

Building upon skills learned in Chemistry 253, 254, students perform multi-step syntheses that require the use of advanced techniques for the synthesis, purification and characterization of organic compounds. The second half of the course may focus on a project chosen by each student in consultation with the instructor. P/N only. Prerequisites: Chemistry 253, 254. Offered annually in the Spring Semester.

375 Advanced Laboratory (0.25)

Students work on special projects during one afternoon of laboratory per week. Each student must have the sponsorship of a staff member. P/N only. Offered each semester. May be repeated if topic is different.

378 Instrumental Analysis Laboratory (0.25)

Students explore how instrumentation is used to study analytical applications, problem solving, and how people and instruments operate together to investigate chemical questions. Specific lab experiences include interfacing chemical instruments with computers and subsequent signal processing, mass spectrometry, electrochemistry, and various spectroscopic (AA, ICP, UV) and separation techniques. A laboratory robot is used for sample preparation and analysis. P/N only. Prerequisite: concurrent registration in Chemistry 382. Offered annually in the Fall Semester.

379 Biochemistry I

This course presents fundamental biological processes at the molecular level and serves as a general introduction to biochemistry. Topics include the structure and function of proteins, carbohydrates, lipids and nucleic acids, enzyme catalysis and regulation, bioenergetics and an introduction to carbohydrate metabolism. Subsequent enrollment in Chemistry 385 is recommended for students desiring greater breadth and depth in the subject. Prerequisite: Chemistry 248. Offered each semester.

380 Organic Analysis and Theory

In the laboratory, students investigate and identify organic compounds, singly and in mixtures. Lectures and discussion sessions investigate various spectroscopic methods and their applications to the elucidation of the structure of organic compounds. Prerequisite: Chemistry 248 and 254. Offered during Interim.

382 Instrumental Analysis

Students study how an instrument functions mechanically, mathematically, optically, and electronically, and then how its parts are linked together. Topics covered include basic electronics and computer interfacing, spectrophotometric instruments, mass spectrometers, electrochemical instrumentation, and various separation methods. Prerequisites: Chemistry 255, 256. Previous or concurrent enrollment in Physics 125 or 131 is recommended. Concurrent registration in Chemistry 378 is required. Offered annually in the Fall Semester.

384 Bioanalytical Chemistry

This course introduces the fundamentals of bioanalytical chemistry and the application of modern analysis techniques to biological samples. Current clinical applications and examples of biological problems supplement lecture material. Daily lectures are closely integrated with laboratory experiences. Topics include different types of chromatography used to separate biological mixtures in various ways, 1D- and 2D-gel electrophoresis, capillary electrophoresis, radiochemical and immunological assays, centrifugation techniques, and biological mass spectrometry. Prerequisites: Chemistry 255 or Chemistry 379 or permission of instructor. Offered alternate years during Interim.

385 Biochemistry II

This course builds depth of biochemical understanding upon the foundation laid in Chemistry 379. Contents may include selected topics in catabolic and anabolic metabolism, integration and regulation of metabolism, photosynthesis and biochemical genetics. In addition, students will gain experience with the primary literature. Prerequisite: Chemistry 379. Offered annually in the Spring Semester.

386 Advanced Inorganic Chemistry

This course examines how modern theories of chemical bonding are applied to an understanding of the chemistry of the elements of the periodic table. Students explore chemical structures and spectra on the basis of molecular symmetry and group theory. Topics covered include inorganic reactions, chemical periodicity, acid-base systems, coordination compounds, organometallic compounds, nonmetal chemistry, and cluster compounds. Prerequisite: Chemistry 248. Offered annually in the Spring Semester.

388 Advanced Organic Chemistry

This course explores the subject of organic chemistry at a greater depth and breadth than is discussed in Chemistry 247 and Chemistry 248. Topics may include analysis of reaction mechanisms, reaction kinetics, and reaction thermodynamics. Particular attention is paid to the interdependent relationship between experimental and theoretical results. Textbook subjects are augmented by readings from the primary research literature. Prerequisite: Chemistry 248. Offered alternate years in the Spring Semester.

391 Selected Topics in Chemistry

The field of chemistry is constantly expanding into new frontiers. This course provides an in-depth study of advanced topics that are chosen with attention to student interest and available staff. Recent topics include biophysical chemistry and environmental chemical analysis. Topics are announced prior to registration for the term; see the current Class and Lab Schedule. Prerequisite: permission of instructor. May be repeated if topic is different.

394 Internship

396 Directed Undergraduate Research: "Topic Description"

This course provides a comprehensive research opportunity, including an introduction to relevant background material, technical instruction, identification of a meaningful project, and data collection. The topic is determined by the faculty member in charge of the course and may relate to his/her research interests. Prerequisite: determined by individual instructor. Offered based on department decision.

398 Independent Research


Biomolecular Science 201: Explorations in Biomolecular Science (0.25)

A quarter-credit course devoted to a broad study of the field of biomolecular science through
the reading and discussion of primary and secondary literature across the field. Through
exploration of the breadth of the field, biomolecular concentrators plan their own 300-level course
structure. While required of all Biomolecular Science concentrators, this course is open to all
interested students. P/N only. Prerequisite: either Biology 125, Chemistry 125, or Chemistry/Biology
125, or the equivalent. Offered annually in the Spring Semester.

Interdisciplinary 230: Communicating Science and Mathematics (0.25)

Oral communication is an essential part of science and mathematics. Students work closely
with a faculty member to learn and practice important aspects of communicating technical
information to both expert and non-expert audiences. Enrollment by permission of instructor
only. Prerequisite: Previous participation in summer communication series. P/N only. Offered both