Name: Nigel Harris
Year: Class of 2012
Hometown: Ann Arbor, MI
I’m here to share just a little bit about the chemistry major here at Johns Hopkins. This discussion will be more about my feelings on the major in general, rather than the specific aspects of the Chemistry Department at Hopkins. So, I hope to inspire some interest in this field of study.
When telling people that I am a chemistry major, I often get responses such as “why?” or “what can you do with that?” or “you’ll have to take Physical Chemistry!” In fact, there are many things one can do with a chemistry major. Chemistry has many subfields, and applications in everything from pharmaceutical research to forensics.
Since taking my first rigorous chemistry class in 10th grade, I’ve been interested in chemistry. Chemistry is everywhere and in everything, and I find it very intriguing. Not only intriguing, but necessary for countless industries and service. Fittingly, chemistry is a very broad field of study and can lead to careers in such things as medical research, forensics, pharmaceuticals, and aspects of chemical engineering.
The chemistry major has a lot of flexibility when it comes to requirements and electives. One (two when you start getting into the upper level courses) required chemistry course per year is pretty standard for the major. For example, Introductory Chemistry freshman year, Organic Chemistry sophmore year, then Physical Chemistry and other upper level chemistry department courses in junior and senior years. Expect to work hard in these core major classes, but aside from these, one only needs to focus on the distribution requirements of Hopkins, and complementing your Chemistry major with other things you love to do. Math courses require only up to Calculus II. There are also the lab requirements that come along with chemistry classes, and a few extra ones for this major.
Being a freshman, I started in Introductory Chemistry. From this class, obviously expect to learn the basics. Although it may not be the most colorful class, don’t let it discourage you. It will develop the fundamentals needed to understand and apply the exciting worlds of organic and physical chemistry later.
As you should know, JHU was the first and remains one of the greatest research institutions in the nation. There are many opportunities for research in chemistry if you are willing to take out the time and commit to them. You can do as much research as you please. And a total of 12 credits of research can count toward your 120 needed for graduation! So research would definitely worthwhile, and of course, it’s looked favorably upon by graduate and medical schools. The Chemistry Department at Hopkins is quite small, with tons of people in Intro and Organic Chem, and very few in the upper level courses. This makes for great personal experience with professors, as well as more spots for research.
Chemistry is a great subject to study because it is the chemists who are at the core of the innovations in medicine, understanding our physiology, technologies related to the earth, etc. We’ll always need chemists to take a deeper look into the complexity of everyday objects we overlook. Chemistry is practical and theoretical, challenging and rewarding. I encourage you to delve into the chemistry department information online, and hopefully I’ve sparked at least some interest.
Click here to access more information about the Chemistry Undergraduate Program of Study.
To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective as well as the Chemistry questions thread.