Jul 26, 2021  
2021-2022 General Catalog 
2021-2022 General Catalog

Chemistry and Biochemistry

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Department Head: Lance C. Seefeldt
Location: Maeser Laboratory 140
Phone: (435) 797-1619
FAX: (435) 797-3390
E-mail (undergraduate): chem.undergrad@usu.edu
E-mail (graduate): chem.grad@usu.edu
Website: http://www.chem.usu.edu

Undergraduate Advisor: Jordan Truex, Maeser Lab 151, (435) 797-0432, jordan.truex@usu.edu

Graduate Program Coordinator: Cindy Weatbrook, Maeser Lab 140, (435) 797-1618, cindy.weatbrook@usu.edu

Undergraduate Research Coordinator: Joan Hevel, Widtsoe 235, (435) 797-1622, joanie.hevel@usu.edu

Degrees Offered: Bachelor of Science (BS), Bachelor of Arts (BA), Master of Science (MS), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Chemistry; BS, MS, and PhD in Biochemistry; BS in Chemistry Teaching; BS in Physical Science Composite Teaching (Chemistry)

Undergraduate Emphases: BS in Chemistry—Professional Chemistry, Biochemistry, Environmental Chemistry, Chemical Education, Life Science

Graduate Specializations: Biochemistry, Chemistry—Analytical Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry

Full details of the learning objectives, assessment plan, student outcomes, and evidence of continuous improvement for these programs of study can be found by clicking on Assessment at www.chem.usu.edu/.

Undergraduate Programs


Chemistry is a subject that addresses the properties of materials and the transformations that they undergo. Especially important are aspects of energy and structure related to chemical reactivity. Consequently, students of many disciplines take courses in chemistry to learn about the behavior of the substances they will use or reference. The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry offers a wide variety of courses for those whose majors and/or anticipated careers require a knowledge of chemistry. These areas of study include nutrition, engineering, biology, agriculture, natural resources, medicine, law, and education, to name a few. Many students also choose chemistry as an elective course to better prepare themselves as citizens in a technological world.

The Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry entails considerable specialization in chemistry and related areas. The BS emphases require a common core of courses but allow for a different concentration of advanced work according to the interests and career objectives of the student. The BS with Professional Chemistry Emphasis, BS with Environmental Chemistry Emphasis, and BS with Biochemistry Emphasis degrees meet the requirements for certification by the American Chemical Society (ACS). The certified degree emphases provide excellent preparation for immediate entry into the job market or for graduate school in chemistry, biochemistry, chemical engineering, molecular biology, nutrition, food science, materials science, and a wide variety of other fields. The BS with Life Science Emphasis degree is popular for students wishing to go on to medical or dental graduate programs. The life science emphasis is particularly appropriate for premedical and predental students who want a strong base for understanding the nature of chemical reactions in the body and the behavior of the drugs they will prescribe, or who want an attractive alternative should they decide ultimately not to pursue medical or dental school. The Chemistry Teaching Major or the Physical Science Composite Teaching Major are available to those who want a career in secondary education. The BA degree is an excellent choice for students with an interest in studying law or business and who have an interest in science.

The core of the program utilizes year-long sequences of classes. The first-year sequence introduces the basic principles of chemistry, as well as most of the major concepts of the science. The second year explores in greater depth the characteristics of carbon-based compounds that serve as the backbone for the chemistry of life; for most drugs and medicines; for petroleum; for most fibers, paints, and plastics; and for many other commercial products. The third year examines in greater depth the models, theories, and mathematical interpretation of the structures, rates of change, energetics, and other properties of chemicals. In addition, one-semester courses examining the chemistry of life processes, the behavior of inorganic substances, and the analysis of the composition of substances are required. Many of the sequences have associated laboratory courses where students get hands-on practice. Here they synthesize compounds, measure physical properties, analyze samples, and determine structural features of compounds, using modern techniques and instrumentation.

The Bachelor of Science Degree in Biochemistry encompasses the study of the properties and functions of biological macromolecules, the mechanisms of action of enzymes, gene and protein regulation and expression, bioenergetics, and the metabolic pathways and processes that use and generate chemical and light energy. At its core, biochemistry recognizes and explains the unifying chemical principles that lie at the heart of the diverse expressions of life.

The core courses for the major are built around two-semester course sequences in the areas of general, organic, and biological chemistry; general biology; calculus; and general physics, along with associated laboratory courses. Students may choose from two physics tracks: (1) the life sciences track (typically preferred by students with a more biological inclination) and (2) the science-engineering track (typically preferred by students with a more mathematical/physical inclination). One-semester courses in analytical and biophysical chemistry and statistics round out the core of the program. To complete the additional 18 credits of coursework required for the major, students may choose elective courses from within the disciplines of chemistry, biochemistry, and biology. A wide range of advanced courses are available to meet the advanced electives requirement; students are encouraged to meet with their academic advisor to select courses that provide the best preparation for their intended career path. Representative courses (not all encompassing) include those in biology (e.g., human physiology, genetics, ecology, microbiology, plant physiology, cell biology); biochemistry (e.g., enzymology, structured biology, bioenergetics and metabolism, protein structure/function); and chemistry (e.g., intermediate and advanced inorganic, advanced organic).

The biochemistry major differs from the “chemistry major with biochemistry emphasis,” which is an American Chemical Society (ACS) certified degree that emphasizes specialization in biochemistry but has a more chemical and mathematical emphasis than the biochemistry major. The biochemistry major is more biologically inclined (as well as somewhat less physically and mathematically inclined) than the chemistry major and is designed to meet the standards for the curriculum proposed by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB). The requirements of the BS and BA degrees in chemistry and the BS degree in biochemistry, along with University and University Studies requirements, are summarized here. The specific requirements for the teaching major and for the composite teaching major in physical science are also included.

Students are urged to study these requirements and to visit with their advisor on a regular basis about progress toward the completion of their degrees or for any questions regarding complementary courses and career goals.


The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has implemented a multilayered assessment strategy that defines learning objectives at the following levels: individual courses, divisional levels, and at the overall program level for the chemistry major.

General Requirements

Admission Requirements

First-year students admitted to USU in good standing qualify for admission to this major. Transfer students from other institutions need a 2.2 transfer GPA, and students transferring from other USU programs need a 2.0 total GPA for admission to the chemistry or biochemistry major in good standing.

Students interested in studying chemistry or biochemistry should take high school mathematics courses that will enable them to start calculus during their first semester at USU. High school coursework in chemistry, biology, and physics is also desirable. AP credit in chemistry may be counted toward the chemistry or biochemistry degree. For details, contact the departmental advising faculty.

No CHEM prefix course may be applied toward graduation with any major or minor in chemistry or biochemistry with an earned grade of less than C-. No CHEM prefix course may be taken on a Pass/Fail basis. No CHEM prefix course may be repeated more than one time to improve the grade to a C- or better. A student dropped from the chemistry or biochemistry program for failure to meet this standard may appeal to the departmental Curriculum Committee for readmission.

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

The Chemistry and Biochemistry Department encourages students in all departmental majors to engage in undergraduate research. For information about how they can become involved in undergraduate research, students should contact Joan Hevel, the departmental undergraduate research coordinator, (435) 797-1622, joanie.hevel@usu.edu.

Career Opportunities

Chemistry degree holders work in a wide variety of professions, from physicians, lawyers, and professors to research/development, sales, or production in the chemical, oil, pharmaceutical, metals, electronic, and biochemical industries. Government at all levels employs chemists, including the federal Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and Interior. A graduate with a bachelor’s degree often begins work in chemical analysis or sales or may assist senior chemists in research and development. A graduate with a teaching major or chemistry education emphasis may teach in public schools. A graduate degree is usually needed to direct research or teach at the university level. Degree holders from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry have had excellent success in obtaining support for graduate studies, often at very prestigious institutions, and in obtaining employment directly following graduation.

The major in Biochemistry is appropriate both for students who wish to terminate their studies at the bachelor’s degree and for those planning to continue their education at the graduate or professional level. For those who terminate at the bachelor’s degree, career opportunities are available in research and development, sales, quality control, and analysis within a range of biochemical, pharmaceutical, and biotechnological industries. For those planning to pursue a career in the health professions, the biochemistry major provides an excellent and well-rounded background for medical, dental, and veterinary school admission. The biochemistry major also provides excellent preparation for students planning to pursue graduate work in a range of biological, environmental, and chemical sciences, including biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, genomics, oncology, and bioinformatics. For those students interested in pursuing a legal career in areas such as patent law, bioethics, and environmental protection and regulation, the major is also excellent preparation for law school.

For further information about career opportunities for chemistry majors and biochemistry majors, students should contact their faculty mentor.

Doug Harris, Widtsoe 335, (435) 797-1609, doug.harris@usu.edu
Joan M. Hevel, Widtsoe 235, (435) 797-1622, joanie.hevel@usu.edu

Robert S. Brown, Widtsoe 026, (435) 797-0545, bob.brown@usu.edu
Steve Scheiner, Maeser Lab 273, (435) 797-7419, steve.scheiner@usu.edu

University Honors Program

The University Honors Program offers students in all colleges and majors the unique opportunity to deepen their educational experience with hands-on practical applications of their academic knowledge. The Honors Program admits incoming, transfer, and existing USU students based on application. High achieving students with at least one year remaining are encouraged to apply.  See the University Honors Program catalog entry and website (honors.usu.edu) for more information.

Additional Information

For more information about requirements for the majors and minors within the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, see the major requirement sheets, available from the department.

Graduate Programs

Admissions Requirements

All applicants should have a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in chemistry or biochemistry from an accredited institution. Appropriate undergraduate preparation is expected; applicants not fully prepared may be admitted with the condition that appropriate undergraduate courses are taken as necessary. Detailed information about the graduate programs and faculty research activities can be found at: http://www.chem.usu.edu.

Financial Assistance

The department offers financial support to students in the form of teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and fellowships. All applications for admission to the School of Graduate Studies constitute an application for financial assistance; it is not necessary to file a separate request. Teaching assistantships are the principal means of support for first-year students. Research assistantships, funded from individual faculty research grants, support students conducting research related to the grant projects. Although first-year students are not normally supported as research assistants, well-prepared students may be eligible for research support at the discretion of their major professor.

Fellowships are awarded by the University to outstanding students solely on the basis of merit. The department encourages students with strong academic records to apply for the University fellowships and national awards, and will provide assistance in obtaining and submitting the appropriate forms. Additionally, several graduate awards are given each year to honor exemplary performance in research and teaching.

FACULTY - College of Science  

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