About Chemistry

Our Program and Courses

Chemistry is a major and minor at F&M. You will immerse yourself in the scientific method, educational discovery, and creative process to gain an understanding of the basic concepts of chemistry. You will graduate with a solid basis in chemistry concepts, advanced experimental skills, and an ability to engage in scientific literature and with both written and oral communication of scientific ideas. Through hands-on research and laboratory work, you will “learn how to learn” to effectively engage in projects and experiments, studying processes and reactions at many different scales. 

Accredited by the American Chemical Society, F&M’s chemistry department is distinctive in its emphasis on student-faculty collaboration. In fact, our chemistry professors have won numerous awards for their integrative teaching and research. Typically, the same professor engages with you in the classroom and in the lab. Our small class sizes and hands-on involvement from our faculty mean you can interact closely with your professors, enjoying unrivaled support and forming enduring mentorships. 

By the time you graduate, you will be able to demonstrate: 

  • The ability to think, write, and speak clearly and logically
  • Knowledge and understanding of chemical phenomena, principles, and concepts including in analytical, biochemistry, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry
  • The ability to review and understand scientific literature, including evaluating its quality and relevance; interpreting, analyzing, and critiquing its content; and drawing conclusions from multiple sources
  • Skills in scientific research, including understanding how to generate hypotheses and design experiments to test them, analyze data to arrive at a scientific conclusion, and effectively communicate results

Wondering what chemistry courses are like? Explore our course catalog to see what classes are available to you.

Our Faculty and Staff

Gabriel S Brandt

Associate Professor of Chemistry

Biological Foundations of Behavior

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Scott H Brewer

Professor of Chemistry

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Edward E Fenlon

Professor of Chemistry

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Julie B Gemmell

Lead Academic Department Coordinator

Government; Public Policy

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Kenneth R Hess

Professor of Chemistry

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Davide Lionetti

Assistant Professor of Chemistry

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Lisa A Mertzman

Stockroom Manager

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Jennifer L Morford

Charles A. Dana Professor of Chemistry

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Christine P Piro

Associate Professor of Chemistry, Bonchek College House Don

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Kate Plass

Professor of Chemistry, Department Chair of Chemistry

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Sarah Z Tasker

Assistant Professor of Chemistry

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Marcus W Thomsen

Professor of Chemistry

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Scott A Van Arman

Professor of Chemistry

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Learning Outside the Classroom

Research & Independent Study Opportunities

A staple of your chemistry experience at F&M is the extraordinary opportunity to engage in research and independent study. You’ll find remarkable opportunities to join your professors’ research projects, allowing you to leave your footprint on what often are years-long endeavors. Many students begin chemistry research during their first or second year at F&M, and continue throughout their time here.

Chemistry faculty are expert researchers working on a wide array of cutting-edge topics, frequently publishing in national and international chemistry journals. F&M’s Chemistry Department has been awarded substantial funding to support these research programs and to enrich the student experience. Student researchers are involved in all aspects of research; mentored closely by your professors, you’ll read scholarly papers to understand the theoretical background, work in the lab to learn new techniques and troubleshoot experiments, and even make your own innovative contributions. You’ll have opportunities to see your work published in leading scholarly journals, as an astounding 85% of our chemistry faculty publications are co-authored by students. Students also have opportunities to present their work at regional and national meetings.

A large number of students are provided a stipend to engage in research with chemistry faculty members on campus during the summer.
Explore research at F&M

Moore/Schaeffer Mentorships

Highly qualified students interested in studying chemistry at F&M have exciting opportunities to engage in research beginning the summer before their first year at F&M. Created by W. Scott Moore, M.D. ’74 and supported by Charles D. Schaeffer Jr., Ph.D., ’70, candidates are hand-selected to receive up to $3,000 for four weeks of research with a faculty member. Award recipients are expected to major in chemistry and continue doing research throughout their four years at F&M.

Honors in Chemistry

Completing research or an independent study could also lead to honors in chemistry. To be considered for honors, you must first be nominated based on either the results of your summer research or academic year independent study. Your research must show results that are publishable, and you must demonstrate independent contributions to the project, produce a well-written thesis, hold a successful defense of the project before a faculty committee, and show exceptional commitment and understanding.

Off-Campus Study

For a well-rounded understanding of chemistry research around the world, students often choose to study abroad. Previous students have visited New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland, England, Australia, and France.
Explore off-campus study at F&M

Our Facilities

The William M. Hackman Physical Sciences Laboratories

The hub of chemistry at F&M is the William M. Hackman Physical Sciences Laboratories building. Hackman houses six instructional laboratories, 12 student/faculty research laboratories, four instrument rooms, a chemistry lounge and a chemical stockroom, and state-of-the-art instrumentation for faculty and student use, including nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometers, mass spectrometers, infrared (IR) spectrophotometers, transmission electron microscope (TEM), and fluorimeter. 

Martin Library of the Sciences

Additional resources for chemistry students include F&M’s two research libraries: Shadek-Fackenthal Library and Martin Library of the Sciences. Martin is especially popular among science students, as it contains ample study spaces, electronic access to nationally and internally renowned scientific journals, and more than 60,000 volumes in the sciences.
Learn more about the F&M College Library

Success Beyond F&M

You’ve completed your degree and are ready for your next step, but what is it? The confidence and independence you’ll earn studying chemistry allows you to pursue a wide variety of opportunities beyond graduation. The innovative and intellectual activities that make up the work of chemistry — including observing, analyzing, collaborating with others, and objective thought — help you develop useful and productive skills, which are valuable for any post-college plan.

Graduate School

More than 70% of chemistry majors attend graduate school, medical school or law school after graduating from F&M. The skills gained by studying chemistry at F&M — including the ability to reason, analyze data, and understand scientific methodology — make our graduates highly valuable candidates for graduate school. Nearly all majors who apply to graduate school and 94% of majors who apply to medical school are accepted by at least one institution. Many chemistry graduates also pursue advanced degrees in engineering after participating in F&M’s dual degree engineering program .

F&M chemistry graduates have pursued advanced degrees at institutions such as:

  • Cornell University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Pennsylvania State College of Medicine
  • California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
  • University of California Berkeley
  • University of Wisconsin Madison
  • University of Michigan
  • Columbia University

Career Paths

Some chemistry graduates choose to begin their chosen careers directly after graduating from F&M. They hold positions with materials science companies such as Dow Chemical and biopharmaceutical companies such as Merck. Many also hold positions in a number of other fields, including healthcare, law, government, engineering, education, and the environment. They hold positions such as:

  • Physician
  • Dentist
  • Veterinarian
  • Engineer
  • Professor
  • Professor of Art Conservation (Winterthur Museum)
  • Marketing Manager (Pfizer)
  • Clean Chemistry Team Leader (Los Alamos National Laboratory)
  • Associate Editor (American Chemical Society)
  • Research Space Scientist (NASA)
  • Counsel, Intellectual Property 
  • Reference and Systems Librarian
  • Forensic Scientist

Research Spotlight

F&M Team's Chemistry Discovery Goes Commercial

A Franklin & Marshall chemistry professor and her two students made a scientific discovery that is now a commercial product. For Assistant Professor of Chemistry Sarah Tasker, Katie DeSimone '23 and Lyla Naqvi '23, the process began with failure before discovering and developing new molecules that release carbon monoxide (CO) gas in a controlled way at room temperature, which makes laboratories safer places to work.
Read More »

Alumni Spotlight

“Research experience is the best part of my college life.”

Huiyan Anna Xiong '20 certainly knows a thing or two about the nanoworld. Her chemistry research explored the impact of altering nanorods for useful applications. Under the direction of Associate Professor of Chemistry Kate Plass, Xiong’s work in nanoparticles (objects one billionth the size of a meter), sought to better understand and control the conversion of copper sulfides into cadmium sulfides. Xiong's research, which several F&M students assisted, was published in the peer-reviewed journal ACS Materials Letters.
Read More »

Faculty Spotlight: Jennifer Morford

Related Fields of Study

Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Explore biological processes at their smallest scale. At its core, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at F&M focuses on the structure and function of biomolecules, which are the metabolic machinery of the cell and control its underlying genetics.

Earth and Environmental Science

Explore critical environmental issues of today through a scientific lens. By studying earth and environmental science at F&M, you will build the necessary biological, chemical, and geological foundation you need to study the earth and understand the dynamics between humans and our environment.

Engineering

Do you want to design and build machines, vehicles, bridges, tunnels, roads, or buildings? Engineering is available through F&M’s STEM Professions Advising as a supplement to your chosen major.

F&M Chemistry in Action

October 20, 2023

Google Software Engineer Shares True Blue Wisdom

Class of 2019 grad Horace Facey's path led him from Jamaica, to F&M, to Google. See how he helps other STEM students succeed. "Mentoring has been an excellent way for me to give back," Facey says.

June 16, 2023

F&M Team's Chemistry Discovery Goes Commercial

In a rare event for any liberal arts college, a Franklin & Marshall chemistry professor and her two students made a scientific discovery that is now a commercial product.

February 13, 2023

F&M Joins 14 Institutions in Unique Science and Math Collaborative

Over the next six years, students taking introductory mathematics or science should expect more inclusive, dynamic experiences at Franklin & Marshall College, which is engaged in a new approach to collaborative learning. Developed under Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Inclusive Excellence 3 grant, colleges and universities have an opportunity to foster institutional change that creates a more inclusive and successful introductory experience in these fields of study.