The Chemistry Major at Davidson

Chemistry majors consistently perform well on a comprehensive national assessment and regularly gain admission into top graduate and medical programs.

The Chemistry department, however, is phasing in a more flexible revised curriculum motivated by several factors:

  • Student demand for a program in biological chemistry
  • Facilitation of study abroad
  • Changes in accreditation guidelines of the American Chemical Society (ACS)
  • Recommendations by an external review
  • 2015 MCAT changes that emphasize biological and de-emphasize organic chemistry

These curriculum revisions offer, as new ACS policies recommend, a set of five foundation courses (200-level courses with labs) that cover the five divisions of chemistry—analytical, biological, inorganic, organic, and physical—followed by a selection of five in-depth courses (300- and 400-level courses).

CHE 115 or its AP equivalent still is a pre-requisite for all foundation courses. In-depth courses can fall within a single division (e.g. organic) or span multiple divisions (e.g. environmental chemistry).

The chemistry courses that you took in high school will play a role in determining your schedule of chemistry courses. Additionally, physics and mathematics pre-requisites are preferably taken in the first and second years. As a prospective chemistry major, you should discuss your interest and course planning with a faculty member as soon as you begin considering the major.

Initial Course Placement

When planning your schedule and your first chemistry class as a first-year student at Davidson, consider the following:

  • If you have completed the AP test (with a 4 or 5) or IB test (with a 6 or 7), you can receive credit for CHE 115 and then enroll in any foundation (200-level) course (Note that CHE 260 has MAT prerequisite)
  • If you have completed a year of high school chemistry but have not earned AP/IB credit, enroll in CHE 115
  • If you have little background in chemistry, start in CHE 110
  • If you are considering a chemistry major, you should also enroll in a mathematics or physics course in your first semester

Math Requirement

You can fulfill the math requirement by receiving credit for either MAT 113 or MAT 140

  • Typical path to MAT 113: MAT 111/112 then MAT 113
  • Credit for some math courses may be earned through AP/IB testing
    • MAT 111: AP Calculus AB 3 or higher or AP Calculus BC 3
    • MAT 111 and 113: AP Calculus BC 4 or higher, IB Calculus 6 or higher
  • Typical path to MAT 140: MAT 112 then MAT 140 (calculus with modeling sequence)
  • Both mathematics courses must be taken at Davidson
  • MAT 112 has no AP/IB equivalent

Most incoming chemistry students have already taken calculus in high school. Starting with MAT 111 is only necessary if you do not have any calculus background. With AP/IB credit, you are eligible for MAT 113; without AP credit, you likely will take MAT 112 and 140. Keep in mind that while MAT 113 and 140 each fulfill the math requirement for chemistry, you are encouraged to take additional math courses if you intend to pursue graduate school in chemistry.

Please see Mathematics Course Placement for additional information.

Honors and ACS Certification

Some chemistry majors, especially those going on to graduate school in chemistry and seeking employment as professional chemists, pursue advanced programs of study.

Graduation with Honors may be awarded to a chemistry major who meets the general college criteria (3.2 overall average and at least a 3.5 average in chemistry courses), fulfills the requirements for a chemistry degree, and demonstrates outstanding mastery of CHE 498 Thesis Research. Honors candidates are supervised by a faculty adviser and evaluated by a faculty committee from the chemistry department. A colloquium presentation near the end of a senior's spring semester is the typical final product of this research experience.

We offer a chemistry degree that is approved by the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society. Students who complete the basic major with five in-depth chemistry courses, including a research experience that covers at least one semester or summer, meet the requirements for an ACS-certified degree. Annual approval by the ACS ensures that the chemistry department is operating within the commonly accepted standards and best practices for degree-granting institutions of higher learning.

Courses You Might Take

CHE 106

Toxicology & Chemical Analysis


The story of Charles Norris, Chief Medical Officer of New York City during the Roaring Twenties, and his battle against the contemporary political machine and crime syndicate, is used to frame an exploration of various early chemical measurement…

CHE 115

Principles of Chemistry

Anstey, Blauch, Hauser, Striplin, Williams

Topics include stoichiometry, chemical thermodynamics, atomic and molecular structure, chemical equilibria, chemical dynamics, and descriptive chemistry of the main group elements.  The laboratory illustrates the lecture topics and emphasizes quantitative measurements.  This course is intended…

CHE 230

Intro to Biological Chemistry


Introduction to the chemistry of biological systems. Includes the study of amino acids and proteins, nucleic acids, lipids, carbohydrates, enzymes and enzyme mechanisms, and the chemistry of important metabolic pathways and regulatory mechanisms.

Satisfies the Natural Science requirement.