Chemistry at Westmont College

Chemistry is often referred to as the Central Science. It is hard to imagine how one could do physics, biology, geology or engineering without a solid foundation in chemistry. Chemistry investigates the composition, properties, and changes of properties in substances and various elementary forms of matter. The study of chemistry gives students an opportunity to explore the world and develop knowledge using modern techniques and instrumentation. The chemistry program at Westmont prepares the students to think like a scientist by exposing them to modern instrumentation and methods. We also go beyond this by tackling the bigger issues of relating vocation and Christian Mission in the world.

Distinctives of the Program
Small Classes

Lower division chemistry courses vary in size from 20 - 45 students per course. Upper division chemistry courses at Westmont are even smaller with class sizes of 5 - 10 students being common, allowing upper division students to receive more individual attention both in class and laboratory. The small class sizes allow students to have individual faculty attention. A great deal of learning can occur in a small group or even on a one-on-one basis. In comparison, most introductory chemistry courses at universities have enrollments of several hundred or more and personal contact with the professor is non-existent.

Academic Rigor

The personal aspect of the program does not compromise academic rigor. Graduates from our program have gone on to the best medical schools and graduate programs in the country and have succeeded.  Franklin DeHaan, director of consultant services for the Council of Undergraduate Research commented that "Westmont College has the best science program of any west coast Christian college."

Diversity

A wide variety of tracks are open to the chemistry student at Westmont including B.S. programs for Pre-medical, Pre-professional, Pre-engineering, and education credential students. Our general track B.A. program is flexible enough to enable students to complete a double major in an additional field.

Modern Facilities

It is often the case that science programs at small colleges are equipped with less than adequate instrumentation. However, the chemistry student at Westmont has access to an impressive battery of state of the art instrumentation.  We have spectrometers (400 MHz FT-NMR, 5 x UV-VIS, 2 x FTIR, steady-state & time-resolved Fluorescence spectrometer, AA spectrometer), separation equipment (3 x GC, HPLC), mass spectrometers (LCQ Deca Ion Trap Mass Spectrometer with ESI probe, integrated GC-MS), an automated electrochemical analyzer, and viscometers, refractometers, & polarimeters. We also have a well equipped synthetic lab with a glove box, solvent purification system, four rotary evaporators, and numerous vacuum and Schlenk manifolds. Specialized equipment for biochemical studies include an FLPC, automated gel electrophoresis system, membrane ultrafiltration unit, freeze dryer, & numerous centrifuges, incubators, & incubator-shakers, in addition to equipment available through Westmont’s biology department.

Undergraduate Research

A central part of the chemistry program at Westmont is direct student involvement in chemical research.  We require all chemistry majors to participate in research and all of our faculty maintain active research programs. In addition, each summer approximately 40% of our upper division students engage in a paid summer research internship in our department. Students regularly co-author scientific papers based on their research involvement and several complete major honors work each year. This solid background in research has led many of our students to Ph.D, M.D. and M.D./Ph.D. programs at top universities.

Christian

Our God put a tremendous amount of beauty in the workings of atoms and molecules. Just as you learn much about an artist by studying his art, you learn much about the Creator by studying His creation. It is with this spirit that we investigate and learn about the chemistry at Westmont. We seek to integrate our faith, scholarship, and teaching formally through our courses as well informally through dinners and other social events in faculty homes. In addition, all chemistry majors are required to take a senior-level capstone course that integrates their understanding of chemistry and its impact on our world with the history, philosophy, theology, and biblical studies that they acquire through Westmont general education courses.