The Department of Chemistry provides students with a complete understanding of chemistry and the methods of scientific inquiry. Students develop the skills and knowledge to understand chemically oriented issues and to pursue careers in chemistry and its allied fields, including physics, biology, geology, medicine, and materials science.

A major in chemistry provides students the opportunity to study natural phenomena, devise experiments, synthesize substances, and develop analytical skills. A minor provides a solid background in basic chemical principles while allowing flexibility for a student to focus on the particular area of chemistry that he or she finds most interesting.

A chemistry major requires at least nine courses and a minor requires the equivalent of six courses. Relevant research projects may take the place of traditional coursework. A Biochemistry program also is available.

Additional course information is available in the Chemistry Handbook and W&J College Catalog.

Program Links



W&J Students, Professor Publish Article in National Chemistry Journal

W&J Students, Professor Publish Article in National Chemistry Journal
April 16, 2014

An article by a W&J professor and two students will be published in the Journal of CHemical Education.

Chemistry Class Formulates Unique Holiday Ornaments

Chemistry Class Formulates Unique Holiday Ornaments
December 6, 2013

WASHINGTON, PA (Dec. 6, 2013)—Leave it to chemistry students to create a new formula for holiday decorations.

Students in one Washington & Jefferson (W&J) College freshman seminar course, Medieval Potions to Modern Notions: A Glance at Alchemy, have created holiday ornaments from test tubes, turning them silver by means of a complex chemical reaction.

“It’s a different kind of way to learn about these reactions,” said Deborah Sunderland, PhD., visiting assistant professor of chemistry.
Alchemy is the medieval precursor of modern chemistry, based on the belief that base metals could be transformed into precious metals, such as silver or gold.

Seminar students put their own twist on the study when they "turned" round-bottom flasks and test-tubes from glass to silver by mixing silver nitrate, ammonium nitrate, dextrose, and sodium hydroxide. Sunderland said mixing a solution that contains silver and shaking the solution inside a test tube results in a chemical reaction that creates silver plating.

Before winter break, the class plans to decorate the outside of the flasks and attach hooks, making holiday ornaments.
The course is one of several seminar classes on various topics offered for W&J freshmen, and the lighthearted outcome of the chemistry seminar project follows a semester of intense study.

Sunderland said the course began with a study of readings on liberal arts education, which are read in all freshmen seminars. Her students, many of whom are enrolled in other science courses this semester, also studied how views of chemistry have changed between the 17th and 18th centuries—when alchemy was popular—and today.

“We spent a lot of time discussing the historical aspects of alchemy and also looked at symbols associated with alchemy in art and culture,” Sunderland said. “We talked about how alchemy was viewed centuries ago. Some people thought it was noble, but some looked at these people as buffoons.”

The class also read a Shakespeare sonnet, parts of Dante’s Inferno, and other literary works that reference alchemy.

“We came at it from a broad view and tried to look at science from many angles,” Sunderland said. “We really wanted to look at the historical aspect of this, and how it influenced chemistry as we know it today.”



Jennifer Logan, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Chemistry

Steven M. Malinak, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Chemistry

Patricia A. Brletic, Ph.D.
Professor of Chemistry

Deborah Sunderland, Ph.D.
Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Robbie J. Iuliucci, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Chemistry

Matsuno Nobunaka, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Chemistry

Mark F. Harris, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Chemistry

Michael S. Leonard, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Department Chair of Chemistry