Undergraduate Program

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Chemistry is a broad, interdisciplinary and evolving field that shares boundaries with the life sciences, physics and engineering.  The Cornell chemistry major combines rigor with flexibility, allowing students to explore chemistry and related areas while preparing them for a wide range of careers and professions.

The chemistry major offers a single, flexible route to the A.B. degree in Chemistry.  This curriculum has three sets of requirements: (i) a set of core lecture and laboratory courses in chemistry, mathematics and physics; (ii) a laboratory requirement; (iii) a set of electives chosen from a list of designated courses in chemistry and related subjects. The wide selection of designated electives allows chemistry majors to add depth and breadth to their studies and to design a major appropriate to their interests and goals.

Chemistry Major

The chemistry major requires a total of 60 credits in chemistry and related subjects. These 60 credits must include the set of core courses listed below, together with a total of 8 credits of laboratory beyond general chemistry. Credit awarded by Cornell for scores on the CEEB Advanced Placement tests in chemistry, calculus, and physics may be substituted for the appropriate core courses. Outside of the core courses, the remainder of the 60 credits must be chosen from the elective courses listed below. These elective courses are selected from a variety of disciplines related to chemistry. Core courses and electives linked by “or” indicate that only one choice can be selected.

Many combinations of courses may be used to build the 60-credit chemistry major. For example, students wishing to focus on chemical biology may choose electives from the chemical biology courses offered in our department and from courses in other departments listed under biology and biochemistry.  Students choosing to emphasize materials chemistry may choose electives from graduate level chemistry courses listed under inorganic chemistry and organic and polymer chemistry, as well as from courses listed under materials science and engineering. Those with an interest in science policy might choose courses listed under science and society, and those focusing at the interface between chemistry and physics can choose from graduate level courses in physical chemistry or from courses listed under mathematics, computer science, and physics. The wide selection of designated electives permits chemistry majors to add both depth and breadth to their curriculum.

Please use this spreadsheet to track your progress towards fulfilling the 60-credit chemistry major.

Our honors curriculum is strongly recommended for anyone planning graduate study in chemistry or a career in chemistry. Students following the honors curriculum and achieving an overall Cornell GPA above 3.3 will graduate cum laude. Other routes to graduation with Latin honors are described here. The honors curriculum may be followed with either the accelerated sequence or the standard sequence.

The accelerated sequence is suitable for students who enter with advanced standing in chemistry through an AP chemistry score of 5 or a comparable score on other designated tests. The standard sequence is the honors curriculum for students not entering with advanced standing and also leads to graduation cum laude with an overall Cornell GPA above 3.3. A curriculum leading to a degree certified by the American Chemical Society can be accommodated through either sequence. This certification is not a Cornell requirement nor is it required for graduate study in chemistry.

Admission to the Major

Admission to the chemistry major requires the satisfactory completion of a number of introductory courses which, when taken together, demonstrate an ability to complete the major. Students who have completed the following courses with grades of C or better are almost always admitted to the major:

  • Introductory Chemistry: 2070 + 2080 or 2150.
  • Organic Chemistry 3570 or 3590 or 3530 
  • Mathematics: 1110
  • Physics: 2207 or 1116 or 1112

Students who are second-term sophomores or beyond who have completed all but one of these requirements may also be admitted to the major provided that they have a plan for completing the requirements for the major on schedule. Students with a grade of C– or lower in one of the required courses may be considered for admission to the major after additional coursework (typically one semester) has been performed satisfactorily. Students who have received more than one grade below C in the required courses are not encouraged to apply for admission to the major. To apply for admission to the chemistry major, please fill out the application for Admission to the Chemistry Major. Attach a copy of your most recent transcript and submit the completed forms to the Office of Undergraduate Studies, 131 Baker Laboratory. You will be notified of the decision on your application and your major advisor by e-mail.


There are two routes to graduating as a chemistry major with Latin honors.

Honors based on GPA and curriculum

Any student following the honors curriculum in chemistry who has earned an overall Cornell GPA of 3.30 or higher by the end of the penultimate semester will be awarded the A. B. with honors (cum laude).

Honors based on independent research

Senior chemistry majors with superior grades in chemistry and related subjects and with excellent performance in at least four credits (or the equivalent) of undergraduate research in chemistry or a related field may be nominated to participate in the Honors Seminar, CHEM 4980. Rigor in course selection is also a criterion for invitation to CHEM 4980.  To ensure that the nomination process runs smoothly, all students who are interested in the Honors Seminar should discuss this possibility with their faculty advisor early in the fall semester of the senior year.  Admission to the Honors Seminar is by invitation only. 

Students participating in CHEM 4980 attend lectures on a variety of topics not covered in conventional courses and present their research in a paper and in a seminar.  Successful completion of CHEM 4980 leads to the A.B. with honors (cum laude) or high honors (magna cum laude, summa cum laude). 

Contact Information

Office of Undergraduate Studies:
Dept. of Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Cornell University
131 Baker Laboratory
Ithaca, NY 14853-1301
(607) 255-5287
Hours: M-F 8am-4:30pm

Undergraduate Major Coordinator:
Carl Cornell
(607) 255-2469

Director of Undergraduate Studies:
John Marohn or Chem DUS
Chem DUS Webpage

Director of Undergraduate Advising:
Thomas R. Ruttledge