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Overview

Chemical kinetics. Molecular synthesis. Laser Physics. If your heart’s starting to beat a little faster, you’re (a) in the minority of people who actually have a clue what these are and (b) probably ready for the rigors of a major in chemical physics. The chemical physics major is concerned with the behavior of matter at molecular and nuclear scales. You’ll focus on the behavior and structure of molecules and the unique characteristics of small molecular systems. Research topics will include the dynamics of chemical reactions and intermolecular forces such as the strong, weak, electromagnetic, and gravitational. These forces are the basics of quantum theory, which you’ll really dig into as you simultaneously master a great deal of math and statistics.

As a chemical physics major, you’ll learn the vocabularies and philosophies of two distinct fields—physical chemistry and atomic/molecular physics—and how to communicate effectively within and between them. You’ll learn how chemistry and physics affect and inform each other, and how the research and developments in one field have influenced those in the other. You’ll learn how to integrate information, how to engage in effective problem solving, and how to design and participate in research projects. And those three terms we mentioned in the beginning? Yeah, those will be there, too.

As in any scientific major, you’ll study the research from both the past and the present, and you’ll gain a strong foundation in both the theoretical and practical knowledge of the field. Expect a great deal of computer work.

SAMPLE CURRICULUM

  • Atoms, Molecules, Spectroscopy

  • Inorganic Chemistry

  • Kinetics and Thermodynamics

  • Laser Physics

  • Materials Chemistry

  • Modern Physics and Mechanics

  • Organic Chemistry

  • Quantum Chemistry and Physics

  • Solid State Physics

  • Vector Calculus


HIGH SCHOOl PREPARATION

Since the field of chemical physics involves so much science, try to take courses in biology, chemistry, and physics. Also important are math courses such as calculus and analytic geometry, and computer science courses. And don’t forget English—as a scientist you’ll need exceptional reading and writing skills.