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Chemistry and Biochemistry Frequently Asked Questions

 What do our graduates do?

Our graduates have high acceptance rates into  professional programs (medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, law, etc) and into graduate programs with tuition-waived paid assistantships.  Others begin interesting careers in industry, government labs, business, teaching, and more.

 Do you have any internship opportunities or programs?

We have a “formal” internship program with Merck & Co., and we have many students work or do paid internships at SRI international, Miller-Coors, NASA, the FBI, and other local industries and governmental agencies.  Internships and/or undergraduate research are encouraged, but not required.

 Is undergraduate research available to all students?

YES!  While it is not a requirement for our majors, it is highly recommended as a way to build technical, writing, and oral communication skills, as well as network within the scientific community.  Our research students present their work at regional, national and sometimes international conferences.  Some students start research before their first year, others not until their second or third year. It is up to the student to decide.  Many students also participate in our paid summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)

 How do you get involved in research?

The easiest way is to email Dr. Watkins ( or Dr. Mohler ( and they will help you through the process. If you have a specific area of interest, you can also look on the Chemistry webpage to see what areas our faculty members specialize in. Research is available to ALL students.

 Are there any employment opportunities for students in the department?

Yes, learning assistants (LAs) are always needed in general chemistry lectures and laboratory courses. Our majors are also involved in tutoring students in general and organic chemistry.

 What is the typical class size?

The first-year general chemistry class will have ~140 students with majors spread across the university, however the students are usually organized into teams with chemistry majors grouped together.  There are majors-only general chemistry laboratories that have no more than 24 students. After that all of the courses are majors-only (except biochemistry) and they range from 2 (in upper level electives) to 60 with the average size at ~20.

 Does AP or IB or Dual Enrollment general chemistry help?

Most students with AP, IB or DE credit choose to start with our 1 - semester general chemistry review course.  This allows students to meet other first year students, as well as do a fast-paced review of general chemistry concepts that will be important in future courses.  Then in the spring semester, they move ahead by taking a sophomore-level Inorganic Chemistry course.  While many students are capable of starting in a sophomore level class in the fall, they appreciate having a semester to figure out college, meet other students (study partners), and review.

 Can I do a double major or a minor?

Yes!  Many of our students have one or two minors in areas such as Biology, Math, pre-professional health (pre-med, pre-pharmacy, etc), Honors, Spanish, Theater, Music, etc.  It is very possible to major in Chemistry, have two minors, and graduate in four years.  Some students double major in Chemistry plus Biology, Engineering, Physics, Math, Art, Theater, etc.  Many of these will require a fifth year to graduate with both majors.

 What kind of activities are your students involved in outside of class and research?

Many of our students are involved in one or both of the professional club Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society and the professional chemistry fraternity Alpha Chi Sigma.  These groups host professional and career events, bring demos into the local schools, and network in the JMU and broader scientific communities.  Students also participate in JMU clubs focussing on sports, music, dance, environment, etc.  JMU is known for having students who are involved and our chemistry students reflect this.

 What is the “personality” of the JMU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry?

Our students, faculty, and staff make a tight-knit community of learners.  Our community is friendly, supportive, and collegial.  If you want to be anonymous, this is not the place for you.  We strive to actively welcome everyone and help each individual reach their full potential.  While we are not perfect, we continually examine and modify our structures and processes to become more diverse, equitable and inclusive.

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