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Chemist_wannabe

Applied Chemistry and Chances of Acceptance

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Hello! I come from a small, public university. My major is applied chemistry- I'm not required to take calculus I or II (but I took cal I anyway), calculus-based physics, or two semesters of physical chemistry (I only have to take concepts). I have a 3.93 GPA and one semester of research; I'm aiming to do an internship this summer and I'm going to take the GRE later (but it isn't required for my no. 1 school). How competitive am I, in your opinion, against those who have taken both calculus classes, calculus-based physics, and two semesters of physical chemistry?

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I would really take those classes (and Calc 3).  Students coming from traditional/not applied chemistry backgrounds will have those courses.  But, since you have a school in mind, ask them.  Their opinion is the one that counts.

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Duly noted. However, taking different chemistry classes will require me to switch majors and extend my stay, and I can't afford that. I did ask about the calculus though, so if the school says that will boost my odds, I'll definitely take that. I'm going in for a biochemistry degree, and I've already had two semesters of that. Thank you for responding to me.

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My school recommends (actually requires) that all chem majors (regardless of future concentration) at least both quantum+thermo pchem, mechanics+introductory E&M physics, and at least calculus 2. Out of curiosity, what year are you?

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2 hours ago, struggleknot said:

My school recommends (actually requires) that all chem majors (regardless of future concentration) at least both quantum+thermo pchem, mechanics+introductory E&M physics, and at least calculus 2. Out of curiosity, what year are you?

I'm a senior. We have to take quantitative, one semester of p chem, 2 organics, 2 gen chems, and some electives (I took biochem 1&2 and toxicological chem, I'm going to take instrumental analysis). I'm only required to have precal, but I took cal 1 and a higher level math class. I go to a small university that puts out very few chemists because the degree is "hard" so few attempt it. I think we only have 4 chemistry professors. 

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17 minutes ago, Chemist_wannabe said:

I'm a senior. We have to take quantitative, one semester of p chem, 2 organics, 2 gen chems, and some electives (I took biochem 1&2 and toxicological chem, I'm going to take instrumental analysis). I'm only required to have precal, but I took cal 1 and a higher level math class. I go to a small university that puts out very few chemists because the degree is "hard" so few attempt it. I think we only have 4 chemistry professors. 

Ah I see, yeah I'm in a very similar situation too school+department wise. Our degree is ACS accredited and has like.... over a dozen major courses? We have very few electives though, and no graduate courses.

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Do you guys have no analytical chemistry classes? Depends on what you're going for as well, PhD vs. Masters. 

While Calculus is important for the analytical and physical aspects of chemistry, it is not something your average synthetic chemist will usually use (unless they are a PhD attempting to understand how an instrument works). As a Masters, the physical chemistry (and thus the math classes) probably won't really matter to them. However, as a PhD, those things might be of more importance to them. 

Outside of that, the next important thing is what researched are you focusing on. For some fields of Chemistry, thermo/quant might be important than synthetic chemistry (especially inorganic chemistry). For other fields like synthetic, it's not as important. 

Secondly, it's also important how much research you have. All the shortcomings above can be circumvented by research experience. I.E. I got a chemistry degree, but am now in a Biochem PhD even though I've never taken a bio class in my life. My research however helped me understand more Biochem than most actual Biochem majors, so it helped outweigh the lack of "classroom knowledge" on my application. If you're looking into synthetic chemistry, and you have a bunch of synthetic chemistry experience, then all the above mentioned probably won't matter that much to any committee. 

Again, my bigger concern is analytical chemistry/chromatography. That is incredibly important for finding a job in the field, and for the field of chemistry. I find that class to be far more important than any physical chemistry+math classes you would/could take. 

 

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5 hours ago, samman1994 said:

Do you guys have no analytical chemistry classes? Depends on what you're going for as well, PhD vs. Masters. 

While Calculus is important for the analytical and physical aspects of chemistry, it is not something your average synthetic chemist will usually use (unless they are a PhD attempting to understand how an instrument works). As a Masters, the physical chemistry (and thus the math classes) probably won't really matter to them. However, as a PhD, those things might be of more importance to them. 

Outside of that, the next important thing is what researched are you focusing on. For some fields of Chemistry, thermo/quant might be important than synthetic chemistry (especially inorganic chemistry). For other fields like synthetic, it's not as important. 

Secondly, it's also important how much research you have. All the shortcomings above can be circumvented by research experience. I.E. I got a chemistry degree, but am now in a Biochem PhD even though I've never taken a bio class in my life. My research however helped me understand more Biochem than most actual Biochem majors, so it helped outweigh the lack of "classroom knowledge" on my application. If you're looking into synthetic chemistry, and you have a bunch of synthetic chemistry experience, then all the above mentioned probably won't matter that much to any committee. 

Again, my bigger concern is analytical chemistry/chromatography. That is incredibly important for finding a job in the field, and for the field of chemistry. I find that class to be far more important than any physical chemistry+math classes you would/could take. 

 

We have no analytical classes of any sort (except instrumental analysis, but I know you don't mean that one in particular). The professional chemistry degree is ACS certified though; however, the applied chemistry degree is not. I only have about 3 months of research right now because my university was hit by a terrible storm that destroyed a good majority of our science labs so I was forced to cut my research short, but only by about a month (we were doing Eutectics and were already pretty much done anyway). I'll be doing more research in the fall.

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Hmm, what does the instrumental analysis include? Honestly by the sounds of it, for a PhD, I'd definitely say your application is weaker than the general chem student. However, a few things to keep in mind:

1) Your GRE scores will show quite a bit, and in this case, I might even recommend a subjects test. If you do well on it, that should show you know the material and don't need the classes. 

2) The schools you apply to will matter as well. Some schools have lower barriers for entry (e.g. some don't require the GRE), and other schools give weight to different things (maybe all the committee will care about is your grades in ochem+synthetic chem). So maybe all the above missing classes and research experience won't matter, as much as your GPA and GRE scores. 

3) Your networking and basically SOP/LOR. The rest of the pieces of your application are sometimes as important as your GPA and GRE (in conjunction with #2). If you have good networking, either via professors or even personal, then the missing classes shouldn't mean much since you have someone that can vouch for you. 

The overall theme here is, you are missing some supplemental knowledge for organic/synthetic chemistry (mainly pchem for the instrumentation, and analytical for the chromatography). The main point is we want to show that you are still a good asset for the school and research despite that lack of knowledge (this can be done via the GRE, or through your SOP/LOR or networking, etc.). However, depending on the lab you want to join, the priorities each school/committee has, etc. etc. etc. you may not even need to worry about any of these. 

My personal advice would be to first find out what type of research you even want to do. Maybe these classes are really unimportant for that type of research, or they may be crucial for that type of research. Then determine what type of program (MS or PhD) you'd like to join (all the above is basically for a PhD, so if you go for a MS, you really won't have to worry that much about the above). Once you have determined those 2 things, then I would worry about everything I stated above. Your research interests might even change once you start looking at different schools and labs seeing what each one is doing. 

 

Edit:

One final thing I forgot to mention, while I understand you are trying to gauge the competition, and see where your weaknesses are so you can improve them. I'd say be cautious comparing yourself to the competition. Don't let your competition psyche you out or direct the path you choose to pursue, and compare yourself only to yourself. When I first joined a biochem lab as an undergrad, I didn't even know what a protein was (when my PI asked me what do you know about proteins I responded "They're colorful squiggly lines that you eat to build muscle...I think"), whereas my competition were biochem majors already in their 3rd and 4th year. Yet, my PI took me on because I was interested in actually learning and doing research (whereas a lot of the other students wanted a quick LOR or fast research research experience). Now at the time, I was completely oblivious as to my competition, and if I had known how severely below the competition I was, I may never even have pursued research in that lab (at least not until I had taken some biochem classes or something). And yet that same research experience is what helped me determine what I want to do for my PhD, and helped me actually get into a PhD program. My point is, use the competition to help you strengthen your weaknesses and stay informed, but do not let it hinder you, and becareful you don't psyche yourself out.

 

Edited by samman1994

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5 hours ago, samman1994 said:

Hmm, what does the instrumental analysis include? Honestly by the sounds of it, for a PhD, I'd definitely say your application is weaker than the general chem student. However, a few things to keep in mind:

1) Your GRE scores will show quite a bit, and in this case, I might even recommend a subjects test. If you do well on it, that should show you know the material and don't need the classes. 

2) The schools you apply to will matter as well. Some schools have lower barriers for entry (e.g. some don't require the GRE), and other schools give weight to different things (maybe all the committee will care about is your grades in ochem+synthetic chem). So maybe all the above missing classes and research experience won't matter, as much as your GPA and GRE scores. 

3) Your networking and basically SOP/LOR. The rest of the pieces of your application are sometimes as important as your GPA and GRE (in conjunction with #2). If you have good networking, either via professors or even personal, then the missing classes shouldn't mean much since you have someone that can vouch for you. 

The overall theme here is, you are missing some supplemental knowledge for organic/synthetic chemistry (mainly pchem for the instrumentation, and analytical for the chromatography). The main point is we want to show that you are still a good asset for the school and research despite that lack of knowledge (this can be done via the GRE, or through your SOP/LOR or networking, etc.). However, depending on the lab you want to join, the priorities each school/committee has, etc. etc. etc. you may not even need to worry about any of these. 

My personal advice would be to first find out what type of research you even want to do. Maybe these classes are really unimportant for that type of research, or they may be crucial for that type of research. Then determine what type of program (MS or PhD) you'd like to join (all the above is basically for a PhD, so if you go for a MS, you really won't have to worry that much about the above). Once you have determined those 2 things, then I would worry about everything I stated above. Your research interests might even change once you start looking at different schools and labs seeing what each one is doing. 

 

Edit:

One final thing I forgot to mention, while I understand you are trying to gauge the competition, and see where your weaknesses are so you can improve them. I'd say be cautious comparing yourself to the competition. Don't let your competition psyche you out or direct the path you choose to pursue, and compare yourself only to yourself. When I first joined a biochem lab as an undergrad, I didn't even know what a protein was (when my PI asked me what do you know about proteins I responded "They're colorful squiggly lines that you eat to build muscle...I think"), whereas my competition were biochem majors already in their 3rd and 4th year. Yet, my PI took me on because I was interested in actually learning and doing research (whereas a lot of the other students wanted a quick LOR or fast research research experience). Now at the time, I was completely oblivious as to my competition, and if I had known how severely below the competition I was, I may never even have pursued research in that lab (at least not until I had taken some biochem classes or something). And yet that same research experience is what helped me determine what I want to do for my PhD, and helped me actually get into a PhD program. My point is, use the competition to help you strengthen your weaknesses and stay informed, but do not let it hinder you, and becareful you don't psyche yourself out.

 

Very wise words. I appreciate the time you've spent telling me these things. I had all but given up on my chances of being accepted anywhere because of my degree; I've actually talked with my mother about the possibility of her helping me get the professional degree, and it's looking like that may be an option after all. It will delay me two semesters from where I was, but I'll take all those extra classes that will level the playing field for me, and it will give me more time for research before I apply. I've become friends with the professor I did research for last semester, and he will be my same mentor this semester.

Here is the official university description of instrumental analysis: 421. Instrumental Analysis (5). Lecture/3 hours. Lab/6 hours. Prerequisites: CY 106, 321, and PHS 202 or PHS 212. The operating principles and techniques involving the use of analytical instruments.

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No problem and Good luck!

In terms of the instrumental, that description doesn't mean much. You guys could be covering just NMR and IR, or could be covering a wider range (i.e. mass spec, maybe column chromatography, TLC, etc.). Regardless, any type of instrumental analytical technique you learn will be beneficial. 

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