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Kris__72

BA in chemistry looking to apply to graduate school in the fall

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Hi everyone, 

I'm a college senior who will be applying to schools in the fall for a PhD program, but have a slight dilemma. I will be obtaining a BA in the spring, where most chemistry majors have BS degrees when applying to graduate school. I chose this degree because I couldn't handle the math or physical chemistry, which I am both bad at and don't have much interest in. 

I'm worried that not having this math/physical chem background will be detrimental to me in the application process, with most of my peers having these backgrounds. Conversely, I maintain a ~3.9 GPA and have taken many upper level chem courses, included advanced inorganic, physical organic chemistry, biochemistry, polymer chemistry, etc. I am particularly interested in organic/natural product synthesis. I have been doing research at my home institution for ~2.5 years and have had two REU's at high level graduate institutions, and have presented several posters, but I just fret that it won't be enough. I would really like to get into a top 30 program. Have any of you had similar experiences or words of encouragement/advice? Any help would be greatly appreciated. 

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wouldn't worry that much about it. i have a BA from a liberal arts school and am entering a chem phd program in the fall. i'm not sure how strict programs really are on required courses. some programs say they want analytical chem, for instance ut austin says they look for at least one semester of analytical. i didn't take analytical and was accepted to ut austin among other programs. on my visits, no one questioned me as to why i didn't take it, in fact we didn't really talk about undergrad coursework at all. i met several liberal arts students on my visits (who i assume were getting BAs-i have no idea if they took pchem or not). i know someone who didn't take pchem and was accepted to uwisc chem (though he did take physical chem for life science-a one semester biophysics class, and his focus is in biochem). i also know organic profs at my undergrad institution who never took biochem.

it's important that you take classes that are interesting to you and relevant to your research interests. i was on the fence as to whether or not to take pchem and decided to take it my senior year. i doubt that drastically altered the course of my life or my grad school admissions. of course this is not a guarantee, and some programs may be more strict than others. having research experience is most important. some programs don't even require you to have a degree in chem. i'd say read the admissions requirements for programs you're interested in. i don't think it's that common for phd programs to have undergrad course requirements.

based on research experience/gpa you're probably a strong applicant at any school, including top 10 if you have strong recs. that being said, i wouldn't prioritize rank over research fit, so make sure you choose schools that have a few professors you'd be interested in working with

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I think your BA might be an issue for some top programs and cause you to be simply rejected through their filtering process. If you do get through based on your other attributes, some PIs may see the avoidance of math and physical chemistry courses as a mark against you.  Regardless, I am sure you will get into some programs, but when you are aiming for specific programs you always want to be as strong as possible. In the event that you do not succeed in gaining admission into a desired program, I would certainly suggest biting the bullet and taking math and p-chem.

 

I would suggest taking the next month to look into programs and identify professors who are conducting research that you could see yourself taking part in. Reach out to them to show interest in their group while also explaining why you elected obtaining a BA (more freedom to challenge yourself with higher level courses). I would avoid saying you outright avoided the challenge of P-chem and math since a PhD is going to be challenging and you can't simply avoid the obstacles you might face.  When they know you and your interests they will be far more likely to overlook any minor blemishes to your application. In the end, I don't think the degree you obtain will matter that much. As long as you can show a passion and understanding of chemistry, you should be fine.

 

FYI. I have a lot of experience in organic synthesis and can say that P-chem is very, very useful. I had to study it to comprehend the computational side of my group's project. It helps to understand/explain the "why it works" of a lot of reactions and experiments that you might encounter. There are many textbooks that do a good job of explaining physical concepts in the context of organic chemistry. They might help you digest it a bit easier.

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