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Benefits of a Large Research University

Independent research experiences allow students to delve deeper into specific topics, design and conduct experiments, analyze data, and present their findings. Engaging in independent research can be a transformative experience for students, helping them develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills essential for success in academia and industry.

Students are encouraged to join a research group as soon as possible, even as early as their first semester in college. We have a wide range of research in the department ranging from solar cell development to biochemical processes, drug delivery, and the fundamentals of nano-particle formation. 

Joining a Research Group

Experience in a research laboratory is now considered a vital part of any course of studies within the sciences. The chemistry department at UMass Amherst recognizes the importance of this research experience and offers numerous ways for students to participate in faculty mentored research.

Laboratory Safety Requirements

To ensure student and lab safety, students must be up to date with Laboratory safety certification prior to enrollment. Verification of safety compliance is required at the time of enrollment.

Required Independent Research for BS Majors

Students pursuing the Bachelor of Science in Chemistry are required to take Chemistry 388 Independent Research Project (3 cr) or if they are members of the Commonwealth College may instead enroll in Chemistry 499Y and 499T Honors Thesis (3cr. each). The research project may consist of laboratory work or theoretical work or both. Project and research director selected by student with consent of instructor and departmental Undergraduate Research Coordinator required. About 9-12 hours of independent work per week, in close consultation with research director, culminating in written and oral reports. A copy of the written report must be included in the student's academic folder. The recommended timing for 388 is second semester junior year or senior year. Chemistry 499Y is typically taken fall senior year and 499T is taken the spring semester.

Students pursuing the Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry are not required to take indepedent research courses; unless they are members of CHC in which case they may have to fulfill the Honors Thesis requirement (Chem. 499Y and 499T).

Research for Upper Level Elective Credit

Independent Study 396 or 496 credits (earned during their junior and senior year) satisfy Group B requirements toward the required 12 credits of advanced electives for BS majors. BA majors can take Independent Study (388, 499Y/T, 396 or 496) to satisfy Group A requirements toward the required 9 credits of advanced electives.

Independent Research Courses

CHEM 196, 296, 396, 496 (1-6 credits) Independent Study. 196 (Freshmen), 296 (Sophomore), 396 (Junior), 496 (Senior). Experimental or theoretical study that may involve lab or library work or a combination. Work supervised by faculty sponsor who determines direction of project, nature of reports required, and grade and credit awarded. Complete Chemistry's online Independent Research Proposal enrollment form including a brief description for 196 & 296, or a full-page research proposal for 396 & 496, and email approval from the research advisor. Guideline is 3-4 hrs work per week per 1 credit. Does not satisfy the BS independent research project requirement CHEM 388.

CHEM 196ISH, 296ISH, 396ISH, 496ISH (1-6 credits). Honors Independent Study courses are enrolled through the Commonwealth Honors College.

CHEM 388 (3 credits) Independent Research Project. Required of BS chemistry majors (BA chemistry majors may choose to take course as an elective, but it is not required.) Choose research advisor to sponsor research and complete Chemistry's online Independent Research Proposal enrollment form including a one-page research proposal, and email approval from the research advisor. A GRADED research report is to be completed at the end of the course and be on file within the chemistry department.

CHEM 499 (6 credits). Honors Capstone Experience. Required of BS students taking chemistry departmental honors within the Commonwealth College. These course(s) satisfy the Capstone Experience requirement of the Commonwealth College. The Capstone Experience is usually taken over 2 semesters, but may be accomplished in one semester, if feasible. [Note: To fulfill the chemistry department research requirement students take CHEM 388 OR CHEM 499 – NOT BOTH]. Students choose a research advisor and one other faculty member to serve on the research committee. A research report is to be completed at the end of the course in accordance with Commonwealth Honors College guidelines.

Chemistry CHC students are strongly encouraged to do their Departmental Honors Thesis work in chemistry labs, if possible (Chem 499Y and 499T). However, in the case where a CHC student pursues work in a lab outside chemistry, they must have a chemistry faculty member serving on the thesis committee. The Honors Program Director, has to sign their approval of the Honors Research Contract and accompanying preliminary proposal before enrollment in Chem 499Y/T.