Chemistry: A formula for success

By Oystein Fjeldberg, Staff writer

The chemistry major is a challenging path to take on.

A chemistry student has to spend much of his time in the science building due to the many hours of laboratory work. Eleven of the required classes include a lab section — in addition comes two research classes. A student who chooses this major needs to be on track right from the start, as two years of chemistry classes are required for all upper-level chemistry courses.

For those who push through, however, job prospects and graduate opportunities are promising, says Dr. Christopher Dahm, who has been teaching chemistry at Wingate since 1995. If you maintain a GPA above 3.3 and you acquire experience in research during your time at the university, then “we can get you into a graduate program where they pay your tuition and give you a stipend,”, Dahm explains. This is a common choice among Wingate graduates.

Others aim to start a career fresh from graduation; normally, this means a job in industrial production. “If you are willing to move to big cities like Chicago,” Dahm says,  “getting a job will be no issue”.

But these promises are not what have motivated most to choose this major. For the most part, the motivation is rooted in an affection for science.

Jacob Troutman says that he studies chemistry because he likes that it “explains a lot of what you see around you.”

He had a good teacher in high school who made chemistry interesting, which spawned his interest for the subject. The most challenging aspect of chemistry, he believes, is to “visualize the concepts mentally, that you can’t see visually what you are studying”.

Joseph Kelly studies chemistry because he “has a love for science and math”. He says that he “always excelled at math, and also had an interest in chemistry as well.”

The most challenging aspect in his opinion is “balancing out all the work for your classes”. Teachers give a lot of work in each class all at once, he says, and you are expected to keep up with what is due when. His favorite class is analytical chemistry because “it took what I loved about chemistry and expanded upon it,” and did so by applying “practical lab situations.”

This spring no one will graduate from Wingate with a degree in chemistry. There are six students in the upper-level classes right now, and all are  scheduled to graduate in the spring of 2017.

Even though that is a small number, the number of graduates has increased over the years, Dahm says. When he  started teaching here 20 yeas ago, he says, 1995, there were two graduates a year with majors in chemistry, and one in chemistry business.

After the pharmacy school opened its doors in 2003, that number started to increase, especially for chemistry business. Dahm believes the reason is that students in pre-pharm who change their minds about going to pharmacy school often go for the chemistry or chemistry business major.

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