The Department of Chemistry offers a full set of courses designed to prepare a student for graduate study, medical school, secondary education, or work in the chemical industry. This coursework includes a foundational two-year program with associated labs in general, organic, and quantitative chemistry followed by intensive junior/senior laboratory courses in conjunction with advanced courses in biochemistry, physical, inorganic, and organic chemistry. All of our majors assemble a Chemistry Portfolio over their junior and senior years that insure each student has conducted experiments in all areas of chemistry, has achieved proficiency in all major areas of instrumentation, and both attended and given seminars both inside and outside of Berea College. Our courses are grounded in problem solving using both practical and quantitative reasoning skills. We also are committed to the idea that students should conduct research as part of their undergraduate curriculum. All of our Faculty direct undergraduate research with our students as well as send some of our students to undergraduate research programs at other institutions. We hope to prepare our students to address chemical problems that have come to dominate the headlines of today’s news from nuclear to biomedical issues and everything in between. Our students have gone on to work in many fields including chemical industrial research, medicine (including doctors, physician assistants, and pharmacists), and teaching (both college and secondary). Our courses also serve as collateral requirements in Biology, SENS, and Nursing, as well as provide general chemistry and environmental chemistry courses to serve the student body at large. Chemistry is central to many of the major issues that will face society for years to come from energy and waste management to medicine and biotechnology.
The chemistry department has undergone many changes over the course of the history of the college. The first science instruction began at the turn of the century (circa 1900) and grew slowly. By the mid 60′s we had three faculty members, Julian Capps, Gus Levey and Thomas Beebe. These three men combined to serve Berea College for over 100 total years of service time. Thomas Beebe was the first of the chemists at Berea to institute an undergraduate research program in the mid 60s. In the early 80′s the department expanded to four fulltime members. By the late 90′s we had embraced an active biochemistry requirement and had added a half-time member in the sustainability and environmental studies area.