USNA | Chemistry

The Discipline and the Major

Chemistry is the study of the composition, structure and properties of matter on the atomic and molecular level and the investigation of the laws that govern changes in matter. It is sometimes called “The Central Science” because it touches virtually every aspect of our lives. Agriculture, biology, environmental science, forensics, material science, explosives, propellants and medicine (to name a few) are fundamentally based on chemistry.

Now is an especially exciting time to study chemistry. Advances in our ability to manipulate molecules and even atoms (nanotechnology) will lead to faster and more efficient devices. The Human Genome Project and biotechnical advances have led to a molecular-level understanding of disease and possible treatments.  New materials, with unusual optical, electrical or mechanical properties are constantly being developed and used in a host of military and civilian applications. Chemistry will play a key role as the nation and society transition from a fossil fuel-based economy in the coming century.

The chemistry major at the Naval Academy provides midshipmen with training in all of the discipline’s traditional fields, leading to a bachelor of science degree certified by the American Chemical Society. All chemistry majors take courses in organic, inorganic, analytical, physical and biochemistry. In addition to the required courses, midshipmen may take advanced courses in each of these subject areas along with other specialized areas such as polymer chemistry, environmental chemistry, and medicinal chemistry. Midshipmen in the chemistry major will develop the ability to make critical observations, keep accurate records, conduct and explain scientific research, and solve modern scientific problems.


Individual laboratory capstone or research projects during the 1st class year enable midshipmen to investigate topics of personal interest to them under the guidance of a faculty member. Many chemistry majors travel to present the results of their work at regional or national chemistry meetings. Each year majors participate in medical and other internships, the service academy exchange program, become Trident scholars, and occasionally begin a graduate education program. The chemistry faculty possesses a wealth of experience, not only in their academic understanding of chemistry, but also in practical applications of chemistry in the Navy and Marine Corps. The chemistry major gives midshipmen a solid background in scientific principles required for any of the technical disciplines in which they will work as naval officers. It also provides an excellent academic base for graduate studies in such diverse fields as medicine, oceanography, operations research, management and engineering.

Considerations for those who might be interested in this major

Chemistry is an experimental science and the major involves a significant amount of laboratory and hands-on work with sophisticated scientific instruments. A solid foundation in math and a curiosity about how things work at the molecular level is necessary. Chemistry offers challenging and fulfilling career opportunities to people with inquisitive minds who are creative, persistent, interested in solving problems, think independently, work well with details, have keen powers of observation and follow logical paths of reasoning. Chemistry can be both an independent and collaborative science, so self-discipline and teamwork are both important. Chemistry majors have participated in brigade leadership at all levels, in all varsity and club sports, and all other midshipmen activities and groups.

Chemistry Department Site


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