Senior Essay

The essay involves extensive work and reflects comprehensive understanding of chemistry subject matter.  It is a research paper in which the student synthesizes and assesses published work about a scientific question or phenomenon. Students typically spend the full quarter to complete the work. As of Fall 2020, the Senior Essay is no longer a requirement for the CHEM BS or CHEM BA. Check in with Chemistry Advising for more details.

1. Find a topic:  Choose two to three topics to propose to a faculty sponsor. Review current scientific literature to find your topic(s)(examples of sources include science news in Nature or Science (first pages of any issue) or Chemistry & Engineering News; Web of Science; SciFinder Scholar). 

2. For each topic, find at least one:

  • Journal paper (full paper/article or communication/letter) OR
  • Journal review (can specify in Web of Science or SciFinder)

3. Find a faculty sponsor in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department whose research is in the general field of your topic.

  • Review the Chemistry Faculty webpage and their research group website.
  • Read their research description and publication list.

If their interests match yours, attend office hours or make an appointment by email. 

  • Be familiar with their research, bring written notes.
  • Bring hard copies of the three papers.
  • Faculty member will help decide which topic (if they like any) to choose. 

Note:  A student requesting a faculty sponsor from a discipline in one of the other sciences such as environmental toxicology or ocean sciences must be pre-approved by the Chemistry and Biochemistry Undergraduate Faculty Advisor.

4. Discuss the format and length of your essay with your faculty sponsor. 

5. Enroll in CHEM 194 Senior Essay (how to enroll click here).

6Read the selected paper(s) and find additional relevant background literature.

7. Write an outline (point form):

  • Title and abstract
  • Sections of the essay: headings and sub-headings
    • Background, context/relevance
    • Description and summary of the paper or area
  • Conclusions (could include critique if discussing only one paper)
  • References

Students may include figures from the relevant papers, but the writing must be the student's original work. 

8Email outline to sponsor for feedback and approval. 

9. Meet with your faculty sponsor 2-3 times to review your drafts; your sponsor will provide feedback and direction.

10Submit your complete draft to your sponsor by Friday of week 8 at 3PM. 

11. Revise based on faculty sponsor comments; this may take several iterations. The final sponsor-accepted version is due by Friday of week 10

12. In order to record your senior exit requirement for degree checkout puposes, a signed cover sheet must be submitted to the department for our records. This should be submitted no later than week 10. 

You will fulfill this step by using the online form and signature approval process.

  •  After completeing the form, you will receive a request from DocuSign in your inbox with instructions to review and electronically sign your submission.  
  •  Once you have e-signed, your faculty sponsor will then receive a similar request to review and electronically sign.
  •  Once both parties have signed, everyone (including the department) will receive a signed copy from DocuSign.

Students may view Senior Essays completed by former chemistry majors. They are available in PSB 230 during drop in hours. Essays may not be removed from the office or photocopied.