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Undergraduate Environmental Chemistry

The Environmental Chemistry Option of the Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry is designed to enable students to explore the application of their laboratory based understanding of the principles of chemistry to a wide variety of chemical phenomena that have an impact on the human environment.

The program provides a solid grounding in fundamental chemistry broadened by an introduction to the science of ecology and to several important areas of environmental science which make use of this chemical and ecological knowledge. Students completing this program are prepared for work, or advanced study, in specialized area of environmental chemistry, chemical ecology or environmental technology or, with the addition of some suitable electives, for entry into the study of such fields as environmental medicine, occupational health or environmental law.

What is Environmental Chemistry?

As with other subdivisions of the field of chemistry, it is perhaps most useful to define environmental chemistry operationally in terms of the activities of scientists who refer to themselves as environmental chemists. A major endeavor of such scientists is the study of the chemical phenomena associated with the causes and effects of various local, regional and global air, water and land pollution problems such as ground water contamination, acid rain and ozone depletion. Problems associated with the disposal of both domestic and industrial waste require research by chemically trained scientists, as do efforts to understand the mechanisms by which potentially toxic or hazardous chemicals are transported and distributed within and around ecosystems. Most aspects of environmental chemistry require a detailed understanding of the methods required to obtain representative samples and to perform reliable analyses of complex environmental materials for trace chemical contaminants.

Declaring the Major

The Environmental Chemistry Option of the Chemistry Major is open to all Stony Brook undergraduates. Perhaps the ideal time to declare the major is at the beginning of a student's sophomore year. It is usually unwise to postpone the declaration past the beginning of the student's junior year. Students who wish to elect this major should speak to the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Plan of Study

Freshman students usually begin their studies toward the major by completing their introductory studies in chemistry and mathematics. In the sophomore year studies in biology and organic chemistry are combined with mathematics and physics courses. In the junior and senior years, physical and inorganic chemistry lecture courses are completed as well as a series of advanced laboratory courses.


Environmental Chemistry is based upon research. This is why students in the major have so many laboratory courses required for their degree. However structured instructional laboratories cannot truly introduce students to independent research. For this experience the student must seek out independent research opportunities. The faculty of the Department of Chemistry welcome qualified undergraduate students into their research laboratories. Research opportunities may also exist in other parts of the University such as Marine Sciences. These opportunities are especially suitable for students in their junior and senior years of study. Interested students should review the research interests of the various faculty members and then discuss the possibilities for independent study or research with the individual faculty members who have the research programs of greatest interest. Each summer there are numerous special research programs available at Stony Brook, at nearby Brookhaven Laboratory and at universities across the country, open to qualified students. Interested students should talk to the Director of Undergraduate Studies several months in advance.


Students who complete the Environmental Chemistry Option will be well prepared for entry level positions in a rapidly expanding list of career opportunities in both the private and the public sector. Increased awareness and concern about environmental contamination and new governmental regulations have resulted in the need for chemically trained scientists to apply their expertise to such problems as the chemical analysis of diverse environmental samples, the design of technologies for the remediation of environmental pollution and the modification of production processes to reduce or eliminate the production of hazardous chemical wastes. Avoidance or remediation of environmental problems often requires a multidisciplinary approach. Students who supplement the requirements for the Environmental Chemistry Option with carefully selected courses in applied economics and other social sciences will increase their employment prospects. Since a recognized chemistry program with ample laboratory experience (including research) may provide an edge with many employers, it is suggested that students consider completing the requirements for a degree certified by the American Chemical Society. The Environmental Chemistry Option is also an excellent preparation for students who plan to pursue graduate study in order to prepare to do research in some area of Environmental Chemistry. In addition to chemistry departments, such graduate programs may be found in departments of geology, atmospheric sciences, marine sciences and earth sciences. Masters degrees are usually obtainable after one and a half to two years additional study. Ph.D. degrees usually require four-five years study beyond the Bachelor of Science Degree. Graduate students usually receive substantial stipends throughout their period of graduate study. The Environmental Chemistry Option (supplemented by appropriate electives) is also an excellent undergraduate major for students considering preparation for professional degree programs in related fields, such as environmental toxicology or environmental law.


Special internships are available for qualified undergraduate students majoring in the chemical sciences. These programs allow students to combine work in an industrial setting with their academic studies. Students in the program work in an industrial laboratory one or two days a week. In return they receive a salary from the company and academic credit from Stony Brook. Interested students should talk to the Student Affairs Coordinator several months in advance.

Double Majors

Highly motivated students often choose to complete the requirements for two majors. Students choosing to major in chemistry may wish to consider a second major in such fields as engineering chemistry, physics, mathematics or biology. Students completing a double major will have an extra credential when looking for a job or when applying for graduate study. However a double major is certainly not a good idea for everyone. Often a better approach is to choose particular advanced courses as electives, matching one's own interests and abilities. And in all cases students should consider the importance of research and additional laboratory courses.

American Chemical Society Certification

The American Chemical Society is the national organization for chemists in the United States. The Society publishes the most prestigious journals, hosts the major national chemistry conferences, and influences chemical education in the country. The Society sets standards for the undergraduate chemistry programs at American universities. As part of this program the American Chemical Society's Committee on Professional Training has defined a minimum set of courses that they consider necessary for a student to achieve the skills needed for entry into the chemistry profession. Students who complete these requirements have their degrees certified by the Society. Students receiving certified degrees are eligible for immediate entry into the Society upon graduation. Certification requires the completion of a small number of courses in addition to those required for the major.

Major Requirements for the Bachelor of Science Degree

Candidates for the Bachelors of Science Degree in Chemistry who elect the Environmental Chemistry option must complete the Chemistry Core Requirements of basic chemistry, mathematics and physics courses, plus a series of area requirements unique to the Environmental Chemistry Option. In addition all students must fulfill the Upper-Division Writing Requirement.

All required courses must be taken for a letter grade; P/NC grades are not acceptable. All of the courses used to fulfill the requirements of the major (CHE, MAT, PHY, BIO, etc.) must be passed with a grade of C or higher, with the exception of three courses, for which the grade may be C-. No transferred course with a grade lower than C may be used to fulfill any major requirement.

Completion of the major requirements entails approximately 65 to 67 credits.

A. Core Requirements

  • CHE 129/ 130 or 131, 132 or 141, 142 General or Honors Chemistry
  • CHE 133, 134 or 143, 144 General or Honors Chemistry Laboratory
  • CHE 301, 302 Physical Chemistry I, II
  • CHE 303 Solution Chemistry Laboratory
  • CHE 321, 326 Organic Chemistry I, IIB
  • CHE 375 Inorganic Chemistry
  • CHE 383 Introductory Synthetic and Spectroscopic Laboratory Techniques
  • CHE 385 Tools of Chemistry
  • MAT 131, 132 Calculus I, II (Substitutions are possible, see note 1)
  • MAT 211 or AMS 210 Linear Algebra (Substitutions are possible, see note 1)
  • PHY 131/133, 132/134 Classical Physics I, II or PHY 141,142 Honors Physics I, II or PHY 125, 126, 127

B. Area Requirements for Environmental Chemistry Option

  • CHE 304 Chemical Instrumentation Laboratory
  • CHE 310 Chemistry in Technology and the Environment
  • CHE 357 Molecular Structure and Spectroscopy Laboratory
  • CHE 384 Intermediate Synthetic and Spectroscopic Laboratory Techniques
  • BIO 201 Fundamentals of Biology: Organisms to Ecosystems or

    BIO 113 Applied Ecology
  • ATM/MEC 397 Air Pollution and Its Control (Substitutions are possible, see note 2)

C. Upper-Division Writing Requirement

  • Successful completion of CHE 385


  1. Alternate Mathematics Sequences

    The following alternate sequences may be substituted for mathematics requirements or prerequisites: MAT 125, 126,127 or 141, 142 for 131, 132; MAT 203 or MAT 205 for AMS 210 or MAT 211. Equivalency for MAT courses as indicated by earning the appropriate score on the Mathematics Placement Examination will be accepted as fulfillment of the requirement without the necessity of substituting other credits.

  2. The following substitutions for ATM 397 need additional prerequisites: ENV 315/GEO 315 Groundwater Hydrology, MAR 336 Marine Pollution, MAR 351 Introduction to Ocean Chemistry. 

  3. Transfer Credit

    At least twelve credits of upper-division work in chemistry must be taken at Stony Brook; these must be taken in at least two of the major subdisciplines (inorganic, physical, and organic chemistry).

  4. American Chemical Society Certification 

    The American Chemical Society's Committee on Professional Training has set nationally recognized standards for professional preparation in chemistry. The Chemistry faculty recommends that students intending to pursue careers in the Chemical Sciences secure ACS certification along with their Bachelor of Science in Chemistry degree.

    For ACS certification, students electing the Environmental Chemistry Option need to complete the following courses:
    • CHE 346 Biomolecular Structure and Reactivity
    • CHE 496 Senior Research
  5. Additional Areas of Study

    Because knowledge of computer programming is of great value to all chemists, a course in computer programming is recommended.
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