An Introduction to Pre-Health Courses at Amherst College

Pre-Health Studies

Amherst College has no pre-health major. Students interested in careers in medicine may major in any subject, while also completing health graduate school course requirements. Entrance requirements for most health graduate schools will be satisfied by taking the following courses: Mathematics 11, or Mathematics 5 and 6; Chemistry 11 or 15, and Chemistry 12, 21, and 22; Physics 16 and 17, or Physics 32 and 33; and Biology 18 and 19.

Students interested in health professions are supported by Health Professions Advisor Carolyn Bassett in the Amherst College Career Center and by a faculty-comprised Health Professions Committee chaired by Professor Stephen George. All students considering careers in healthcare should read the Amherst College Guide for Premedical Students, which has extensive information about preparation for health careers and suggestions about scheduling course requirements. Copies are available in the Amherst College Career Center, or the Guide may be consulted electronically on the College's website under Amherst College Career Center.

Pre-Health Course Descriptions:

Biology 18 - Adaptation and the Organism

An introduction to the diversity of life. Emphasis is on how organisms are built and how they work, at levels of organization ranging from internal organs, through interacting organisms, to ecological communities. The central theme of the course is the contribution of evolutionary processes to structure and function at each level of organization. Four classroom hours and four laboratory hours per week.

Biology 19 - Molecules, Genes and Cells

An introduction to the molecular and cellular processes common to life. A central theme is the genetic basis of cellular function. Four classroom hours and four laboratory hours per week.

Requisite: Chemistry 11 or its equivalent or consent of the instructor.

Chemistry 11 - Introductory Chemistry

This course examines the structure of matter from both a microscopic and macroscopic viewpoint. We begin with a detailed discussion of the physical structure of atoms, followed by an analysis of how the interactions between atoms lead to the formation of molecules. The relationship between the structures of molecular compounds and their properties is then described. Experiments in the laboratory provide experience in conducting quantitative chemical measurements and illustrate principles discussed in the lectures.

This course requires written consent of the instructor. Although this course has no prerequisites, students with a limited background in secondary school science should confer with one of the Chemistry 11 instructors before registration. Four class hours and three hours of laboratory per week.

Chemistry 12 - Chemical Principles

The concepts of kinetic stability and thermodynamic equilibrium are examined. The thermodynamics section of the course develops a quantitative understanding of the factors that determine the extent to which chemical reactions can occur. The kinetics section explores how a study of the rates of chemical reactions leads to insights into the mechanisms of those reactions. Appropriate laboratory experiments supplement the lecture material. Four class hours and three hours of laboratory per week.

Requisite: Chemistry 11 or 15 (this requirement may be waived for exceptionally well-prepared students; consent of the instructor is required); and Mathematics 11 or its equivalent.

Chemistry 15 - Fundamental Principles of Chemistry

A study of the basic concepts of chemistry for students particularly interested in natural science. Topics to be covered include atomic and molecular structure, spectroscopy, states of matter, and stoichiometry. These physical principles are applied to a variety of inorganic, organic, and biochemical systems. Both individual and bulk properties of atoms and molecules are considered with an emphasis on the conceptual foundations and the quantitative chemical relationships which form the basis of chemical science. This course is designed to utilize the background of those students with strong preparation in secondary school chemistry and to provide both breadth in subject matter and depth in coverage. Four hours of lecture and discussion and three hours of laboratory per week.

This course requires written consent of the instructor.

Chemistry 21 - Organic Chemistry I

A study of the structure of organic compounds and of the influence of structure upon the chemical and physical properties of these substances. The following topics are emphasized: hybridization, resonance theory, spectroscopy, stereochemistry, acid-base properties and nucleophilic substitution reactions. Periodically, examples will be chosen from recent articles in the chemical, biochemical, and biomedical literature. Laboratory work introduces the student to basic laboratory techniques and methods of instrumental analysis. Four hours of class and four hours of laboratory per week.

Requisite: Chemistry 12 or equivalent.

Chemistry 22 - Organic Chemistry II

A continuation of Chemistry 21. The second semester of the organic chemistry course first examines in considerable detail the chemistry of the carbonyl group and some classic methods of organic synthesis. The latter section of the course is devoted to a deeper exploration of a few topics, among which are the following: sugars, amino acids and proteins, advanced synthesis, and acid-base catalysis in nonenzymatic and enzymatic systems. The laboratory experiments illustrate both fundamental synthetic procedures and some elementary mechanistic investigations. Four hours of class and four hours of laboratory per week.

Requisite: Chemistry 21.

Physics 16 - General Physics I: Mechanics and Thermodynamics

This course will examine two of the main divisions of Classical Physics: Newtonian Mechanics and Thermodynamics. Newton's laws will be used to describe and explain a variety of simple motions including linear and circular motion, motion in a gravitational field, motion in the presence of friction, and simple harmonic motion. Work, mechanical energy and momentum will be discussed as underlying concepts in our understanding of all mechanical processes. The extent to which changes in temperature affect natural systems will be studied primarily through the introduction of the concepts of heat and entropy, and applications of the first and second laws of thermodynamics. Topics such as rotational dynamics, fluid mechanics, phase transitions, calorimetry, and kinetic theory may be added at the discretion of the instructor. Three hours of lecture and discussion and one three-hour laboratory per week.

Requisite: Mathematics 11 or equivalent.

Physics 17 - General Physics II: Electromagnetism, Optics and Atomic Physics

Basic observations of electric and magnetic forces (the most important forces governing the structure of matter), their mathematical description, and the unified treatment of electric and magnetic effects in Maxwell's electromagnetic theory. Introduction to wave motion, optics, and selected topics from atomic and nuclear physics. Laboratory experiments on electrical circuits, electronic measuring instruments, optics and optical instruments, and radioactivity and its measurement. Three hours of lecture and discussion and one three-hour laboratory per week.

Requisite: Physics 16.

Physics 23 - Newtonian Mechanics

The fundamental laws of Newtonian mechanics are applied to a variety of simple motions including free-fall in a gravitational field, simple harmonic motion, and rigid-body rotation. The conservation laws (linear momentum, angular momentum, and mechanical energy) are introduced in various contexts and are shown to serve as unifying physical principles. Emphasis is placed on mathematics (including vector algebra and calculus) as powerful tools in understanding phenomena. This course includes an introduction to the use of computers in physics. Four hours of lecture and discussion and one three-hour laboratory per week.

Requisite: Mathematics 11 or equivalent.

Physics 24 - Electromagnetism and Electronics

Fundamentals of electricity and magnetism using differential and integral calculus. The unified treatment of electric and magnetic effects in Maxwell's electromagnetic theory. Laboratory experiments on electrical circuits and electronic measuring instruments. Four hours of lecture and discussion and one three-hour laboratory per week.

Requisite: Physics 32 and Mathematics 12 or consent of the instructor.

Mathematics 5 - Calculus with Algebra

Mathematics 5 and 6 are designed for students whose background and algebraic skills are inadequate for the fast pace of Mathematics 11. In addition to covering the usual material of beginning calculus, these courses will have an extensive review of algebra and trigonometry. There will be a special emphasis on solving word problems.

Mathematics 5 starts with a quick review of algebraic manipulations, inequalities, absolute values and straight lines. Then the basic ideas of calculus--limits, derivatives, and integrals--are introduced, but only in the context of polynomial and rational functions. As various applications are studied, the algebraic techniques involved will be reviewed in more detail. When covering related rates and maximum-minimum problems, time will be spent learning how to approach, analyze and solve word problems. Four class hours per week. Note: While Mathematics 5 and 6 are sufficient for any course with a Mathematics 11 requisite, Mathematics 5 alone is not.

Mathematics 6 - Calculus with Elementary Functions

Mathematics 6 is a continuation of Mathematics 5. Trigonometric, logarithmic and exponential functions will be studied from the point of view of both algebra and calculus. The applications encountered in Mathematics 5 will reappear in problems involving these new functions. The basic ideas and theorems of calculus will be reviewed in detail, with more attention being paid to rigor. Finally, first order separable differential equations will be studied. Four class hours per week.

Mathematics 11 - Introduction to the Calculus

Basic concepts of limits, derivatives, anti-derivatives; applications, including Newton's method; the definite integral, simple applications; circular functions; logarithms and exponential functions. Four class hours per week.