Chemistry and Physics

Professor Howard Georgi, Director of Undergraduate Studies

The concentration in Chemistry and Physics is supervised by a committee comprised of members of the Departments of Physics and of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and is administered through the office of the director of undergraduate studies. As the name suggests, the concentration has been established to serve those students desiring to develop a strong foundation in both physics and chemistry. Because of the need to cover a wide range of material in considerable depth, only an honors-eligible program is available in this concentration.

The requirements of the Chemistry and Physics concentration are designed to provide a solid foundation for further study in either or both of these two closely related sciences. Concentrators have gone on to graduate work and careers in chemistry, physics, and other quantitative fields. The concentration is also often chosen by students whose career goals lie in medicine. In addition, the intellectual disciplines involved provide a suitable background for careers in many different professions.

Because the requirements of the concentration lie between those of Chemistry and of Physics, it is possible that a given set of courses could satisfy the requirements of one of those concentrations as well as those of the concentration in Chemistry and Physics. By the same token, a transfer to or from one of these concentrations, even as late as the junior year, normally causes little difficulty.

The concentration is structured to assure that all concentrators are introduced to the core subjects of chemistry (organic, inorganic, and physical), of physics (mechanics, electromagnetism, and quantum theory), and of mathematics. Beyond this core, students take additional half-courses in chemistry, physics, or related sciences, according to their personal interests and objectives.

Tutorial or individual study and research are optional, and may be undertaken within the framework of Physics 90r and/or 91r, or of Chemistry 98r and 99r, to the extent that facilities and staff are available.


13-16 half-courses

  1. Required courses:

    1. General Chemistry: Life Sciences 1a and Physical Sciences 1, or satisfactory placement out of the requirement.

    2. Inorganic Chemistry: Chemistry 40, 154, or 158, or equivalent.

    3. Organic Chemistry: Chemistry 20 and 30, or Chemistry 17 and 27. Chemistry 20 and 30 are strongly recommended, but, particularly for students preparing for medical school, Chemistry 17 and 27 may be a preferred alternative.

    4. Physical Chemistry or Statistical Mechanics: Chemistry 60 or one of Chemistry 161, Physics 181, or Engineering Sciences 181. One of the statistical mechanics courses is strongly recommended.

    5. Mechanics, Electromagnetism, and Waves: Physics 15a (or Physics 16), 15b, and 15c.

    6. Quantum Mechanics: Physics 143a or Chemistry 160.

    7. Mathematics: Two courses at the level of Mathematics or Applied Mathematics 21a, 21b or above. While not required, taking one or more additional mathematics courses is strongly recommended. Students should consider especially Applied Mathematics 105a or Mathematics 113, Applied Mathematics 105b, Mathematics 115, and Mathematics 119. Students planning to go into research should consider taking a course in computer science and/or numerical analysis.

    8. Additional half-courses from the list below, to complete the requirement of 13 to 16 half-courses (see item 5c). It is strongly recommended that one course be a laboratory course. In all cases, the student must take at least four physics courses and four chemistry courses.

      1. A course of independent research from the following: Chemistry 91r, 98, 99 or Physics 90r.

      2. Any 100- or 200-level chemistry course.

      3. Any 100- or 200-level physics or applied physics course (see 5h).

      4. Any 100- or 200-level math or applied math course.

      5. An intermediate- or advanced-level course in a science, engineering sciences, or computer science with significant direct application to chemistry or physics. These courses should be approved in advanced by the director or assistant director of undergraduate studies. To fulfill particular needs, a concentrator, with the adviser’s consent, may petition the committee to use other intermediate- or advanced-level science courses for this requirement.

  2. Tutorials: Optional. Admission to tutorials requires prior approval by the director of undergraduate studies of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology.

    1. Junior year: Chemistry 98r.

    2. Senior year: Chemistry 99r.

  3. Thesis: Optional.

  4. General Examination: None.

  5. Other information:

    1. Satisfactory grades (C- or better) are required in Physics 15a, 15b, and 15c (or higher level substitutions).

    2. Pass/Fail: Two half-courses counted for concentration may be taken Pass/Fail, but not Physics 15a, 15b, 15c, or 16.

    3. The number of required courses is reduced by one half-course (up to a maximum reduction of three; the number of required courses cannot drop below 13) for each of the half-courses—Mathematics 1a and 1b; Life Sciences 1a; and/or Physical Sciences 1—that a student is permitted to skip by virtue of his or her performance on the appropriate Advanced Placement Examination.

    4. Substitutions: Students can substitute a more advanced course for one or more of the required elementary courses on the same topics, provided they have the written permission of the director or assistant director of undergraduate studies. However, the total number of concentration courses taken during the student’s college career (including study abroad or transfer credits) must be at least 13.

    5. Advanced Placement: Students who have Advanced Placement in physics should consult the prerequisites in Courses of Instruction under Physics 16 for the conditions of entering that course directly.

    6. Teaching: Students who are interested in receiving eligibility for the certification needed to teach both physics and chemistry in public schools are invited to look at Degree in Physics with Teacher Certification in both Physics and Chemistry under the Physics concentration. Completing the Chemistry and Physics concentration with eligibility for teacher certification in both physics and chemistry requires taking the UTEP program, described on page 46, in addition to the required courses listed in items 1a–h.

    7. Individual Study and Research courses: Physics 90r and/or 91r, and Chemistry 91r are optional.

    8. Applied physics and engineering science courses listed in the requirements for the Physics concentration as “counting as physics” for Physics concentrators are also counted as physics courses in the Chemistry and Physics concentration.


Students interested in concentrating in Chemistry and Physics should discuss their Plans of Study with the assistant director of undergraduate studies. When Plans of Study are approved, each undergraduate who elects to concentrate in the field is assigned a faculty adviser from either the physics or chemistry department. If students do not request a change in adviser, they have the same adviser until they graduate. It is expected that students will discuss their programs and review their progress with faculty advisers at the beginning of each term. Students are told to seek advice at any time and can see their advisers at regularly scheduled office hours or by making an appointment. Students may also seek advice from the director or assistant director of undergraduate studies or chair of the Chemistry and Physics Committee at anytime.

For up-to-date information on advising in Chemistry and Physics, please see the Advising Programs Office website.


The resources and facilities available to this concentration are essentially those of the chemistry and physics departments combined. Hence the descriptions of those concentrations should be consulted for further information.


The pamphlet The SPS Guide to Physics and Related Fields, available from the assistant director of undergraduate studies in Lyman 233, provides useful information about the opportunities for the study of physics and physics-related areas at Harvard. Much of this information is also relevant to the concentration in Chemistry and Physics.

Advice and personal consultation concerning the concentration can be obtained from the director of undergraduate studies, Professor Howard Georgi, Jefferson 456,, 617-496-8293, and the assistant director of undergraduate studies, Dr. David Morin, Lyman Laboratory 233,, 617-495-3257. For office hours, check the website.

Official acceptance into the concentration program is made only through the office of the assistant director of undergraduate studies, who must sign the Plan of Study.


Non-exempt areas:

Exempt areas:

Foreign Cultures

Quantitative Reasoning

†Historical Study A

Science A

†Historical Study B

Science B

†Literature and Arts A

ONE of the areas marked †.

Literature and Arts B


†Literature and Arts C


Moral Reasoning


Social Analysis


For more information on fulfilling the Core requirement, see the Core Curriculum Requirement.

All students—regardless of concentration—planning to graduate under the requirements of the Program in General Education must complete one letter-graded course in each of the eight categories in General Education. The Class of 2013 is the first to enter the College under these requirements. Students who entered Harvard College in September 2008 or earlier are expected to fulfill the requirements of the Core Curriculum, but will be permitted to switch to the Program in General Education if such a change is possible and advisable given their overall schedule and plan of study. For more information on the requirements of the Program in General Education and the possibility of switching to it, please see The Program in General Education in Chapter 2 and the General Education website.


Number of Concentrators as of December







Chemistry & Physics






Chemistry & Physics + another field






Another field + Chemistry & Physics