Department of ChemistryPrinceton University

The Undergraduate Program: Independent Study

Upperclass students at Princeton are responsible for departmental independent work in each term of the junior and senior years, culminating in a senior thesis. Independent study gives students the opportunity to work closely with faculty members on library and laboratory research and in sustained writing projects. The opportunity for independent work and the emphasis given to the senior thesis make the program of study for the A.B. degree at Princeton distinctive.

Junior Independent Work

     Each student participates in the junior colloquium and an informal program of independent work conducted under the supervision of faculty advisers. He or she may choose either (1) independent study of a known area of chemistry (or an area related to chemistry) or (2) independent research on a problem selected by the student and his or her adviser.

First-Term Program

  1. The Junior Colloquium. One evening each week throughout the first term there will be talks by faculty members on topics not normally included in course work. Students will be graded on a short paper based on material covered in the colloquium.

  2. Juniors not ready to choose an adviser will be assigned three successive "tutorial advisers" from the faculty, once each for October, November, and December. Early in October each student choosing this option will see his or her first adviser. They will select, for instance, a recent journal article or a chapter in a book on which the student will prepare a brief written or oral report, outlining the background and significance of the problem under consideration, the direction of the attack of the problem, and the contribution to the solution of the problem made by his or her understanding of the problem and what he or she has read.

    Early in November and December the same process will be repeated with a second and third adviser. The November report will be due November 30 and the December report on the first day of the reading period.

    Tutorial advisers will be selected by the departmental representative for the junior class to give the student a sampling of faculty members and faculty interests. The report grades plus the grade for the junior colloquium, each given equal weight, will be averaged by the departmental representative to provide the student's term grade.

  3. Juniors who wish to select an adviser and begin work in September on a study or research project may do so after consulting the class adviser.

Second-Term Program

     Students in category 2 will select an adviser from the faculty as a whole for their independent work by the start of the second term. This adviser may act as the senior thesis adviser in senior year. During the second term the student will choose either independent research or independent study.

     Students in category 3 will continue work begun in the first term.

Senior Independent Work

     At the end of the junior year each student selects a thesis supervisor (who may or may not be the same as the supervisor during the junior year). The supervisor and the student will agree on a topic on which the student will undertake independent research throughout both terms of the senior year. For qualified students this research will consist largely of laboratory work, but in rare instances it may be based exclusively on a search of the chemical literature. On or before May 1 a written thesis based on this research work must be submitted to the department through the student's supervisor. The thesis constitutes a part of the departmental examination.

     Students planning to enter medical school should consult the section on the program of study for the A.B. degree in the Princeton University Undergraduate Announcement.

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