Chemical Physics

You will explore the rapidly evolving research at  the intersection of chemistry and physics and build knowledge and lab skills in both fields. Your classes will be small and you will have extensive research opportunities.

Jake Hamill '17 in the Chemical Physics lab doing summer research

A student’s formula: science plus math, humanities, social science

Jake Hamill ’17 talks about the Hamilton College chemistry department like a really hungry person talks about an all-you-can-eat buffet. Hamill, a chemical physics major, says there are more excellent courses at Hamilton than he’ll ever be able to take. He admits that’s partly because he has two minors – economics and math. He also plays on the succor and golf teams. Hamill is spending a summer doing paid research with Professor Karen Brewer, work that involves rare earth elements and fluorescence. The opportunity to do research was one of the reasons he chose Hamilton. Other reasons: small classes and close relationships with faculty.

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Despite Hamill’s appetite for chemistry, he’s made time for courses such as art history, religious studies and classical studies. He wants to improve his writing. “By taking courses in these other disciplines I’ve been able to get a feel for how to write in general, for any sort of field, regardless of wherever I end up,” he says. He’s still thinking about what he wants to do after he graduations. He knows what he doesn’t want to do – go into the medical sciences. He is thinking he may work for a pharmaceutical company or attend grad school to study physical chemistry or chemical physics.

Carlos Rico '10
Carlos Rico '10

A graduate’s progress: a fellowship and pursuit of a Ph.D.

For Carlos Rico '10, studying science at Hamilton College was “pure bliss." “The professors were just so enthusiastic and loving of science, and it was very contagious,” says Rico, who was a chemical physics major and is pursuing a doctorate in the Tri-Institutional Training Program in Chemical Biology through The Rockefeller University.

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Rico is studying G-protein coupled receptors, which are proteins located in the plasma membrane of cells and are important for cell-to-cell communication.

“We are interested in working with a subset of receptors, known as chemokine receptors, because they are involved in many roles, such as inflammation, cell trafficking, organ development, viral infection and cancer,” Rico explains.

In 2012, he won a prestigious National Science Foundation graduate fellowship that supports his research and, he says, “gives me the scientific freedom to pursue ideas of my own with support from my advisor.” When Rico finishes his Ph.D., he wants to land a post-doctoral fellowship and then apply for academic positions.

“I would love to one day contribute to scientific knowledge by being able to answer a very difficult problem no one has ever been able to,” he says.