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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.

Chemical physics major Grace Williams-DuHamel ’15
Chemical physics major Grace Williams-DuHamel ’15

A student shoulders chemistry, physics – and hefty novels

Science and math are Grace Williams-DuHamel ’15’s métier. She’s a chemical physics major and a probable math minor who earned a Clare Booth Luce Research Award and a grant form the College to conduct chemistry research over a summer. Williams-Duhamel has been known to say she’d be happy never taking another English class. Still, she enrolled in “Murder, Madness and Mayhem,” a Russian lit class taught by Associate Professor of Russian John Bartle. “It was great,” she says. “Loved the class, loved the books we read like Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky. It was just great. Crime and Punishment was a little rough to get through…” She picked a liberal arts college to gain exposure to subjects outside her natural element, and it paid off in great books.

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With her competing passions of physics, chemistry and the desire to study abroad, she figured something would have to get pushed aside. Then Physics Professor Ann Silversmith told her about the chemical physics major, which has been a path to grad school for other students. Williams-DuHamel went for the major and spent a semester Denmark. She is pondering post-Hamilton options that include, among other things, graduate school in chemistry, chemical physics or pharmacology.

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.