I study chemistry in the College of Chemistry, a college only home to about 800 undergraduates and several hundred graduate students. Because of it’s ranking (it truly is the strongest department in the world) and because of it’s intimacy as one of the smallest colleges on campus. I chose to become a student here, and my time in the College of Chemistry has been my defining experience so far.
For one thing, unlike the majority of students at Cal, we come into our majors declared, meaning there’s a little less apprehension about our course of study. The prerequisite courses- Chem 4, physics, and math- may appear as large lectures to the average student, but I quickly found my community in my classes, because it’s not uncommon to bounce from lecture to lecture with a peer in your major that has the exact same sequence. Our college has fewer breadth requirements, so while many folks are taking classes from all different subjects, we chemistry kids stick together. Now, as a sophomore, if I meet another sophomore for the first time who tells me they’re also in the College of Chemistry, I’m usually surprised that we haven’t yet met because our college really is that small and community-based. These prerequisite courses sure aren’t easy, but having friends to get through four hour labs and dozens of exams together makes the whole experience just a little less daunting.
Additionally, the advisors do a wonderful job of supporting students. This year, a beautiful new study center was built for us, where I can go for peer tutoring, or draw out mechanisms on whiteboard tables, and it’s not uncommon to find a student napping on the back couch. This little room in Bixby Commons is another place where you can walk in and find a friend at all times, building the academic camaraderie that is so distinct among my major.
In case you haven’t already heard, UC Berkeley researchers are responsible for countless groundbreaking discoveries in the field. From discovering sixteen elements on the periodic table (that’s sixteen more than Stanford!), having 14 Nobel Prize winners, and even coming up with the covalent bond! When you consider how much fundamental research has been accomplished in these same buildings, it is truly humbling.
On a lighter note, it’s not just the science and students that make this college special. The Coffee Lab in the courtyard serves yummy food and drinks all day and you can order the “Neutron” drink– free of charge! The view from the 7th floor of Tan Kah Kee Hall is one of the closest views you can get of the Campanile without actually being atop it. When you take an exam and need a periodic table, they actually hand out a photocopied sheet that has the signature of Glenn Seaborg– Nobel Laureate, discoverer of Seaborgium, and former chancellor.
Can you tell that I love my college? If you ever take a course in Pimentel, or have lab in Latimer, or take the beloved organic chemistry courses, just know that those spaces are in fact cherished by the folks like me who have found our home in the College of Chemistry. Chemistry doesn’t have to be scary and it doesn’t have to be loathed, because I can tell you there’s about 800 students at this school that would disagree with you, myself included.