Chemistry 115/116 Honors Sequence

CHEM 115/116 Chemical Principles I/II is a two-semester mathematically based honors chemistry sequence designed for well-prepared and highly motivated first year students with an interest in science or engineering. The goal of this unique sequence is to expose first year students to the frontiers of science, which is much sooner than is usually possible in the first year of college. The physical and experimental origins of key chemical models are emphasized, focusing on quantum mechanics, which is a subject that chemistry majors do not typically learn until they are juniors or seniors. Advanced mathematics and physics are used as needed. Lecture material connects basic chemical principles with state-of-the-art research and in 116, students are placed into research laboratories for guided research over 7 weeks.

Course Details

  •  Class size is small with about 25-30 students.
  •  Each course is 5 credits and includes three 50-minute lectures, one 3-hour laboratory, and one 50-minute discussion weekly.
  •  CHEM 115 is offered only in the fall semesters, followed by CHEM 116 in the spring semester.
  •  CHEM 115 explores a detailed atomic and molecular view of matter and its interactions, with a specific focus on quantum theory, molecular structure, and chemical bonding.
  •  CHEM 116 provides a quantitative treatment of macroscopic phenomena including thermodynamics, chemical equilibria, solution behavior, electrochemistry, and chemical kinetics.
  •  A highlight of the 115/116 sequence is a seven-week independent research project during the spring semester in which students are placed in various research groups across campus. In recent years, students have had projects in chemistry, biochemistry, chemical engineering, physics, materials science, cell and regenerative biology, pharmacy, and human oncology.

About the Instructors

Professor Martin Zanni is a physical chemist who specializes in spectroscopy with applications to new solar cells and biophysics.  He will teach CHEM 115 in fall 2021. Professor Arun Yethiraj is a theoretical chemist, who studies soft condensed matter, covering topics like ionic liquids, polymers, and batteries. He will teach CHEM 116 in spring 2022.  You can find their websites at and (Add about 10 years of age to their portraits.)

What are the Requisites?

Quantitative Reasoning Part A: Students must have satisfied the UW-Madison general education requirements of Quantitative Reasoning Part A. This requirement may be satisfied via the UW System Math Placement test.

Math Experience: Proficiency in first semester calculus (equivalent to MATH 221 at UW-Madison or one year of high school calculus) is required.  Concurrent enrollment in second semester calculus (MATH 222) or higher is strongly recommended.

Chemistry: One year of high school chemistry is required.

Physics: One year of high school physics is required.

What degree requirements do Chemistry 115 and 116 satisfy?

CHEM 115 and 116 together satisfy both general and analytical chemistry requirements for any major at UW-Madison. Chemistry, biochemistry, and chemical engineering majors specifically require both general and analytical chemistry. The sequence can also be used to satisfy general chemistry and elective requirements for many other science and engineering majors. Both CHEM 115 and 116 earn honors credits, and they count towards L&S physical science breadth requirements.

Due to the order of topics, CHEM 115 alone will not satisfy general chemistry requirements. For this reason, students who take CHEM 115 in the fall should intend to continue with 116 in the spring. Students not wishing to continue to CHEM 116 after completing CHEM 115 should contact the chemistry advisor to discuss options.

Is Chemistry 115/116 a good choice for me?

If you think math is fun and enjoyed your high school physics class, then you should consider 115/116. If you like the fundamentals of chemistry (how electrons hold molecules together, for example) and are intrigued by quantum mechanics, then consider this course. If you want to work in a research laboratory during your first year of college, consider this sequence.

Students who are accepted to CHEM 115 will have an opportunity to consult with their SOAR advisor and/or the SOAR Chemistry consultant about whether CHEM 115/116 is a good option given their interests and goals.

How To Apply

Incoming first-year students who have accepted their offer of admission to UW-Madison and meet the requirements described above are eligible to apply to the CHEM 115/116 sequence. Here are some steps to take before starting your application for CHEM 115.

  • Activate your UW-Madison NetID. Doing so will give you access to your UW Madison G Suite (Google Suite) account. The CHEM 115 application form is only open to those with a UW Madison NetID and G Suite account.
  • Register for your required UW System Placement tests. Your offer of admission from UW-Madison should have included information about which tests you need to take. Instructions on how to register are available on the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page of the SOAR website. It is recommended that you take the placement tests as soon as possible (in May) so that your math placement test results are available when we are reviewing applications. You do not need to have taken the tests prior to submitting your CHEM 115 application.
  • Obtain an unofficial copy of your high school transcript. If you have taken college courses, find those transcripts as well. Combine transcripts into a single pdf and name the file with your last name, then first name, and “Transcripts”. For example, Bucky Badger’s file would be named “BadgerBucky Transcripts”.
  • If you have taken any AP or IB exams and your scores are now available, gather the unofficial score reports. Combine them into a single pdf and name the file with your last and first names, as in “BadgerBecky Test Scores”. Scores from AP or IB tests taken in spring 2021 will not be available until after the application is due.
  • Be sure you are logged in with your UW NetID and your UW Google account when attempting to access the application. More information about the UW Google Suite is here.

Apply Here

Applications are due by 8:00 AM on Tuesday, June 1, 2021. We intend to notify applicants whether they have been accepted to the class around Monday, June 14. Questions may be addressed to