2021-2022 Pitzer Catalog 
    Jul 07, 2022  
2021-2022 Pitzer Catalog

W.M. Keck Science Department

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A joint program with Claremont McKenna and Scripps Colleges.

The Keck Science Program offers courses of study for students interested in enlarging their understanding of natural phenomena and also courses for students desiring a major in biology, chemistry, management-engineering, physics, science and management, or some interdisciplinary combination of these areas. For example, interdisciplinary majors in biology-chemistry and biology-physics are available. Premedical and environmental emphases through the above majors are two particular strengths of the Keck Science Program.

For students interested in the biological bases of behavior, a major in neuroscience is available. This major provides preparation for graduate work in biology, psychology, neuroscience, as well as preparation for medical school or a profession in the health sciences. See neuroscience  for major requirements.

In a world of growing scientific and technological complexity, the Keck Science Department recognizes the need to provide instruction in science for those students not concentrating in science. Thus, the courses specifically designed to meet the Pitzer Science Requirement for non-science majors are numbered in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. In general, courses fulfilling the science requirement:

  • Elucidate the nature of science as a process for exploring and understanding the environment we live in, with particular attention given to understanding when it is appropriate to apply the scientific method to a problem and when it is not.
  • Involve principles of science, which increase understanding of some of the fundamental concepts of chemistry, physics and/or biology and the manner in which these concepts interrelate.
  • Involve a college-level laboratory experience, which provides practice in confronting problems that can be analyzed by the scientific method.
  • Provide experience in quantitative reasoning and relationships, including basic mathematical concepts, statistical relationships and work with computers.
  • Explore applications of science and technology, which increase understanding of the relationship between basic science and technology and how that relationship has developed and introduce the complexities involved in the application of science and technology to meet societal needs.

Requirements for the Major in Science

Requirements for a major in biology, chemistry and physics include an individual senior research thesis. The senior thesis usually consists of a laboratory project directed by a member of the Keck Science faculty. The research project is often initiated in the fall semester. During the spring semester, project research is culminated and results are summarized in a written thesis and formal presentation. Seniors meet weekly throughout both semesters to discuss and present reports on their research projects and to hear lectures by a variety of speakers. Some seniors engage in one-semester research projects; these students register for the project during the semester when the thesis is written

Honors in Science

To be considered for departmental honors in one of the science majors listed in this catalog, a student must:

  • Achieve a minimum grade point average of 3.5 in courses in the major; and
  • Complete a one- or two-semester thesis project in which the student has demonstrated excellence by making a significant contribution to the progress of the research, by producing a thesis document judged to be of honors quality by the department, by presenting the work in a cogent fashion, and by engaging in the departmental seminar program.

AP Credit

Biology: An AP score of 4 or 5 on the AP Biology exam will be granted one elective course credit toward graduation but will not be counted toward a biology major requirement. Placement in upper-level biology courses is only done by examination by the Biology discipline.

Chemistry: An AP score of 4 or 5 on the AP Chemistry exam will be granted one elective course credit toward graduation. Decisions on possible placement into CHEM 015L KS  (or CHEM 029L KS  ), or CHEM 042L KS  , will be determined on an individual basis after consultation (and examination for CHEM 029L KS  ) by the Chemistry discipline.

Physics: An AP score of 4 or 5 on the AP Physics exam will be granted one elective course credit toward graduation but will not count toward a major requirement in physics or engineering. Decisions on waiver of courses and placement will be determined on an individual basis after consultation by the Physics discipline.

Learning Outcomes of the Keck Science Program

Students completing a major in the Keck Science Department should demonstrate the ability to:

1. Use foundational principles to analyze problems in nature.
2. Develop hypotheses and test them using quantitative techniques.
3. Articulate applications of science in the modern world.
4. Effectively communicate scientific concepts both verbally and in writing.


The faculty and the areas in which they are particularly willing to direct independent study are as follows:

J. Armstrong: Genetics, cell and molecular biology; chromatin dynamics and gene regulation in the fruit fly.
K. Black: Organic chemistry; reaction mechanisms studied by computational techniques.
S. Budischak: Disease ecology; host-parasite interactions; immunology; physiological ecology; co-infection and community ecology.
P. Chandrangsu: Microbiology; molecular biology; biochemistry; microbial stress response.
M. Coleman: Neurobiology, neurophysiology, neural basis of behavior, neural control of auditory-vocal learning in songbirds.
G. Edwalds-Gilbert: Cell and molecular biology; pre-mRNA splicing in yeast.
P. Ferree: Genetics, molecular biology, and early development of Drosophila (fruit flies) and Nasonia (jewel wasps); chromosome structure and evolution; host-pathogen interactions.
F. Finseth: Genomics; evolutionary biology; genetics; selfish evolution, sexual selection, adaptation and speciation in Mimulus (monkeyflowers).
A. Fucaloro: Physical chemistry, especially emission and absorption; molecular spectroscopy; electron impact.
S. Gilman: Marine ecology; invertebrate biology; climate change ecology; biophysical ecology; population biology.
S. Gould: Scanning probe microscopy; physics of sports.
M. Hatcher-Skeers: Applications of nuclear resonance spectroscopy in determining the structure of DNA and other biological macromolecules.
J. Higdon: Astrophysics; fluid dynamics; biophysics.
A. Landsberg: Non-linear systems: pattern formation, bifurcation theory, chaos, Josephson Junctions.
A. Leconte: Biochemical investigation of evolutionary intermediates.

S. Marzen: Reinforcement learning; biophysics; rate-distortion theory; prediction
D. McFarlane: Evolutionary ecology; biogeography; late Quaternary paleoecology and extinctions.
J. Monroy: Neural control and mechanics of animal movement; muscle physiology; comparative animal physiology.
M. Preest: Physiology and ecology of animal energetics; thermal biology of terrestrial ectotherms; osmoregulatory physiology; herpetology; muscle physiology.
K. Purvis-Roberts: Chemistry of urban air pollution, primarily aerosol; public policy aspects of air pollution.
C. Robins: Applications of soil science research to challenges in geomorphology, plant ecology, and environmental science.
B. Sanii: Experimental physical chemistry; self-assembly and bio-inspired folding of soft materials.
L. Schmitz: Functional and evolutionary vertebrate morphology; paleobiology; evolution of vertebrate vision.

J. Sheung: Biological imaging, cellular regeneration, active matter, soft matter, optical spectroscopy, diffractive optics, physics laboratory curriculum development.
U. Sofia: Solar physics; astrophysics; interstellar matter.
Z. Tang: Cell and molecular biology, biochemistry; cell cycle control in yeast.
D. Thomson: Conservation biology, population modeling, ecology of biological invasions, plant ecology and plant/pollinator interactions.
E. Van Arnam: Natural products chemistry and chemical ecology; structure, function, and evolution of microbial metabolites.
A. Wenzel: Catalysis, asymmetric synthetic methodology.
E. Wiley: Molecular biology; genetics; chromatin structure in the ciliate Tetrahymena.
B. Williams: Paleoceanographic reconstructions on recent timescales from marine climate archives.
N. Williams: Fundamental late-metal organometallic chemistry, mechanisms of basic organometallic reactions.

Areas of Study






Environmental Analysis  

Human Biology  

Management Engineering  

Molecular Biology  


Organismal Biology  


Science Management  


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