The Chemistry Comps Program

Overview and Mission

Previous Comps Visitors and Group Topics

Options for an Individual Comps Experience

2018-19 Comps Document   Deadlines listed on Comps Document   Submit proposal Here

Overview and Mission

A unique graduation requirement of all Carleton students is the "integrative exercise" also known on campus as "comps." The Chemistry Department treats comps as a senior capstone experience that helps students transition from academic course work to becoming independent, life-long learners. Our goals for comps are to give students an opportunity to decompartmentalize their knowledge of chemistry, to apply their academic skills to a difficult problem without obvious answers, and to build new understanding of a cutting edge research field without significant guidance from a professor.

Most of our students complete this requirement in what we call "group comps." For a group comps experience students are assembled into groups to study the research of a prominent chemist. For ten weeks (usually during winter term) the groups grapple with trying to understand the chemist's research through reading the primary literature and group discussion. Learning chemistry at this level requires the students to not only draw on everything they have already learned in course work, but to also realize where their knowledge gaps exist, then to go out and fill those gaps by obtaining and studying the necessary background information. This is all done with a minimum of guidance from a faculty advisor. The experience concludes (usually in early spring term) with the prominent chemist visiting campus and having an extended discussion of their research with the comps group. This discussion gives the students the opportunity to test their understanding of the science, propose possible research directions, hear about current unpublished findings, and to interact one-on-one with a highly respected scientist.

Previous Comps Visitors and Group Topics

Jonathon Sweedler, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:  D-amino acids in our brain: what are they doing and how did they get there?
Dr. Bruce Parkinson, University of Wyoming:  Photoelectrochemical Energy Conversion on Earth and Mars
Gerard Wright, McMaster University:  Revisiting natural products to address the antibiotic crisis
Catherine Drennan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA:  Shake, Rattle & Roll:  Capturing Snapshots of Metalloproteins in Action

David Milstein, The Weizmann Institute of Science:  Design and Applications of Sustainable Catalysis Based on Cooperative Pincer Complexes
Janet Morrow, SUNY, Buffalo:  Iron, Cobalt and Nickel Complexes as Responsive MRI Contrast Agents
Christopher Miller, Brandeis University:  A Weird Ion Channel for a Weird Ion:  Fluoride Resistance in Microbes 

Scientist TBA; The Global Atmospheric Carbon Cycle
Martin Zanni; University of Wisconsin, Madison; Ultrafast Spectroscopic Techniques for the Study of Biomolecules and Materials
Christopher T. Walsh; Harvard Medical School; Biosynthetic Enzymology
S. Walter Englander; University of Pennsylvania; Biophysical Chemistry of Protein Folding

Scott Mabury; University of Toronto; Fluorinated Compounds in the Environment
Debra Rolison; Naval Research Laboratory; Chemistry of Nanostructured Materials
John Gerlt; University of Illinois; Genomic Enzymology

Loren Williams; Georgia Institute of Technology; Evolution of Metalloenzymes
Eric Anslyn; University of Texas, Austin; Molecular Recognition and Sensing
Graham Fleming; University of California, Berkeley; Ultrafast Behavior of Complex Systems
Robert Grubbs; California Institute of Technology; Organometallic and Polymeric Materials Chemistry

Paul Chirik; Princeton University; Mechanistic Organometallic Chemistry
Antoine van Oijen; Groningen University; Single Molecule Biophysics
Cathy Murphy; University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Materials Chemistry Using Nanotechnology

Jeanne Pemberton; University of Arizona; Surface Chemistry
Barbara Imperiali; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Protein Structure, Function, and Design
Jess Adkins; California Institute of Technology; Chemical Oceanography and Climate
Bill Jones; University of Rochester; Metal Catalyzed C-H Activation

Geri Richmond; University of Oregon; Interfacial Chemistry
Ken Raymond; University of California, Berkeley; Coordination Chemistry
Benjamin Cravatt; The Scripps Research Institute; Proteomics
Dean Toste; University of California, Berkeley; Organic Synthesis

Nate Lewis; California Institute of Technology; Nanocrystalline Titanium Dioxide Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells (group 1); Semiconductor Photochemistry (group 2)
David Tirrell; California Institute of Technology; Macromolecular Chemistry of Artificial Proteins
Christopher Loss; The Culinary Institute of America; Food, Cooking, and Chemistry

Clark Landis; University of Wisconsin, Madison; Computational and Experimental Mechanistic Studies of Metal Catalyzed Asymmetric Hydroformylation
Steven Boxer; Stanford University; Biophysical Chemistry
John Hartwig; University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Organometallics in Organic Synthesis

Kevan Shokat; University of California; Chemical Biology
Harry Gray; California Institute of Technology; Inorganic Chemistry/Biochemistry/Biophysics
R. Graham Cooks; Purdue University; Physical/Analytical/Environmental
Ronald Breaker; Yale University; Riboswitches

Tobin Marks; Northwestern; Organic Electronics
Dan Frisbie; University of Minnesota; Organic Electronics
Carolyn Bertozzi; University of California, Berkeley; Chemical Biology
John Bercaw; Cal Tech; Organometallic Chemistry

Sylvia Ceyer; MIT; Surface Science
Francois Morel; Princeton University; Biogeochemistry of Oceanic Phytoplankton
Gregory Verdine; Harvard University; DNA Repair

Jack Kirsch; University of California, Berkeley; Enzymology
James Heath; California Institute of Technology; Nanoscience
F. Fleming Crim; University of Wisconsin, Madison; Vibrational control of bimolecular reactions

David Cane; Brown University; Biosynthesis of enzymes

Jack Calvert; NCAR; Tropospheric Hydroxyl Radical Chemistry
Judith Klinman; University of California, Berkeley; Chemistry of the Copper Amine Oxidases (CAO)
MO Theory general study group

Laura Kiessling; University of Wisconsin, Madison; Carbohydrate-protein binding in biological processes
Fuel Cells general study group

Kit Cummins; MIT; Activation of small molecules with coordinatively unsaturated metal complexes
Susan Solomon; NOAA; Stratospheric ozone depletion and atmospheric chemistry
JoAnne Stubbe; MIT; Mechanistic studies of ribonucleotide reductase

Ron Hites; Indiana University; Environmental chemistry of dioxins and furans
Michael Marletta; University of Michigan; Biochemistry of nitric oxide
Judith Burstyn; University of Wisconsin, Madison; Bioinorganic chemistry of NO
Bill Tolman; University of Minnesota; Bioinorganic chemistry of copper proteins
John Enemark; University of Arizona; Mo metalloenzymes and M-NO complexes
Synthesis and chemistry of Taxol general study group

C. Dale Poulter; University of Utah; Enzymology of protein prenylation
Dennis Dougherty; California Institute of Technology; p-cation interactions
DNA molecular wire general study group

Richard Zare; Stanford University; Trace analysis on Martian meteors and molecular dynamics
Stephen Benkovic; Pennsylvania State University; Mechanistic studies of catalytic antibodies
The chemistry of fullerenes general study group

Arthur Ellis; University of Wisconsin, Madison; Photochemistry of semiconductors
Peter Schultz; University of California, Berkeley; Catalytic antibodies and site-directed mutagenesis with unnatural amino acids
Paul Barbara; University of Minnesota; Femtosecond laser chemistry and the solvated electron


Graham Fleming; University of Chicago; Bacteriorhodopsin and femtosecond studies of photosynthesis
Paul Bartlett; University of California, Berkeley; Transition state analog inhibition of proteolytic enzymes
The role of computers in chemistry general study group

Perry Frey; University of Wisconsin, Madison; Radicals in enzyme catalyzed reactions - Lysine 2,3-aminomotase and Mechanisms of enzymatic phosporylation
Don Levy; University of Chicago; Spectroscopy of amino acids and peptides in supersonic molecular beams
R. Mark Wightman; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; In vivo electrochemistry and microelectrodes

Fleming Crim; University of Wisconsin, Madison; Vibrationally-mediated photodissociation of small molecules
R. J. Charlson; University of Washington; Atmospheric aerosols and the link to climate
Jacqueline Barton; California Institute of Technology; Transition metal species as probes of DNA structure

Ching Kung; University of Wisconsin, Madison; Structure and mechanistic studies on ion channel proteins
James Jorgenson; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Capillary electrophoresis and capillary HPLC

James Howard; University of Minnesota
Larry Que; University of Minnesota; Bioinorganic chemistry of iron proteins
Jim Tiedje; Michigan State University
Deborah Swackhamer; University of Minnesota; Mechanisms of PCB degradations
Peter Dervan; California Institute of Technology; DNA binding affility and specific cleavage

John Groves and Tom McMurry; Princeton University; Bioinorganic chemistry of cytochrome P450
F. Sherwood Rowland; University of California, Irvine; Stratospheric ozone depletion by CFC's

Robert Bergman; University of California, Berkeley; Organometallic reaction mechanisms

W. Carl Lineberger; University of Colorado; Photoelectron spectroscopy
David Cane; Brown University; Mechanisms of terpene biosynthesis

Gary Gray; University Minnesota
Paul Ortiz de Montellano; University of California, San Francisco; The catalytic mechanism of cytochrome P450
Mark Wrighton; MIT; Chemically modified electrodes, solar energy conversion, and molecular electronics
Cisplatin general study group

Ronald Breslow; Columbia University; Mechanisms of enzymatic catalysis
Dan Rich; University of Wisconsin, Madison

Jeremy Knowles; Harvard University; Mechanistic Studies of b-lactamase
Kenneth Caulton; Indiana University
John Markley; University of Wisconsin, Madison; Physical biochemistry

Dave Nelson; University of Wisconsin, Madison
Maurice Kreevoy; University of Minnesota; Organic chemistry
Robert Bergman; University of California, Berkeley; Oxidative addition of metal complexes to C-H and C=C bonds

Gary Nelsestuen; University of Minnesota
James Espenson; Iowa State University; Kinetics and mechanism of reactions involving transition metals
Larry Miller; University of Minnesota; Organic chemistry

Marian Stankovich; University of Minnesota
Lawrence Dahl; University of Wisconsin, Madison; Synthesis, structure-bonding features, and chemical reactivities of metal clusters
John Wood; University of Minnesota; Environmental biochemistry

Roald Hoffmann; Cornell University; Applications of molecular orbital theory in inorganic and organic chemistry

Harry Gray; California Institute of Technology; Electron transfer in metalloproteins

Options for an Individual Comps Experience

Not all students are able or want to participate in a group comps experience. Scheduling issues or a lack of desire to work within a group format are reasons students might opt for an individual option. The Chemistry Department offers two individual options for completing the college-wide comps requirement: the Literature Topic Long Paper or the Research Project Long Paper.

Literature Topic Long Paper

For this option the student selects a topic of personal interest on which to write a paper of 20 to 30 pages in length. The student is required to find a faculty member willing to serve as an advisor and the student must submit a proposal to the department describing their topic. This option involves considerable library work in order to become familiar with the primary literature of the topic. Typical literature topic long papers usually have five to ten primary literature articles that the student has analyzed in great detail. The paper is not merely a library report but is designed to involve the student in the topic as a critical scientist. Personal judgments, criticisms, and suggestions for future directions will play an important role in an excellent paper. Towards the end of the project another faculty member will be asked to serve as a second reader. The project will conclude with a closed discussion of the paper and its conclusions with the faculty advisor and the second reader.

Research Project Long Paper

This option is available to students who have been or are presently involved in a long-term research project. It is intended to provide an opportunity for students to extend the scope of thier laboratory accomplishments to a broader perspective, quite like that of the Literature Topic Long Paper option. The requirements and structure of the experience of the Research Project Long Paper are the same as for the Literature Topic Long Paper. The Research Project Long Paper is not a massive lab report. Rather, it is a research paper, utilizing the literature and laboratory work to explore a topic, part of which the student has become familiar with through a long-term research project.