The hidden treasure that is CHEM396

by Elias Andraos

As a U2 chemistry student that completed a CHEM 396 project this past summer, I am surprised by how often other students that I mention the course to have not heard of it. I had a really great experience with it, so I thought I’d write up this little FAQ to let people know about the opportunities a CHEM 396 course can offer. 

Most of this applies to any 396 course, but I thought I’d make a pitch for CHEM 396 in particular.

What is a 396 course?

A 396 course is an independent research project that a student completes under the supervision of an instructor. It counts as an elective course and is designed to provide an introduction to undergraduate research. 396 courses are offered under all departments in the faculty of science.

I’m not a Chemistry student, can I still do a CHEM 396?

Yes! Any Bachelor of Science student can take a 396 course in any department at McGill. 

Why should I do a CHEM 396?

Even if you find chemistry absolutely boring (and I’m sorry if you do) it is a very useful tool in many different fields such as environmental science, biochemistry, biology, and many others. Many of the research groups in the department of chemistry at McGill are working on problems relevant to diverse topics such as cancer research, antibiotic resistance, and materials science. Doing a CHEM 396 project can help you see how chemistry can be used to further research in any field you may be studying. Additionally, the chemistry department at McGill has one of the highest research group to student ratios, meaning that there are many professors who have spots for undergraduates in their labs.

How do I approach a professor to ask for a project?

Find a professor whose research you find interesting by reading the short descriptions of their research here: Many professors also link to the website of their research group. Read about their current research to be able to express informed interest in one of their research areas. Whether you want to write an email or try to talk to the professor in person (ideally in a situation where they will have time such as office hours) is up to you, but in either case, have a CV and a transcript ready. Be brave and remember; you’ve got nothing to lose.

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