Focusing on the core principles of chemistry, mathematics, and physics, students take five courses per semester en route to either 1) a double major in two sciences, or 2) a major in chemistry or biochemistry and a submatriculated Masters degree in the same subject. Rather than concentrating primarily on classroom instruction, the program emphasizes the need for students to take an active role in research throughout the university, encouraging students to begin development of their future scientific careers. Included in the program are two paid summers for on-campus research and high levels of interaction with faculty during the academic year.
A freshman in the Vagelos Program takes General Chemistry I, Calculus I or II, and Principles of Physics (including lab). The student may choose to not take General Chemistry and instead take Honors Chemistry or Organic Chemistry. During a Vagelos Scholar’s first year, he or she will also be required to take the Vagelos Scholar’s Seminar taught by the program head, which exposes the student to the scientific community of a research university.
It is expected by the end of the freshman year that over fifty percent of those entering the program will leave due to other interests. Most leave because the university offers many attractive alternative academic and nonacademic opportunities to the college student.
Participation in a faculty research group, of which there are more than 600 located on campus, is strongly encouraged. Participants are encouraged to find work in a biomedical field, though anything related to their studies is acceptable.