Department of Chemistry

Areas of Study

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Overview of Degrees and Programs

The Department of Chemistry offers programs leading to the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, and Master of Science degrees in chemistry. The Bachelor of Science in Education degree is also available with a concentration in chemistry. The Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science curricula are designed to prepare undergraduate students for careers as professional chemists, entrance into medical or dental schools, or graduate work in chemistry. Both programs are flexible and permit the options of a heavy concentration in chemistry courses or a combination of a chemistry major with extensive course work in allied (other sciences) or non-allied (e.g., business, arts) areas. In order to develop their academic programs to meet specific needs and individual interests, students should consult their academic advisors. The Bachelor of Science program is certified by the American Chemical Society.

Traditional Areas of Study


Analytical chemistry is the study of the separation, qualitative analysis (identification), and quantitative analysis (determination of quantity) of the chemical components of natural and artificial materials. Separation of components is often performed prior to analysis. Some of the separation techniques are accomplished by using chromatography or electrophoresis methods. Analytical methods can be separated into classical and instrumental. Classical methods (also known as wet chemistry methods) use separations such as precipitation, extraction, and distillation and qualitative analysis by color, odor, or melting point. Instrumental methods use an apparatus to measure physical quantities of an analyte, such as light absorption, fluorescence, or conductivity. Analytical chemistry is also focused on improvements in experimental design, chemometrics, and the creation of new measurement tools to obtain better chemical information. Analytical chemistry has applications in forensics, bioanalysis, clinical analysis, environmental analysis, and materials analysis.


Organic chemistry is that branch of chemistry that deals with the structure, properties, and reactions of compounds containing carbon. These compounds may include any number of other elements, including hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, the halogens as well as phosphorus, silicon and sulfur. Organic compounds are structurally diverse. The application of organic compounds is wide ranging. They form the basis of, or are important constituents of many products (plastics, drugs, petrochemicals, food, explosives, paints, to name but a few) and, with very few exceptions, they form the basis of all earthly life processes. Chemists in general and organic chemists in particular can create new molecules never before proposed which, if carefully designed, may have important properties for the betterment of the human experience.


Inorganic chemistry is the branch of chemistry concerned with the properties and behavior of inorganic compounds. This field covers all chemical compounds except the organic compounds (carbon based compounds, usually containing C-H bonds). It has applications in every aspect of the chemical industry–including catalysis, materials science, pigments, surfactants, coatings, medicine, fuel, and agriculture.


Physical chemistry is the study of macroscopic, atomic, subatomic, and particulate phenomena in chemical systems in terms of physical laws and concepts; often using the principles, practices and concepts of physics, like motion, energy, force, time, thermodynamics, quantum chemistry, statistical mechanics and dynamics. Physical chemists aim to develop a fundamental understanding at the molecular and atomic level of how materials behave and how chemical reactions occur, knowledge that is relevant in nearly every area of chemistry. These scientists study diverse topics, from biochemistry to materials properties to the development of quantum computers. Physical chemistry applies physics and math to problems that interest chemists, biologists, and engineers. Physical chemists use theoretical constructs and mathematical computations to understand chemical properties and describe the behavior of molecular and condensed matter. Their work involves manipulations of data as well as materials. Physical chemists have also developed molecular simulation tools that are becoming fundamental to research in all areas of chemistry. Theoretical chemistry involves the use of physics to explain or predict chemical phenomena and may be divided broadly into electronic structure, dynamics, and statistical mechanics.

Specialized Areas of Study


Environmental chemistry is an interdisciplinary science that includes atmospheric, aquatic and soil chemistry, as well as heavily relying on analytical chemistry. Environmental chemistry involves first understanding how the uncontaminated environment works, which chemicals in what concentrations are present naturally, and with what effects. Without this it would be impossible to accurately study the effects humans have on the environment through the release of chemicals. Environmental chemists draw on a range of concepts from chemistry and various environmental sciences to assist in their study of what is happening to a chemical species in the environment. Important general concepts from chemistry include understanding chemical reactions and equations, solutions, units, sampling, and analytical techniques.


Polymer chemistry or macromolecular chemistry is a multidisciplinary science that deals with the chemical synthesis and chemical properties of polymers or macromolecule. Polymers are formed by polymerization of monomers. A polymer is chemically described by its degree of polymerisation, molar mass distribution, tacticity, copolymer distribution, the degree of branching, by its end-groups, crosslinks, crystallinity and thermal properties such as its glass transition temperature and melting temperature. Polymers in solution have special characteristics with respect to solubility, viscosity and gelation.


Materials Chemistry is one of today's most dynamic research fields with a huge impact on social development and on our entire way of life. There is an ever increasing demand for new materials and for improving existing ones for many diverse technological applications: computers, electronics, communication, energy storage, solar cells, machine tools, biomaterials, sensors – to name but a few. The current development in Materials Science towards “nanoscience” and the availability of nanomaterials stimulates new applications in many broad areas, such as information technologies, health care, energy and environment.


Bioorganic chemistry is a blend of organic chemistry and biochemistry.  Biochemistry uses fundamental chemistry concepts to expand knowledge of biological systems and bioorganic chemistry extends this vision using the tenets of organic chemistry (structure, synthesis, and physical parameters). Studies in this arena have led to many of the important improvements in nutrition, public health in general, and treatment and prevention of diseases through drug development.


Nanotechnology or nanoscience is the study of nanoscale (one billionth of a meter) materials that exhibit remarkable properties, functionality, and phenomena due to the influence of their small dimensions. Nanotechnology, based on the manipulation, control, and integration of atoms and molecules to form materials, structures, components, devices, and systems at the nanoscale, is the application of nanoscience, especially to industrial and commercial objectives. The implications of nanotechnology extend from medical, ethical, legal and environmental applications, to fields such as chemistry, engineering, biology, materials science, computing, military applications, and communications. Major benefits of nanotechnology include cheap and powerful energy generation, universal clean water supplies, maximized productivity of agriculture, radically improved formulation of drugs, drug delivery, medical diagnostics and organ replacement, reduced cost and increased performance of electronics (e.g., memory, displays, processors, solar powered components, and embedded intelligence systems).