Chemistry and Biochemistry

230 Physical Sciences Building
(831) 459-4125

Programs Offered

Chemistry B.A.

Chemistry B.S.

Chemistry B.S. with Biochemistry Concentration

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology B.S.

Chemistry Minor

Chemistry M.S.

Chemistry Ph.D.

Chemistry is central to modern science. Ultimately, most phenomena in biology, medicine, materials, engineering, geology, and the environmental sciences can be described in terms of the chemical and physical behavior of atoms and molecules. Because of the wide appeal and utility of chemistry, UC Santa Cruz offers comprehensive lower-division courses in introductory and organic chemistry, differing in emphasis and style, to meet diverse needs. Students should also note the numerous upper-division course offerings and select those most suitable to their academic interests. The curriculum in chemistry exposes the student to the principal areas of modern chemistry, including organic, inorganic, physical, materials, analytical, and biochemistry. The curriculum is designed to meet the needs of students who plan to graduate with a bachelor of arts (B.A.) or a bachelor of science (B.S.) degree, as well as those who wish to pursue an advanced degree. UCSC Chemistry B.A. or B.S. graduates are well prepared to pursue a career in chemistry or a related field. The B.S. degree can be completed with a concentration in biochemistry. 

Research in chemistry at UCSC is closely interwoven with graduate and undergraduate education. The chemistry and biochemistry research program is highly active at the graduate level, and faculty also encourage undergraduates to become involved in research. Research can lead to academic credit in Senior Thesis (CHEM 195A, CHEM 195B, CHEM 195C) or Senior Research (CHEM 199 or CHEM 199F). The department offers a course-based undergraduate research experience in biochemistry (CHEM 160J, CHEM 160K, CHEM 160L) and chemical biology (CHEM 161J, CHEM 161K, CHEM 161L). There are also opportunities for interdisciplinary research combining chemistry with a wide range of sciences, for example, biology, physics, geology, ocean sciences, microbiology, and environmental toxicology. At UCSC, it is not uncommon for students to become co-authors of original work published in research journals.

Chemistry and biochemistry faculty, research and administrative staff, and approximately 100 graduate students and 15-20 postdoctoral fellows are housed in the Physical Sciences Building near the Science and Engineering Library. The department maintains and constantly expands cutting-edge facilities (such as the Chemical Screening Center, Macromolecular Structure Function Core Facility, Cryo-Electron Microscopy, Mass Spectrometry, NMR Facility, and X-Ray Facility) that enable scientists to carry out their research

The Science and Engineering Library has an excellent collection of current journals and reference works, as well as access to earlier volumes of all the major journals. Many of these are subscribed to online. Additional source material can be readily and rapidly obtained on interlibrary loan.

Undergraduate Program

A degree in chemistry or biochemistry and molecular biology opens the door to a wide variety of academic careers. Some UC Santa Cruz graduates are working as industry researchers in electronic materials, biotechnology, medicinal chemistry, pharmacy, or laser technology. Others have entered government service as research chemists in the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, DOD, DOE, or law enforcement crime laboratories. Fields such as patent law, commercial development, and scientific writing are open to graduates. Many chemistry majors go on to university graduate programs across the nation to prepare for careers in academia, government, or industry. The degrees in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UC Santa Cruz also provide a strong disciplinary background in preparation for a career in the important and much-needed area of science teaching in high school. A major in chemistry is also an excellent beginning for one of the many opportunities in the health sciences and can serve as a preparative degree for medical, dental, and pharmacy school.

The UCSC Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry offers both Chemistry B.S. (with or without biochemistry concentration) and B.A. degree programs. For either degree program, the courses stress the fundamentals of chemistry and allow students to pursue independent research. The B.S. degree provides complete coursework in all subdisciplines of chemistry and can meet the requirements for accreditation by the American Chemical Society. The B.A. degree has fewer specific course requirements and is suited for students who desire more flexibility to explore other academic disciplines. Either degree is suitable for graduate study, getting an industry job following graduation, or preparation for a career or further study in health sciences. 

A minor in chemistry is also offered for those who wish to have a strong complementary program in chemistry while majoring in another area of study.

A B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB) is excellent preparation for medical, dental, and graduate school, as well as careers in biotechnology; pharmaceutical design, development, and sales; food and drug design; and environmental research and protection. The BMB B.S. is interdisciplinary and involves coursework in the Department of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology.

Graduate Program

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry offers three graduate degrees: the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), a thesis Master of Science (M.S.), and a coursework M.S. The Ph.D. and thesis M.S. programs are designed to help students develop into independent scholars while pursuing the excitement of scientific research in a personal, supportive environment. Both the Ph.D. and the research M.S. programs prepare students for careers in academia, industry, government laboratories, and other settings requiring an advanced education in chemistry and related disciplines. The coursework M.S. does not require research and is suited to future teachers and others wishing to update or broaden their chemical expertise. Approximately 100 graduate students are currently enrolled in the graduate program.

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry invites well-known researchers from outside UC Santa Cruz to share and discuss their current research. Visiting speakers from other universities and government or industrial research labs expose students to advances at the frontiers of chemical research, offering the opportunity for personal contact with leading scientists. All Ph.D. and thesis M.S students are required to enroll in the CHEM 291, Research Seminar until they have advanced to candidacy.

Teaching assistantships provide both financial support and the opportunity to put into practice the required pedagogical training offered in CHEM 296 (presentation techniques, discussion strategies, laboratory teaching skills, laboratory safety procedures, and time management). Doctoral students may also be supported as graduate-student researchers.