Chemistry

Chemistry, once christened the “Queen of Sciences” is perhaps the central mainstream science subject, and is always in an exciting state of change and progress.  In a rapidly-changing world, Chemistry continues to make a major contribution to technology, including such diverse areas as the pharmaceutical and electronic industries. By interfacing with Biology and Physics, endeavours as different as the fight against cancer and AIDS, avoidance of global warming and the design of high-temperature superconductors are enhanced.  Advances are being made continually in our understanding of the fundamental concepts at the core of Chemistry, and new methods to synthesise and characterise materials mean that research in Chemistry continues to make important breakthroughs.

The Oxford Chemistry degree is an academic and intellectual course that aims to provide students with a state-of-the-art understanding of broad-ranging chemical principles, enabling them to specialise eventually in any field of choice.  The course stresses a sound grounding in key areas of Chemistry yet offers opportunities to specialise progressively over the 4 years.  The diversity and breadth of the early part of the course leaves students better prepared to succeed in future challenges and the depth possible particularly in the Part II – a 9 month full time research project in the 4th year of the course – allows a taste of real cutting-edge research.  Perhaps because of the opportunities offered in the Part II of the course, on graduation as many as 50% of Oxford Chemists proceed to post-graduate studies in Chemistry or other sciences.

But, choosing to study Chemistry at Oxford is not a vocational choice.  Importantly, Chemistry is a numerate discipline and use of computers and IT skills are of core importance.  More than this, the course at Oxford provides a general training and the development of a wide range of key skills including writing, interpreting data, and constructing and presenting arguments; this allows graduates to enter a huge variety of professions.  In the words of the Government assessors of the Oxford Chemistry course “(There is) clear evidence of the acquisition of transferable skills; oral skills and individual confidence are particularly strong features of Oxford students … (the course) concentrates on intellectual development and the acquisition of skills sufficient to enable graduates to embark on research degrees or to enter a wide range of careers within or outside the subject.”  Oxford Chemists are in demand in many fields!

Evidence for the wide range of careers pursued by graduating Chemistry students, and much other useful information can be found in the Chemistry Prospectus. You will find lots of interesting things at the award-winning website of the Chemistry Department.

Advantages of Keble

Keble has an excellent reputation in Chemistry.  Professor Anderson, for example, has recently been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society for his pioneering work on the design and synthesis of supramolecular materials and molecular wire.  The Chemistry students at Keble have an excellent team spirit and the tutors are enthusiastic, experienced and cover the full range of options in the course.  Teaching for organic, inorganic and physical chemistry can be done in-college.

Chemistry students are well-represented among the College Scholarships awarded after the 1st year examinations.  There is a dedicated prize, the Denis Meakins prize, for best all-round performance in Chemistry and extra-curricular activities, awarded annually to a first or second year.

The College Library has an excellent up-to-date collection of books for studying Chemistry at the undergraduate level.

We are very conveniently situated close to the University Science Area, which contains the Laboratories, Lecture Theatres and Science Libraries.

Course structure

Up-to-date information on the course and how to apply can be found from the subject's page on the University admissions website. The Chemistry course at Oxford aims to lead students progressively towards the limits of present-day knowledge of the subject, starting with a breadth of study and emphasising key concepts, and gradually allowing greater depth in more specialized areas as the course progresses.

In the first year a broadly based course of Physical, Organic and Inorganic Chemistry, and Mathematics is followed.  The syllabus ranges widely, covering necessary physical concepts and also the application of Chemistry to Biology.  There is laboratory-based practical work in all the branches of chemistry and in I.T. At the end of the academic year examinations (so-called “Prelims”) are taken in each of the four subjects.  This is a pass-fail exam, meaning that the results are not carried forward to the final degree classification, though Distinctions in the exams are noted and form the basis for the award of College Scholarships.

In the second year of the course a wide-ranging syllabus of Physical, Organic and Inorganic Chemistry is studied and an examination in each of the 3 branches is set at the end of the academic year.  In addition to the core syllabus, a subsidiary subject can be chosen from a range of topics, such as Quantum Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Chemistry and History & Philosophy of Science, allowing study of a more specialized area in greater depth.  An examination will also be taken in the chosen supplementary subject.  The examinations taken in the second year account for 15% of the total degree marks.

In the third year more advanced aspects of Physical, Organic and Inorganic Chemistry form the core of the Chemistry syllabus and an exam will be taken in each.  Additionally three subjects from a wide range are taken as “Advanced Subjects” with the aim of studying an area of modern Chemistry in greater depth and detail.  Assessment of the Advanced Subjects and the three core syllabus exams together account for 60% of the total degree marks and this completes “Part I” of the course.

The final, and for many the most exciting, year is devoted to the “Part II”, which is a 9-month full-time research project carried out in the laboratory of one of the many Chemistry or related research groups.  You will have the opportunity to be supervised by a world-class scientist and work alongside postgraduate and postdoctoral research workers.  The results of the research project are presented in the form of a 60-page dissertation and also assessed by a viva exam, leading to a mark accounting for 25% of the degree.  The results of many Part II projects go on to be published in scientific journals.

The class of the M.Chem. degree awarded at the end of four years depends on the results of Part I and II considered together.

Typical pattern of teaching

During Part I of the course, each week an undergraduate student may typically attend:

10 Lectures. These are provided by the Chemistry Department for students from all Colleges.
1-3 Tutorials/Classes. Teaching groups are typically from 2-8 students with a tutor.  At least one of these tutorials/classes will be provided in the College, but, particularly for some of the 1st year courses (such as Mathematics) and the Advanced Subjects studied in the 3rd Year, University-supplied classes may be attended.  The tutorials and classes are typically synchronised with the departmental Lecture Course.  Preparing for your college tutorial will constitute the main part of your individual study and involves writing essays, tackling problems and preparing yourself to be able to discuss the underlying concepts with your tutor.
0-2 Afternoons of Laboratory Practical Work.  This includes the IT course.  The timetabling of practical work varies through the course, but compared to many universities is unusually flexible, allowing you great freedom to organise your study to a personal timetable.

Your College Tutors will set Vacation Work, which is usually designed to help recapitulate the term’s work or to allow more discursive study of a subject, which was not possible during the term.

College Examinations are set by the College Tutors at the start of each term.  They do not count towards the degree results in the way that University-set Examinations do, but they serve to allow students and their tutors to gauge progress.

Part II is performed generally in the research group of a University Lecturer/Professor in Chemistry or a related subject.  You will be a full-time member of that research group, working closely with your supervisor and other people in the group.

Qualities sought for entry

The qualities sought for entry to Chemistry are consistent across all the colleges. For further information see the department of Chemistry's selection criteria and the Chemistry page of the Oxford Undergraduate Prospectus.

Chemistry

Approximate yearly intake Keble: 8
Department: 190
Department Website Chemistry Department

Enquiries

Via the College Office.

Tutors

Prof Harry Anderson Professorial Fellow in Chemistry

Prof Stephen Faulkner Tutorial Fellow in Inorganic Chemistry

Dr Stephen Fletcher Tutorial Fellow in Organic Chemistry

Dr Jason Lee Stipendiary Lecturer in Physical Chemistry

Dr Alexander Gentleman College Lecturer in Physical Chemistry

Gogulan Karanithy College Lecturer in Physical Chemistry