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Program Overview

Chemistry and Biochemistry

Explore the dynamic center of the sciences.

Photo credit: Mike Crupi

Why Chemistry? A Transformative, Ubiquitous Field of Modern Science

From public health and drug discovery to agriculture and nutrition, chemistry touches everything. It is about synthesis, where creation and discovery go hand in hand, leading to breakthroughs in medicine, food, materials, energy and sustainability. At Oberlin, the chemistry and biochemistry curriculum encompasses all the major fields: organic, biochemistry, analytic, physical, environmental and inorganic chemistry. Students work with faculty in cutting edge research laboratories at the forefront of chemical science, going on to pursue careers in medicine, industry, academia and beyond.

A Mentor-Guided, Student-Focused Research Experience

At Oberlin, world class faculty in chemistry and biochemistry work directly with students to help guide their explorations and research, often yielding publishable results. Our majors are friendly, passionate, motivated and ready to collaborate. Many combine the study of chemistry or biochemistry with other majors, from biology or computer science to philosophy and music. Our state-of-the-art facilities include research-grade instruments such as NMR spectrometers, a powder X-ray diffractometer, and a scanning electron microscope. Come to Oberlin to receive individualized attention from researchers at the forefront of the field.

Over 75% of majors collaborate with faculty on publishable research

Careers in Medicine

The best physicians combine scientific expertise with a well-rounded interpersonal skill set. At Oberlin, work with our advisors to help pursue your career goals in health and medicine.

A student examines the contents of a container.
Over 8 active laboratories for students to get engaged

Faculty-Student Collaboration

Mentorship and research are cornerstones of the chemistry and biochemistry programs. At Oberlin, students work with faculty to achieve new scientific discoveries.

Two people working in a lab.

Undergraduate Research

Gabriel N. Morais

What drives me the most in the research process is the possibility of discovering new things.

Featured Courses

FYSP 009


From aspirin to zantac, and oxycodone to gene editing, the development of therapeutic drugs is an interdisciplinary scientific effort that can have profound impacts on our health and society. This course will introduce chemical and biological concepts used in the drug discovery process, as well as ethical, economic, and political considerations.

Taught by
Jason Belitsky
CHEM 101

Structure and Reactivity

This entry-level course introduces students to the foundational study of reactions, chemical periodicity, bonding, molecular structure, and other questions central to the field of chemistry. Students have the option to join sections that are taught in workshop mode, emphasizing collaborative problem solving and peer discussion.

Taught by
Matthew (Matt) Elrod
CHEM 327

Synthesis Laboratory

This course introduces students to laboratory work involving the synthesis of organic and inorganic compounds by a variety of techniques (e.g. photochemical, electrochemical, inert atmosphere) and the use of spectroscopic methods (e.g. Fourier-transform NMR, infrared, and ultraviolet) for their characterization. Our lectures further develop the theory and unified application of spectroscopic analysis to solve structural problems.

Taught by
William (Will) Parsons, Shuming Chen
CHEM 374


Learn about the mechanisms of action of modern pesticides and debate their ethical use. Explore how your body uses the biomolecules in the foods you eat to fuel essential cellular functions. Conduct laboratory experiments that identify and quantify proteins in complex solutions like human serum using state-of-the-art instrumentation.

Taught by
Lisa Ryno

Student Profiles

Lead Author on Neonatal Research

After taking Professor Yolanda Cruz’s first year seminar on biotechnology, David Fineman ’22 began researching assisted reproductive technologies. He was recently a lead author on a peer-reviewed article in the Journal of Pediatric Pulmonology.

David Fineman

Nexial Prizewinner

Jane Sedlak '19 believes the fundamental principles of chemistry will help solve some of the most urgent societal problems, including climate change and air pollution. She also thinks a lot about the crossroads of chemistry and art—specifically, the chemistry of colors.

Jane Sedlak

In Search of Renewable Energy

Andrew Santiago '20 manages a rigorous schedule that allows him to take lessons in flute performance while majoring in chemistry and physics. During a summer break he balanced research into aqueous sodium ion batteries with flute practice.

Andrew Santiago

What does Chemistry at Oberlin look like?

A professor demonstrates equipment with a small group.

Professor Manish Mehta demonstrates an NMR probe for students.

Photo credit: Yvonne Gay
A student surrounded by lab equipment.

Chemistry major William Dresser '19 worked with Professor Matt Elrod on atmospheric research during winter term.

Photo credit: Mike Crupi
A professor and student smile while working.

In Lisa Ryno’s lab, students use fluorescence and scanning electron microscopy to explore antibiotic stress responses.

Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones
Two students in a discussion with a professor.

Students in Professor Jason Belitsky's lab discuss their research on Melanin pigments.

Photo credit: Mike Crupi

Next Steps

Get in touch; we would love to chat.

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