Chemistry and Biochemistry

The undergraduate degree in chemistry and biochemistry emphasizes knowledge and awareness of:

  • the basic principles of chemistry—atomic and molecular theory, reactivities and properties of chemical substances, and the states of matter;
  • the basic subfields of chemistry—organic, physical, analytical, and inorganic chemistry (and biochemistry for biochemistry majors);
  • mathematics sufficient to facilitate the understanding and derivation of fundamental relationships and to analyze and manipulate experimental data;
  • the basic principles of physics (and for biochemistry majors, knowledge of biology); and 
  • safe chemical practices, including waste handling and safety equipment.

In addition, students completing the degree in chemistry or biochemistry are expected to acquire the ability and skills to:

  • read, evaluate, and interpret information on a numerical, chemical, and general scientific level;
  • assemble experimental chemical apparatus, design experiments, and use appropriate apparatus to measure chemical composition and properties (for biochemistry students, this includes properties of proteins, nucleic acids, and other biochemical intermediates); and
  • communicate results of scientific inquiries verbally and in writing.

Course code for this program is CHEM. 

Bachelor's Degree Program(s)

Undergraduate Study in Chemistry and Biochemistry

A student can earn a bachelor’s degree in either chemistry or biochemistry. For either option, students must complete the general requirements of the College of Arts and Sciences and the required courses listed below.

BA in Chemistry Option

Required Courses and Semester Credit Hours 

  • CHEM 1251 and 1271, General Chemistry 1 and 2 for Chemistry and Biochemistry Majors, or CHEM 1351 and 1371, Honors General Chemistry 1 and 2 (recommended for the student with advanced high school training in mathematics and physics). CHEM 1113/1114 and 1133/1134 General Chemistry 1 and 2 lecture and lab, also accepted—10
  • CHEM 3351 and 3371 Organic Chemistry for Chemistry and Biochemistry Majors 1 and 2 or CHEM 3311 and 3331 Organic Chemistry 1 and 2—8 
  • CHEM 3361 and 3381 Laboratory in Organic Chemistry 1 and 2 for chemistry majors—4
  • CHEM 4011 Inorganic Chemistry—3
  • CHEM 4171 Principles of Instrumental Analysis—3
  • CHEM 4181 Instrumental Analysis Lab with Environmental Emphasis—3
  • CHEM 4511 and 4531 Physical Chemistry 1 and 2 or CHEM 4411 and 4431 Physical Chemistry with Biochemistry Applications 1 and 2—6
  • CHEM 4581/4591 Physical Chemistry Labs 1 and 2—3
  • PHYS 1110 and 1120 General Physics 1 and 2—8 
  • PHYS 1140 Experimental Physics 1—1
  • MATH 1300, 2300, and 2400, Analytical Geometry, and Calculus 1, 2, and 3 or APPM 1350, 1360, and 2350—12/14
  • All students, and especially those intending to go on to graduate school in chemistry, will benefit from additional advanced courses. Recommended electives include the following: CHEM 3151, 3251, 4021, 4251, 4261, 4271, 4611, 4711, 4731, 4901, graduate courses in various fields of chemistry, or advanced courses in mathematics or physics.

BA in Biochemistry Option

Required Courses and Semester Credit Hours 

  • CHEM 1251 and 1271, General Chemistry 1 and 2 for Chemistry and Biochemistry Majors, or CHEM 1351 and 1371, Honors General Chemistry 1 and 2 (recommended for the student with advanced high school training in mathematics and physics). CHEM 1113/1114 and 1133/1134 General Chemistry 1 and 2 lecture and lab, also accepted—10
  • CHEM 3351 and 3371 Organic Chemistry for Chemistry and Biochemistry Majors 1 or 2 or CHEM 3311 and 3331 Organic Chemistry 1 and 2—8
  • CHEM 3321 and 3341 Laboratory in Organic Chemistry 1 and 2 or CHEM 3361 and 3381 Laboratory in Organic Chemistry for Majors 1 and 2—2/4
  • CHEM 4411 and 4431 Physical Chemistry with Biochemistry Applications 1 and 2, or CHEM 4511 and 4531 Physical Chemistry 1 and 2—6
  • CHEM 4711 and 4731 General Biochemistry 1 and 2—8
  • CHEM 4761 Biochemistry Laboratory—4
  • PHYS 1110 and 1120 General Physics 1 and 2—8
  • PHYS 1140 Experimental Physics 1—1
  • MATH 1300, 2300, and 2400 Analytical Geometry and Calculus 1, 2, and 3 or APPM 1350, 1360, and 2350—12/14
  • MCDB 1150 Introduction to Molecular Biology, MCDB 1151 Intro to Molecular Biology Lab, MCDB 2150 Principles of Genetics, and MCDB 2151 Principles of Genetics Lab or EBIO 1210 and 1220 General Biology 1 and 2 and EBIO 1230 and 1240 General Biology Laboratory 1 and 2—8
  • One of the following: MCDB 2150/2151 (if not taken above), MCDB 3135, EBIO 2070, 3400, 4530, or IPHY 3430—3/4
  • All students, and especially those intending to go on to graduate school in biochemistry, will benefit from additional advanced courses. Recommended electives include the following: CHEM 4011, 4021, 4171, 4181, 4621, 4751, 4791, 4901, graduate courses in various fields of chemistry, or advanced courses in biology or mathematics.

Graduating in Four Years

Consult the Four-Year Guarantee Requirements for information on eligibility. The concept of “adequate progress” as it is used here only refers to maintaining eligibility for the four-year guarantee; it is not a requirement for the major. To maintain progress in chemistry and biochemistry, students should meet the following requirements: 

  • Declare chemistry or biochemistry as the major in the first semester.
  • Students must consult with a major advisor to determine adequate progress toward completion of the major.

Chemistry Honors Program

Opportunity is provided for qualified chemistry and biochemistry majors to participate in the departmental honors program and graduate with honors (cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude) in chemistry or biochemistry. Students interested in the honors program should contact the departmental honors advisor during their junior year.

Transfer students who plan to take a chemistry or biochemistry major must complete at the Boulder campus a minimum of 12 credit hours of upper-division work covering at least two subdisciplines: organic, physical, analytical, and inorganic for chemistry majors; organic biochemistry and physical for biochemistry majors.

A more detailed listing of the bachelor’s degree program, together with advising information and alternate course options, is available at the undergraduate office in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Minor Programs

Minors are offered in chemistry and in biochemistry. Declaration of a minor is open to any student enrolled at CU-Boulder, regardless of college or school. The College of Arts and Sciences will allow a maximum of 9 hours of transfer credit, including 6 upper-division credit hours to count toward a minor. Students may transfer in through organic chemistry only. All courses required for the minor must be completed with a grade of C- or better, and the overall GPA in all CHEM courses taken must be a 2.000. Students who have taken CHEN 1211 and CHEM 1221 may substitute them for General Chemistry 1. Engineering students who have taken CHEM 4521 may use this to satisfy the Physical Chemistry 1 requirement for both minors. Required courses are listed below.

Minor in Chemistry

  • CHEM 1113/1114 and 1133/1134 General Chemistry 1 and 2, or CHEM 1351 and 1371 Honors General Chemistry 1 and 2 (recommended for the student with advanced high school training in mathematics and physics). CHEM 1251 and CHEM 1271 General Chemistry 1 and 2 for Chemistry and Biochemistry Majors, also accepted—10
  • CHEM 3311, 3331, 3321, and 3341 Organic Chemistry 1 and 2 lecture and lab. CHEM 3351, 3371, 3361 and 3381 Organic Chemistry 1 and 2 lecture and lab for Chemistry and Biochemistry Majors, also accepted—10-12
  • CHEM 4411 Physical Chemistry 1 with Biological Applications or CHEM 4511 Physical Chemistry 1 (It should be noted that Physical Chemistry 1 has a prerequisites of Calculus 3 and a prerequisite or co-requisite of PHYS 1120.)—3
  • CHEM 4431 Physical Chemistry 2 with Biological Applications, CHEM 4531 Physical Chemistry 2, CHEM 4011 Inorganic Chemistry, or CHEM 4171 Principles of Instrumental Analysis—3

Minor in Biochemistry

  • CHEM 1113/1114 and CHEM 1133/1134 General Chemistry 1 and 2, or CHEM 1351 and 1371 Honors General Chemistry 1 and 2 (recommended for the student with advanced high school training in mathematics and physics). CHEM 1251 and 1271 General Chemistry 1 and 2 for Chemistry and Biochemistry Majors, also accepted—10
  • CHEM 3311, 3331, 3321 and 3341 Organic Chemistry 1 and 2 lecture and lab. CHEM 3351, 3371, 3361 and 3381, Organic Chemistry 1 and 2 lecture and lab —10-12
  • CHEM 4411, Physical Chemistry 1 with Biological Applications, or CHEM 4511, Physical Chemistry 1. (It should be noted that physical chemistry 1 has a prerequisites of calculus 3 and a prerequisite or corequisite of PHYS 1120.)—3
  • CHEM 4611, Survey of Biochemistry, or both CHEM 4177 and 4731 Biochemistry 1 and 2—3-6

American Chemical Society Certification

The American Chemical Society maintains a certification program in which a student graduating with a specified minimum program is certified to the society upon graduation. To be certified, a graduate must satisfy requirements in addition to the minimum for graduation. The department offers this certificate for the chemistry or chemistry/biochemistry double majors only. A list of these requirements may be obtained from the undergraduate chemistry and biochemistry office.

Graduate Degree Program(s)

Graduate Study in Chemistry and Biochemistry

Students wishing to pursue graduate work in chemistry or biochemistry leading to candidacy for an advanced degree should read carefully requirements for advanced degrees in the Graduate School section. For information on the doctoral program in chemical physics offered jointly with the Department of Physics, see below. Following are some of the special departmental requirements. Copies of more detailed rules are available on the department website.

Prerequisites. An undergraduate major in chemistry, biochemistry, or a related field is desirable since entering graduate students are required to take examinations and complete selected course work covering the major fields of chemistry and biochemistry. The GRE general test  is required for admission and for fellowship consideration. Either the GRE subject test in chemistry or the test in biochemistry, cell, and molecular biology is optional, but highly recommended.

Master’s Degree

Students are not admitted for the master's degree but may be transferred to the MS plan in chemistry if they are are unable to meet the demands of the PhD program. 

Language. The department does not require foreign language proficiency for the master’s degree.

Examinations. Administration of preliminary examinations varies, depending on students’ entering field. Candidates opting for MS Plan I must pass a master’s thesis defense examination at the time they complete their work. MS Plan II does not require a final oral examination. 

Course Requirements. There are two methods of obtaining a master’s degree from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Plan I requires 30 credit hours, including 15 credit hours of formal course work, 15 credit hours in research/seminar courses, the completion of a research investigation, and the presentation of a thesis. Plan II requires 30 credit hours including 21 credit hours of formal course work plus 9 credit hours of research/seminar, and presentation of a research report, but no thesis; both plans are available only with departmental approval.

Doctoral Degree

Language. The department does not require foreign language proficiency for the PhD degree.

Examinations. Administration of preliminary examinations varies, depending on students’ entering field. These examinations are used in an advisory capacity. The minimum course work is 30 credit hours at the 5000, 6000, or 7000 level, of which 15 credit hours must be in formal course work. In addition, a minimum of 30 credit hours of dissertation work (CHEM 8991) is required. PhD students must pass a comprehensive examination consisting of written exams and an oral examination. Students entering with a master’s degree may take the oral examinations in their second semester; others start them in their fourth semester. Candidates must write a research proposal during their studies, complete a research investigation and present a thesis, and pass a PhD final oral examination at the time they complete their work.

Doctoral Degree in Chemical Physics

 

Chemical physics is a discipline at the interface between chemistry and physics. Chemical physics applies physical methods and theory to study molecular and collective properties of matter. The focus is on understanding complex phenomena from gas phase molecular dynamics, to nanoscale, mesoscale, and biological phenomena, through model systems and fundamental physical principles.

Students wishing to pursue the doctoral degree in chemical physics should apply for admission to either the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry or the Department of Physics. 

The chemical physics program allows students to strike a balance between core courses and courses that are better suited to address the student's specific research goals and interests. Students must consult with the chemical physics graduate advisors in their parent departments, either chemistry and biochemistry or physics, to plan their formal course work.

After completing an approved curriculum of formal course work, the student advances to candidacy in chemical physics by passing an oral exam.

The program is administered by an interdepartmental committee. For further information, contact the graduate program assistant in either the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry or the Department of Physics.

Certificate Program

Graduate Certificate in Molecular Biophysics

This program introduces graduate students to the field of biophysics, its methodologies, and the state-of-the-art biophysical research efforts being carried out in diverse laboratories and departments on the CU-Boulder campus. It creates interdepartmental connections that provide the breadth of training needed to develop biophysical scholars.

Students must be admitted through the regular admissions process to a PhD program in one of the following departments:

  • chemical and biological engineering;
  • chemistry and biochemistry;
  • molecular, cellular, and developmental biology; or
  • physics

They must satisfy all of their home department’s requirements to receive a PhD.

Requirements

  • Participation in one to three laboratory rotations outside the thesis lab, which provide experience with a range of biophysical methods. Subsequently the student joins one of the member laboratories of the training program for thesis work.
  • Completion of two courses chosen from a list of approved courses. Currently this list includes 15 courses in areas ranging from theoretical physics to molecular and cellular biophysics. 
  • Annual meeting with a faculty advisory committee that provides helpful feedback on the thesis research.
  • Students are expected to take part in a seminar series, which presents internationally renowned speakers and their research. They also are required to participate in supergroup meetings and symposia, which provide forums for them to present their own research in front of their colleagues and advisory committee.