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Courses

We run five undergraduate courses so that you can choose the degree programme that best matches your interests. The BSc Chemistry course is our standard three-year course, whereas MChem Chemistry comes with an extra year of research training, and a bigger project where you can produce new findings on a topic you're interested in.

You can also spend your third year studying at a top university in the USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, or working in the chemical industry. Our MChem Chemistry with Biological and Medicinal Chemistry course comes with specialist modules built in, so you can learn skills that chemists use in, for example, the pharmaceutical industry.






Flexibility

It's possible to transfer between any of our courses up to end of your second year, and you can transfer between MChem Chemistry and BSc Chemistry possible well into your third year.

Accreditation

All of our courses are accredited by the Royal Society of Chemistry, which means we cover all the topics and training you need to graduate into a professional chemistry career. Follow the links to our module lists to see exactly what you'll study when, or choose a topic below to learn more about some of the areas of chemistry you'll cover.


Course content

Our curriculum was created in consultation with our students. Every module has been designed to give you skills and experience that you can put on your CV.

All of our undergraduate students take the same modules in their first two years, so that you have more flexibility and freedom to specialise later in your degree. You'll cover all of the organic, inorganic, physical and analytical chemistry that a professional chemist needs to know.

There are lots of topics for you to explore alongside the essentials. Some, like sustainability, are themes that run through our degree, while others are specialism you can focus on later. They're all based on the latest advances in science, and the expertise that chemistry graduates can offer industry and society. Choose a topic below to learn more.

Fundamentals of chemistry: organic, inorganic, physical

In first year, you'll study topics including the structure of atoms and molecules, how chemical reactions happen, and how to identify and analyse different chemicals and elements. It's all covered in our Fundamentals of Chemistry module, which takes up two-thirds of your first year, and lays the foundations for all of the organic, inorganic, physical and analytical chemistry you'll use in the rest of your degree. You'll spend a day a week in the lab, learning essential skills and techniques.

In optional first year modules, you can look at the biological processes that chemistry drives, and the technologies and products that chemistry has made possible – from cosmetics to explosives. Staff in the Department of Chemistry also run maths classes, and a physics module for students who don't have an A Level in physics, to make sure you have all the background knowledge and skills you need.

You'll move on to more advanced topics in second and third year, across organic chemistry (functional groups, synthesis, biopolymers), inorganic chemistry (main group compounds, transition metal coordination complexes, inorganic solids) and physical chemistry (quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, polymers and colloids). You'll start spending two days a week in the lab, as you learn to run more complex experiments.

Example first year modules:

  • Fundamentals of Chemistry
  • Chemistry in the Biological World Around Us
  • Chemistry in the Physical World Around Us

Example second year modules:

  • Inorganic Chemistry: Structure, Bonding and Reactivity
  • Synthetic, Mechanistic and Biological Aspects of Organic Chemistry
  • Physical Chemistry and Polymer Science

Example third year modules:

  • Organometallic, Solid State and Coordination Chemistry
  • Mechanisms, Pericyclic Reactions and Synthesis
  • Statistical Mechanics, Spectroscopy and Catalysis
Environmental and sustainable chemistry

Chemistry has a crucial part to play in creating a sustainable world. Throughout our courses, we look at the contributions chemists can make to society, with a particular focus on sustainability and green chemistry.

We start by looking at food and energy production processes, and renewable alternatives, and in second year you'll learn how chemical processes can be made more sustainable. After that, there are modules on how chemistry can be used to develop renewable energy technologies and help solve the plastic waste problem.

  • First year: Chemistry in a Sustainable Future
  • Second year: Environmental, Analytical and Sustainable Chemistry
  • Third year: Sustainable Chemistry, Energy Generation and Storage
  • Fourth year: Sustainability in Polymer Science

Plastic waste

Professor Tony Ryan, who leads our Sustainability in Polymer Science module, is also is leading a research project to help tackle the problem of plastic waste. The project focusses on single-use plastics and will examine every stage of the plastic life cycle – from the manufacturing process through to how products with single-use plastics are used and disposed of.

Full story: University of Sheffield researchers join forces to tackle plastic waste

Carbon capture and storage

Josh Lawlor, won a major prize at the Global Undergraduate Awards for his final year research project, which focussed on carbon capture and storage.

He worked with Dr Rob Dawson to synthesise a new type of material known as hypercrosslinked polymers, which are being developed as safer, more cost effective alternative materials to use for carbon capture and sequestration – a big topic in modern science, aimed at mitigating the effects of global warming.

Josh Lawlor

Medicinal and biological chemistry

The role of chemistry in creating new medicines, and important biomolecules like DNA, are covered from the start of our courses. In later years there are more specialist modules where you can learn how chemists study the biological mechanisms behind disease and use these insights to develop treatments.

You can also learn about key pharmaceutical concepts, such as pharmacodynamics, pharmacokinetics and toxicology, and the computer-based technologies used in drug design.

  • First year: Fundamentals of Chemistry, Chemistry in the Biological World Around Us
  • Second year: Synthetic, Mechanistic and Biological Aspects of Organic Chemistry
  • Third year: Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Synthesis; Structure and Mechanism of Biomolecule Function; Synthetic Approaches in Chemical Biology
  • Fourth year: Pharmacology, Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Design; Biophysical Chemistry

Many of these topics are built into our MChem Chemistry with Biological and Medicinal Chemistry course, if you already know this is what you want to focus on in your degree.

For her final year project, Nairah worked with Dr Sarah Staniland on the cell-free production of several proteins that are involved in magnetosome formation.

My favourite part of the project was being introduced to new laboratory techniques in the area of molecular biology... I was able to put into practice a lot of the ideas and concepts which we had previously learned about in the biological components of the course.

Nairah Chaudury, MChem Chemistry with Biological and MEdicinal Chemistry

Nairah Chaudury

Advanced materials and nanotechnology

Nanotechnology promises to revolutionise the modern world: from 2D materials that are one atom thick and extremely strong, to tissue engineering techniques that can be used in medical treatments.

Meanwhile, our experts in polymer science are working on everything from solutions to the plastic waste problem to new carbon capture and storage technologies. Polymer chemists also work on a range of innovative products for industry – oils, paints and coatings; food, cleaning agents and cosmetics; medical, agricultural and aerospace technologies.

By studying supramolecular chemistry in third year, you can learn about alternative approaches to designing complex molecules. This provides some of the foundations for studying nanomaterials in fourth year – how they are created and analysed, and their uses in computing, data storage and medicine. You can also learn how polymer chemists can help solve major environmental challenges.

  • First year: Chemistry in the Physical World Around Us
  • Second year: Physical Chemistry and Polymer Science
  • Third year: Organometallic, Solid State and Coordination Chemistry; Properties of Inorganic Materials; Supramolecular Chemistry
  • Fourth year: Advanced Materials Chemistry; Nanochemistry; Sustainability in Polymer Science

Molecular machines

One of the most exciting areas of nanotechnology revolves around 'molecular machines', which are molecules that convert chemical energy into mechanical forces and motion. Professor Sir Fraser Stoddart, a former chemistry lecturer at the University, was one of three scientists awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2016, for his work in this field.

He returned to Sheffield after winning his prize, to give a lecture and meet our staff and students.

Read more about Sir Fraser's visit:
What's it like to meet a Nobel Prize winning chemist?

Computational and theoretical chemistry

Theories and models can explain many aspects of chemistry outside of a traditional experimental setting. And as technology has developed, chemists use a growing number of computational tools to simulate experiments, analyse data and make new discoveries.

You can study the computer modelling techniques that chemists use to better understand the structure and behaviour of molecules, and the statistical methods that link molecular properties to thermodynamics, for example. In fourth year, you can go even deeper into theoretical chemistry, by studying topics such as graph theory and quantum mechanics, which can provide explanations and predictions across all branches of chemistry.

  • Third year: Modelling Molecules and Their Interactions; Statistical Mechanics, Spectroscopy and Catalysis
  • Fourth year: Methods and Models in Theoretical Chemistry

Nicholas developed an interest in programming when he worked on a computational chemistry research project in his final, and moved into software development after graduation by landing a role at a digital agency.

My first 'real' taste of programming was during my final year project at the University. The project was computational chemistry-based and at the time I was very interested in seeing how computers and chemistry theory came together.

Nicholas Tsim, MChem Chemistry

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Nicholas Tsim

Chemistry of light

Light-based analytical equipment is a key part of the chemistry toolkit, and understanding processes caused by light has led to many major scientific breakthroughs.

You'll learn about light-based spectroscopy experiments from the start of your degree. After that, you can move on to study the state-of-the-art techniques used by researchers, and learn how interactions between light and matter are leading to new medicines, solar energy technologies and next-generation electronic devices.

  • First year: Chemistry in a Sustainable Future
  • Second year: Physical Chemistry and Polymer Science
  • Third year: Optical Spectroscopy and Analytical Applications; Statistical Mechanics, Spectroscopy and Catalysis
  • Fourth year: Chemistry of Light

Lord Porter Ultrafast Laser Laboratory

We recently opened the Lord Porter Ultrafast Laser Laboratory, which is named after one of the four Nobel Prize winners who have worked or studied in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Sheffield.

George Porter was our Professor of Physical Chemistry between 1955 and 1966. He was one of three scientists awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1967 for the discovery of flash photolysis, a technique which enabled chemists for the first time to measure the speed and mechanism of certain reactions that occurred too quickly for detection by conventional methods.

Read more from our student-run magazine, Resonance:
The 1967 Nobel Prize: Fifty years later

Laser lab

Astrochemistry

Outer space isn't an empty expanse: around 180 different molecules have been detected in space, ranging from dihydrogen to simple sugars. Our astrochemistry expert Professor Anthony Meijer leads a module that explains how they've been detected, and the models we use to explain their existence.

Chemistry in Space also covers extra-terrestrial chemistry and the field of astrobiology – including its potential implications for the development of life on Earth and on other planets.

  • Third year: Chemistry in Space

Tristan did a summer research placement with Professor Anthony Meijer and Emily Slate, studying a sugar molecule thought to form on asteroids in space.

I learnt a lot about astrochemistry and how molecules form in space, as well as the physical conditions in space, from Anthony. Emily taught me how to use the software and gave me a lot of guidance throughout the project.

Tristan Johnston-Wood, MChem Chemistry

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Cropped version of Tristan Johnston-Wood's photo

Supporting your career

All of our modules are designed to give you skills and experience that you can include on your CV – for example, our Modern Industrial Catalysis module teaches you about some of the most important processes in the chemical industry. But some modules have an even bigger focus on supporting your career.

In second year, you'll learn what makes a successful business by examining why certain chemistry ventures have failed and others have succeeded. You'll come up with your own idea for a business and pitch it as part of a group.

Our Skills For Success training programme in third year gives you the chance to complete a project that might involve giving a talk, presenting a poster, hosting a debate, producing a video, or another activity that you've chosen. It's a chance to showcase your ability to research a topic and communicate your findings, which many employers value.

You'll get to practice applying for jobs, and get feedback on your applications. We also run an annual Chemistry Careers Day, where you can explore career options and meet with employers who hire chemistry graduates.

  • Second year: Enterprise and Employability
  • Third year: Chemistry employability skills and projects

On the MChem Chemistry with a Year in Industry course, you'll spend your third year working at a leading organisation in the chemical industry. You'll pay reduced fees for the year you're on placement, most students earn salaries during their placements, and many are offered a graduate level job at the end.

Careers