MChem Chemistry (F105)

Modules: 2019/20

Below you can find details about the modules available on this course. For more information about this course, go back to Courses or view this course in the University of Sheffield's online prospectus.

MChem Chemistry in the online prospectus


First year

Compulsory modules:

Fundamentals of Chemistry (80 credits)

This is the first module that all of our undergraduate students take, and takes up most of first year. It covers the fundamental concepts behind the four main branches of chemistry (organic, inorganic, physical and analytical), and teaches practical skills that every chemist needs, and professional skills that every university graduate needs. Themes include the structure of atoms and molecules, how chemical reactions happen, and how to identify and analyse different chemicals and elements. Topics are covered in lectures, workshops, small group tutorials and in the laboratory.

Chemistry in a Sustainable Future (10 credits)

Chemistry has a crucial role to play in creating a sustainable world. This module looks at the contributions chemists can make to society, with a particular focus on sustainability and green chemistry. Students will learn where everyday essentials including food and energy come from, and how chemistry can help combat global warming by, for example, making the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources and feedstocks possible. To make the biggest impact on society, students will learn how to explain scientific concepts to a range of audiences by working in groups to produce articles, infographics and other content.

Optional modules:

Chemistry in the Biological World Around Us (10 credits)

Chemistry is the backbone of fundamental biological processes, from healthcare and medicine to countless other features of modern life. This module brings together the four main branches of chemistry (organic, inorganic, physical and analytical) to explain the principles behind the biology we experience in our day-to-day lives. Topics include medicine, nutrition, the molecules that have defined modern biology, and the chemistry of chocolate and ice-cream.

Chemistry in the Physical World Around Us (10 credits)

Many of the technologies, products and structures we take for granted in our everyday lives rely on chemistry. This module brings together the four main branches of chemistry (organic, inorganic, physical and analytical) to explain the chemical principles of the world around us. Topics include the chemistry of explosives, molecules that glow, how metals are extracted and used, and the chemistry of toiletries and cosmetics.

Students without A level Mathematics grade C or above also take:

Essential Mathematics for Chemists (20 credits)

This module introduces mathematics as the language of science, so that students can apply a range of mathematical tools to the scientific problems they’ll tackle during their chemistry degree. It is designed for students who haven’t done A Level mathematics, or an equivalent post-16 qualification. At the start, the focus is on revising key mathematics skills, such as re-arranging and solving equations. Students build up to the more complex mathematical concepts that chemists use, both to explain fundamental theories and to complete practical work in the lab. Mathematics is taught in a chemistry context throughout, exploring topics that range from thermodynamics and kinetics to quantum chemistry.

Students with A level Mathematics grade C or above also take: 

Essential Mathematics for Chemists (10 credits)

Lots of scientific knowledge is built on a strong mathematical foundation. This module is designed to develop students’ mathematical understanding, skills and intuition. Advanced mathematical concepts such as differentiation and integration of complex functions, partial differentiation and integration by parts will be taught in terms of their applications in chemistry. Other topics, such as series, complex numbers, matrices, determinants and differential equations are are also covered in physical and theoretical chemistry contexts. The aim is to give students a strong set of practical tools for tacking a range of chemistry problems through a series of staff-led workshops and self-study problem sets.

Students without A level Physics grade C or above also take:

Physical Principles in Chemistry (10 credits)

This module is designed for students studying Chemistry, but who do not have an A-level Physics qualification. The goal is to ensure that you have a strong grasp of the fundamental physical principles that will be used in your Chemistry degree. The course covers three major areas of physics: mechanics, electrostatics, and optics. Students will learn about topics including forces, energy conservation, wave motion, force fields and oscillators.


Second year

All of these modules are compulsory:

Inorganic Chemistry: Structure, Bonding and Reactivity (30 credits)

This module is designed to deepen students’ understanding of inorganic chemistry, including main group compounds, transition metal coordination complexes and inorganic solids. Students will learn how symmetry principles can be used to explain molecular structure and bonding using molecular orbital theory as well as to analyse the structures of highly ordered crystals. Spectroscopy techniques are taught so that students can learn how to characterise inorganic compounds, while studying the different reactions and properties that these chemicals display. In the lab, students develop their practical skills by synthesising and characterising inorganic compounds, safely and efficiently.

Synthetic, Mechanistic and Biological Aspects of Organic Chemistry (30 credits)

This module builds on students’ knowledge of the common functional groups within organic molecules that are responsible for many chemical reactions including aromatic rings, alkenes and carbonyls. Several classes of chemical reactions are studied in detail, with a focus on understanding the mechanisms behind them. Students also learn how to design synthetic routes to prepare molecules. Students will look at biological systems from a chemical perspective, including the structures and functions of biopolymers such as proteins and DNA. In the lab, students further develop the practical skills needed to carry out synthetic organic chemistry, in a safe and efficient manner.

Physical Chemistry and Polymer Science (30 credits)

Chemical structures are based on a number of important physical principles. This module builds up students’ understanding of the theory behind physical and chemical phenomena. Students will use quantum mechanics to examine the structure and properties of atoms and molecules, and the laws of thermodynamics are used to explain the properties of mixtures and equilibria. Polymers and colloids are also introduced and students learn how to prepare and characterise these compounds and mixtures, which are behind many familiar products and technologies. The theory behind common spectroscopic techniques that are used to investigate molecular structures are also covered. In the lab, students get more experience of the techniques chemists use to gather and analyse data from chemical processes and determine the properties of different materials.

Environmental, Analytical and Sustainable Chemistry (20 credits)

Chemistry – in terms of both natural processes and artificial phenomena – has a clear impact on the environment. This module will look at some of ways chemicals interact with the environment, and explore how we can measure the sustainability of a chemical process and potentially improve its green credentials. In this context, students will expand their analytical chemistry skills and their ability to determine structures of compounds. This includes looking at how mixtures of compounds can be separated and how the proportions of their components can be determined. In the lab, students design and conduct their own experiments to investigate a real chemical problem from the world around us.

Enterprise and Employability (10 credits)

This module focuses on the ways that chemistry can be applied in business, and for the benefit of society as a whole. Students will analyse and discuss examples of successful and unsuccessful commercial endeavours to learn, for example, how new drugs have been discovered while others have failed. They will then be introduced to the process of developing a business and, working in small groups, students, will develop and present their own idea for a business based on an area of chemistry that they have chosen. As part of this module, students also attend our annual Careers Day, where chemistry students can explore career options and meet with employers who hire chemistry graduates.


Third year 

Compulsory modules:

Organometallic, Solid State and Coordination Chemistry (20 credits)

This module will continue to build up students’ inorganic chemistry knowledge, working with samples in both solution and the solid state. It will cover the synthesis, structures and reactivity of conventional organometallic and coordination compounds, and their role in catalysis. Students learn how typical solid materials are synthesised, and examine their structures to explore fundamental phenomena in solid state chemistry and how they can be applied. The principles of crystallographic structure determination are introduced, with a focus on single crystal X-ray diffraction. Practical work in the lab focuses on developing experimental skills in the study of inorganic compounds, using synthetic and analytical methods.

Mechanisms, Pericyclic Reactions and Synthesis (20 credits)

This module expands students’ understanding of organic chemistry. It covers how applications of frontier orbital theory inform on reactivity and how reaction mechanisms are investigated. Synthetic organic chemistry is developed further, with a focus on carbonyl compounds, aromatic and heterocyclic systems and the application of transition metal-mediated cross coupling reactions. Students will learn about key scientific studies in organic chemistry, and put new concepts into practice in our our advanced teaching laboratory.

Statistical Mechanics, Spectroscopy and Catalysis (20 credits)

This module introduces more advanced concepts in physical chemistry. Students will learn to apply a statistical approach to thermodynamics, explore electronic excited states, and describe interactions at solid-gas interfaces. Bulk thermodynamic properties will be understood in terms of the properties of individual molecules, allowing equilibrium constants and gas-phase reactions to be calculated from first principles. Electronic levels in polyatomic molecules are studied, to show how spectroscopy provides information on changes in molecular structures, and on the lifetimes of excited states. The adsorption process at surfaces and methods for characterising surfaces are also covered, and used to model heterogeneous catalytic processes that are used in the chemical industry.

Chemistry Employability Skills and Projects (30 credits)

This module is designed to give students more of the practical and transferable skills they need for a career in chemistry, and many graduate jobs. Students systematically gather data from scientific literature and other sources, to practice evaluating and presenting complex information. Work is done independently and in groups, with lots of opportunities for students to reflect on their work and get feedback from their teams. In the lab, students develop their practical skills through an independent chemistry research project.

Optional modules:

Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Synthesis (10 credits)

In the last century, medicinal chemistry has revolutionised healthcare, disease outcomes and life expectancy around the globe. This module will explain how medicinal chemistry emerged as a multidisciplinary field, how the biological mechanisms behind disease are identified, and how chemistry is used to target these mechanisms and develop treatments. Students will learn about drug profiles, the rules of drug discovery drug-target interaction surveys, the development of common anticancer drugs such as cisplatin, and some of the synthetic approaches commonly used by medicinal chemists, such as heterocyclic chemistry.

Synthetic Approaches in Chemical Biology (10 credits)

Scientists ability to synthesise biomolecules has led to many fo the most significant developments in molecular and chemical biology. This module looks at how biomolecules are created, from both biological and chemical perspectives. Students knowledge will build up from understanding the central dogma and basic chemistry of life, to exploring important chemical biology techniques such as DNA sequencing, polymerase chain reaction, protein overproduction and site directed mutagenesis. Topics also include the production of novel biomolecules for bioconjugation, rational design, directed evolution, antibody production, and the new discoveries that synthetic biology might might open the door to.

Structure and Mechanism of Biomolecule Function (10 credits)

Understanding the many functions of proteins is a fundamental problem for chemists to help solve, and can lead to new drugs and treatments. This course covers protein function, from ligand binding to enzyme catalysed reactions. Students look at the structure of protein-ligand interactions and the main biophysical techniques used to quantify energy flows in protein-drug interactions. They also learn about kinetic methods of analysis that shed light on enzyme mechanisms, and how these experimental approaches are used to design effective enzyme inhibitors, leading to new drugs. There is also training in core data analysis techniques.

Chemistry in Space (10 credits)

The Universe was long considered to be a vast, mostly empty, expanse. Astronomers now know that the Universe is anything but. In certain regions there is extremely interesting chemistry to explore, initiated by starlight and fast-moving particles known as cosmic rays. Approximately 180 different molecules have already been detected in space, ranging from dihydrogen to simple sugars. This module will discuss the methods used to detect these molecules and the models that explain their existence. It will cover astrochemistry, and provide an introduction to extra-terrestrial chemistry and the field of astrobiology – including its potential implications for the development of life on Earth and on other planets.

Supramolecular Chemistry (10 credits)

Supramolecular chemistry is the study of chemistry “beyond the molecule”. Rather than using covalent chemistry to build ever more complex molecules, supramolecular chemists make use of the weaker interactions between ions and molecules to build sophisticated assemblies of molecules. Students will learn how complementary interactions can be used for molecular recognition and to drive the the self-assembly of well defined molecular structures such as grids, helicates and cages in solution. They will also learn how these assemblies can act as sensors, catalysts, molecular machines and as responsive and self-healing materials.

Radicals in Organic and Polymer Synthesis (10 credits)

Traditionally, free radicals were considered to be a highly reactive species – difficult to control, and with poor selectivity. But in reality, many radical reactions take place with a high degree of control. This module will explain the structure, stability and reactivity of radicals, which are key to many chemical processes. It will cover radical reactions in organic synthesis, such as radical additions and cyclisations. Student will also learn about radicals in a polymer chemistry context, including controlled radical polymerisation processes such as atom transfer radical polymerisation and reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer polymerisation.

Sustainable Chemistry, Energy Generation and Storage (10 credits)

The environmental impact of rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions is prompting society to explore new methods to generate, use and store energy. This module will build on the sustainability students have already learned, to cover a number of modern approaches to energy generation and storage. There will be a particular focus on how biomass can be used to produce renewable chemicals and fuels, photovoltaics and alternative energy sources, fuel cells, nuclear energy, actinide availability and devices for energy storage. Examples are drawn from cutting-edge academic research and the latest applications in industry.

Modelling Molecules and Their Interactions (10 credits)

Interactions between molecules are responsible for the behaviour of many important natural and technological systems: from the boiling and freezing of liquid water, and the double-helix structure of DNA, to the amorphous or crystalline structure of polymers. This means it’s important for chemists to understand these interactions and have the skills to quantify them. In this module, students will learn how interactions arise from the distribution of charge within molecules, and how they can be measured. It will then introduce classical molecular modelling – a powerful method for computer modelling the structures and dynamics of molecules.

Properties of Inorganic Materials (10 credits)

Many of the materials we encounter are solids, ranging from minerals and metals, to semiconductors and molecular crystals. These materials have diverse properties – mechanical strength, electrical conductivity, light absorption – that mean they can be used in lots of different ways, such as electronics or energy generation and storage. This module will look at the electronic, thermal, optical and mechanical properties of inorganic materials and cover microscopic, spectroscopic and diffraction techniques used to characterise solids. It will also illustrate how inorganic materials are used in, for example, semiconductor technology and energy conversion.

Optical Spectroscopy and Analytical Applications (10 credits)

This module introduces state-of-the-art advanced optical experimental techniques, taking students from the theory behind them to selected analytical applications. It will explain how light interacts with matter, before moving on to the theory of lasers. A number of advanced optical experimental techniques which provide insights into the fundamental molecular properties and chemical reactivity are discussed along with their applications in environmental chemistry research.


Fourth year

Compulsory module:

Research Skills in Chemistry (75 credits)

For this module, students complete an extended research project on a topic at the cutting edge of chemistry. Students work alongside professional scientists as a member of one of the Department of Chemistry’s research groups. They receive specialist training to help them develop the advanced practical skills they need for their project, and have access to state-of-the-art equipment and facilities. They also put their previous research training and existing careers skills into practice through literature searches, communicating their work and presenting their findings.

Optional modules:

Advanced Materials Chemistry (15 credits)

This module explains how structural, electronic, thermal, chemical and other properties of materials can be harnessed by chemists to help solve technological and environmental challenges. Functional materials covered include supramolecular 2D and 3D assemblies, crystals and polymers. Students learn about design strategies, molecular properties, and material function, using concepts from coordination chemistry, organic chemistry, solid-state chemistry and crystallography. The role of different materials properties in sensing, separation, gas adsorption, catalysis, drug delivery, rechargeable batteries, light absorption and emission, solar cells, conductivity, propulsion and gas generation will be discussed in the context of their impact on energy, health care, transport and the environment.

Biophysical Chemistry (15 credits)

This module covers the concepts and techniques that students need to study the physical properties of biological macromolecules at a structural level. It explains how thermodynamic concepts and advanced spectroscopic measurements allow biomolecule structures, function and interactions to be investigated. Students learn about methods for analysing ensembles of many molecules as well as measurements on single biomolecules. Biophysical approaches to studying proteins and nucleic acids structures, and the mechanism of DNA damage recognition are taught as is the development of molecules for diagnostics, therapeutics and theranostics.

Catalysis and Asymmetric Synthesis (15 credits)

Chemists’ ability to synthesise organic molecules with defined stereochemistry is the backbone of many useful applications, from medicines to new materials. Modern methods of organic synthesis rely on sophisticated and efficient chemical reactions that create exquisite levels of functional group selectivity and stereochemical control. This module will explains the cutting edge processes that achieve these objectives, in the context of catalysis and stereoselective synthesis. There is a focus on transformations that are promoted by a sub-stoichiometric amount of catalyst. Concepts behind controlling stereochemistry in important synthetic chemical reactions will also be explained.

Chemistry of Light (15 credits)

Understanding processes caused by light is key in chemistry, physics, biology and engineering, and has recently led to many major scientific breakthroughs. This course explains how light and matter interact in molecules, nanostructures and materials. It will explain photoinduced electron and energy transfer – essential processes in nature and everyday life – using examples of natural and artificial photosynthesis. Modern techniques for studying light-induced processes, on time-scales from seconds to femtoseconds, are also covered. The theory is taught in the context of applications in photocatalysis, photonics and optoelectronics, solar energy conversion, and light-induced processes in medicine.

Methods and Models in Theoretical Chemistry (15 credits)

The principles of theoretical chemistry can explain and predict chemical phenomena across all the main branches of chemistry (organic, inorganic, physical, analytical), and can shed light on molecular aspects of physics and biology. A wide range of methods and models are covered, including graph theory and the Hückel model, density functional theory, coupled cluster, time-dependent quantum mechanics, and more. Students are taught to assess these methods and models’ suitability for different tasks, and put the theory into practice by using them to interpret chemical phenomena in group projects.

Modern Industrial Catalysis (15 credits)

Reactions catalysed by metals are hugely important in the chemical industry, where they are used to produce bulk chemicals at large scales and fine chemicals at smaller ones. This module explains the heterogeneous and homogeneous catalytic processes behind some of the most economically important chemical reactions. It covers the chemical basis of these process, and their advantages and disadvantages of heterogeneous and homogeneous systems. There is a focus on reaction mechanisms and the role of the metal centre, and fundamental physical processes such as adsorption and reaction kinetics. Concepts are illustrated by analysing, in detail, catalytic reactions including hydrogenation, oxidation, carbonylation and polymerisation.

Nanochemistry (15 credits)

Thanks to their small size, nanomaterials have many unique properties that lead to lots of interesting applications in technology and medicine. Chemists have have the skills to design and synthesise nanoscale materials using top-down and bottom-up nanofabrication methods, plus the tools to visualise, characterise and process them. This module covers the synthesis and properties of nanoparticles, and how they can be used in technologies such as computing, data storage and medicine.

Pharmacology, Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Design (15 credits)

The discovery and development of new drugs requires a multidisciplinary approach, bringing together anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and toxicology. In this module, students learn about these areas as they build on their organic and medicinal chemistry knowledge from earlier in their degrees. It covers concepts including pharmacodynamics, pharmacokinetics and basic toxicology, and looks in detail at strategies for optimising the pharmacodynamic, pharmacokinetic properties of drugs. There is also a focus on computing technologies, including computer-aided drug design tools and quantitative structure–activity relationship models. Students learn about the fundamental chemistry behind the synthesis of specific drugs throughout the module.

Sustainability in Polymer Science (15 credits)

Plastics have revolutionised modern life. However, plastic waste is a growing problem, with estimates that the oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050. We need to make better use of both fossil-based and renewable resources, and move towards a zero-waste, circular economy. Should we do this by recycling durable petrochemical-based materials that are made to be reused, or legitimise the single-use of products made from degradable polymers? This course will discuss the problems with current plastics, what the alternatives are and whether they’ll work. Topics include the current status of the plastics industry, life-cycle analysis, degradable polymers, non-fossil fuel feedstocks, and reuse, reforming and recycling.

Synthetic Methods in Organic Chemistry (15 credits)

Chemists’ ability to synthesise organic molecules and to prepare new compounds has led to countless products and discoveries: pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, fine chemicals, flavours, fragrances, materials and more. This module on the chemical reactions of organic compounds takes students’ organic chemistry knowledge to an advanced level. The focus is on useful transformations that involve main group elements or transition metals. Examples are drawn from recent developments that have led to important and useful new methods and approaches within advanced synthetic organic chemistry.

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.