Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon

Why study Chemistry?

Chemistry is the science of matter. It is so fundamental it's been called the central science and it provides the foundation for atmospheric, biological, earth, ocean, and material sciences.

The study of chemistry covers the properties, synthesis and transformations of substances. This includes understanding their applications to the way we live and how these substances modify our environment. Through chemistry, we begin to understand the material and biological world.

100 level papers

If you intend to major in Chemistry (BSc or BASc), you must take at least 5 papers from CHEM 111, 191, 201, 202, 203, 205 and 206. Although not required, it is strongly recommended that students take both CHEM 111 and CHEM 191.

The study of Mathematics and/or Physics at 100-level (or at least to NCEA Level 3) is also recommended for Chemistry majors.

Chemistry beyond 100 level

The structure of the Chemistry programme is based on the five major chemical subdisciplines: Analytical, Biological, Inorganic, Organic, and Physical Chemistry. Each of these subdisciplines offers a two-paper sequence that helps you gain foundational knowledge and practical skills in that area.

Chemistry majors will take at least three of these sequences, although many students choose to take all five. Chemistry minors will take at least one sequence. Whichever sequences you choose, the papers are taught by researchers who are experts in the subject and passionate about what they teach.

If you need help or guidance email:

Analytical Chemistry (CHEM 206/306)

Analytical chemistry is the science of chemical measurements. In CHEM 206, you will learn about determining the composition of matter, including the fundamentals of spectrophotometric and electrochemical measurements, the analysis of chemical data, and the design of chemical experiments. The laboratory focuses on the development of independent laboratory skills. For each experiment, you'll learn an essential analytical skill, before answering a chemical question by developing your own experimental approach. The skills and independence you'll develop in the CHEM 206 lab will help you in all other chemical subdisciplines. CHEM 306 (Analytical Chemistry 2) builds on CHEM 206, but focuses on advanced measurement techniques - including chromatography, spectroscopy, and mass spectrometry - and their application to forensic applications.

Biological Chemistry (CHEM 205/305)

CHEM 205 and CHEM 305 deal with understanding the molecular and chemical basis of biological systems. The CHEM 205 course examines metal ion coordination chemistry in biological systems, amino acids and peptides, nucleic acids and enzymes. CHEM 305 extends the application of fundamental chemical concepts and organic chemistry to biological systems. Topics covered in CHEM 305 include amino acids and peptides, enzymes, medicinal chemistry and biological spectroscopy. While CHEM 305 builds on some aspects/topics of CHEM 205 it is suitable for students that have taken either CHEM 205 or CHEM 202 organic chemistry

Inorganic Chemistry (CHEM 203/303)

CHEM 203 and 303 deal with Inorganic Chemistry – the chemistry of all of the elements – from making silly-putty to catalysts to solar cells. The CHEM 203 course addresses the main areas (blocks) of the periodic table of elements and describes their chemistry. CHEM 203 covers the main group elements (s and p blocks), the transition elements (the d block) and the lanthanides (the f block elements) and examines the properties of the elements and their compounds. It also examines the applications of these compounds in industry, biology and the environment. Like CHEM 202 and 302 you will learn how to design, make, purify, and characterise new compounds. The Inorganic and Organic courses build on each other and give a really strong grounding in how to handle and manipulate chemicals.

Organic Chemistry (CHEM 202/302)

CHEM 202 and 302 focus on fundamental organic chemistry, covering commonly used reactions from both a mechanistic and practical standpoint. This includes reaction design, purification and structural characterisation. These courses build on each other to provide a strong grounding in how to synthesise chemicals relevant to materials, medicinal and biological chemistry. CHEM 205 and 305 contain important sections of organic chemistry and CHEM 202/302 support these courses.

Physical Chemistry (CHEM 201/301)

CHEM 201 and CHEM 301 are courses in physical chemistry. This discipline covers the principles of physics that cover chemical interactions, from understanding how atoms, molecules and materials are structured to factors that govern chemical reactions. CHEM 201 covers the basics of physical chemistry, with a focus on applications such as absorption of radiation, rates of chemical reactions in different settings, heat transfer and understanding observed quantum mechanical behaviour. CHEM 301 extends this knowledge further with applications to nanomaterials, as well as more detailed quantum mechanics and spectroscopy tuition.

CHEM 201 and CHEM 206 complement each other with principles of CHEM 201 being applied in CHEM 206 for analytical techniques. Physical chemistry also requires strong numeracy and courses in MATH are highly useful, although not required as prerequisites.

Introduction to Independent Research and Methods (CHEM390)

CHEM 390 is a project-based paper for students considering postgraduate study. As part of this full-year paper you will gain independent research experience by working in a research lab. CHEM 390 is for students who have done well in previous chemistry papers, have demonstrated good core knowledge, and are planning on postgraduate study.

Career opportunities

There continues to be strong demand for Chemistry graduates. Graduates work both in New Zealand and overseas in academic, commercial and research positions in the chemical, plastics, pharmaceutical, food, textile, timber, pulp and paper, and electrical industries, and in plant and product control and management. Chemists play leading roles in agriculture, horticulture, fisheries, water-quality control, chemical, biochemical and medical research units, in the legal profession and in state-owned enterprises.

There is an ongoing shortage of Chemistry graduates in the teaching profession and numerous opportunities for chemists in the commercial environment. For such careers additional commerce papers or double degrees in Chemistry, Law or Commerce can be a distinct advantage

Courses and qualifications

Back to top