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Study chemistry with us

Why study Chemistry?

An understanding of chemistry provides a foundation for biology, earth, ocean, atmospheric, food and material sciences, as well as chemical science.

It covers the properties, syntheses and transformations of substances and their applications to the way we live and modify our environment. Through chemistry, we can begin to understand the material and biological world.

100 level papers

If you intend to major in Chemistry (BSc or BASc), you must take papers worth at least 90 points (5 papers) from 100- and 200-level Chemistry papers.

Both CHEM 111 and CHEM 191 are strongly recommended. Study of Mathematics and/or Physics at 100-level, or at least to NCEA Level 3, is also recommended if you plan to advance in Chemistry.

Chemistry beyond 100 level

The more Chemistry courses you do the easier it gets because the ideas and concepts can be applied across different sections. You also get more in experience handling what can be dangerous materials and in making careful measurements. These last two issues are really strong skills that many of our graduates use in jobs that are not research chemistry. For example working for Environmental protection the knowledge of how measurements are made (analytical chemistry) and what the principle behind the measurement is (physical chemistry) gives you an edge ondr understanding what other people are doing and claiming.

Many of BSc students work in compliance determining safe practice of hazardous materials; in this regard the skills learnt in inorganic and organic chemistry and the ability to ask questions about chemical reactivity (developed from those courses) are really important.The skills developed in these courses can lead you to many biological-based industries – from food production to drug discovery. Where else do you learn how to make and handle dangerous materials and be able to devise experiments to detect these and measure them with accuracy. This is what chemistry gives you.

If you just want to do a Chemistry paper then choose one that you think will be interesting – they are taught by people who are experts in the subject they are teaching. If you are planning to do a few then think about what combinations will actually give you the solid chemistry skills mentioned above.

If you need help or guidance email: chemistry@otago.ac.nz

A guide to which courses to take and why?

In 200-level chemistry there are 5 papers and this is repeated at 300-level.

Core papers

Physical Chemistry

CHEM 201 and 301 deal with Physical Chemistry – how to measure (from molecules in the atmosphere to new nanomaterials; from their structure to their reactivity) how to understand what is being measured and how to model what is being measured using computational chemistry.  It requires a bit of numeracy or a lack of fear of some math.  The two courses build on each other and they support aspects of other papers.  There is actually quite a strong link between CHEM 201 and CHEM 206 – with CHEM 206 really drilling down in measurement techniques.  There are also significant bits of Physical Chemistry in CHEM 205, 305 and 306 so it supports those papers also.

Organic Chemistry

CHEM 202 and 302 deal with Organic Chemistry – how to make things – how to make them cleanly – how to purify, characterise and design new compounds using reterosynthesis.  These courses build on each other and give a really strong grounding in how to handle and manipulate chemicals.  How to design a synthetic experiment – and how to actually implement it and get clean product out.  CHEM 205 and 305 contain important sections of organic chemistry and the 02s really support those courses.

Inorganic Chemistry

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 element (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 compound. It also examines the application of these compound in industry, biology and the environment. Like Chem202 and 302 you will learn how to make things and how to purify, characterise and design new compounds. These courses build on each other and give a really strong grounding in how to handle and manipulate chemicals.

CHEM 201, 202, 203, 301, 302 and 303 represent a core of papers that encompass most of what you would be taught anywhere in the world – these build on each other and give you an excellent grounding in the subject.  If you want to going on to Masters or Honours then these are really valuable papers.

If you miss one of these areas then you really are missing out main chemistry concepts.  It is also hard to take the 300-level paper without having done the 200-level equivalent.  

Elective papers

In addition we have some papers that explore important areas of chemistry that students also find interesting. 

CHEM 205 is a great introduction to Biological Chemistry – it utilises ideas from Physical, Organic and Inorganic chemistry to explore the chemistry of living systems.

CHEM 206 is Analytical chemistry – this takes measuring and measuring things properly to a new level.  In this course you get to examine car exhaust fumes through to exploring levels of detection.  Many of the ideas in the course build on concepts you will also meet in Physical, Organic and Inorganic chemistry but the focus here is to get a meaningful measurement.  This is a great course if you are interested in working in analysis – for environmental protection through to food safety.  The lab course is focused on giving you solid skills in measurement.

CHEM 305 extends biological chemistry. This course does not build directly from CHEM 205

CHEM 306 is Forensic Analytical Chemistry.   This gives you an introduction to a bunch of advanced measurement techniques and separation science within a context of forensic analysis.  Although it does not directly follow from CHEM 206 it does use the same ideas in terms of meaningful measurements.

Project based paper

A project based paper, CHEM 390 is available for those students wanting to go on to MSc or BSc(Hons) at 300-level paper.  This is a full year paper. For part of it you work in a research lab.  It is only suitable for those students who are planning on further study and have done well in chemistry and have good core knowledge.

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