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Description of Majors

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Description of Majors

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Oklahoma offers undergraduate degrees that prepare students for entry into graduate programs or a variety of careers as well as a new Chemical Biosciences degree for health profession students. The fundamental courses in each of the three main degrees overlap, so it is usually easy for students to switch from one degree to another within the first two to two-and-a-half years of study. The requirements for the Chemical Biosciences do differ starting in the sophomore year of study.

Major Degrees Offered

Bachelor of Science; Chemistry and Biochemistry (Standard) Major
The Chemistry and Biochemistry (Standard) major is the most flexible degree program offered by the department, as it allows for some choice among the advanced courses. It allows students with other interests to develop a curriculum that best suits them. The resulting degree is Bachelor of Science. It requires a minimum of 36 credit hours of chemistry courses beyond General Chemistry.

Bachelor of Science in Chemistry; Chemistry (Professional) Major
The Chemistry (Professional) major is most suitable for majors who plan to pursue a graduate degree after obtaining their baccalaureate degree. It is the most rigorous in its chemistry course requirements. The professional degree program also is a very good choice for students who begin their chemical studies unsure of their ultimate degree goal. This is because it is much easier to switch from the Professional degree program to either the Chemistry Standard or Biochemistry degree programs, even as late as the senior year, than it is to switch to the professional option from the standard option or biochemistry degree program.

The Chemistry (Professional) degree is certified by the American Chemical Society as appropriate for students wanting to pursue graduate studies. It also provides the best background in chemistry for students planning to pursue a job in chemistry after obtaining the baccalaureate degree. It is not a required degree for graduate study in chemistry or biochemistry, however, and some students prefer to take one of the other degree options so that there is room in their schedules to take additional courses outside chemistry that meet their career goals. For example, students wanting to pursue a research career in pharmaceutical research or biochemistry would probably want to take additional courses in microbiology or zoology. The Professional degree requires a total of 40 credit hours of chemistry courses beyond General Chemistry.

Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry, Biochemistry Major

The Biochemistry major is appropriate for premedical and predental students or students with a strong interest in biomedical research. It includes advanced biochemistry coursework as well as a molecular biology course. It requires 36 credit hours of chemistry courses beyond General Chemistry.

Bachelor of Science; Chemical Biosciences
This is our newest undergraduate degree, aimed at students who are specifically focused on a career in a healthcare profession. The requirements overlap with the pre-requisites for medical, pharmacy, dental and other health-related programs. As such, it does not adequately prepare students for a traditional graduate program in chemistry or biochemistry, but might prepare them for a graduate program in biomedical studies (depending on the entry requirements for the individual program, since these can vary). And it will not prepare students for a wide variety of careers in the chemical industry. Students would be prepared for work in medical labs and related opportunities. So students entering this program should be very focused on these types of careers and not considering a traditional graduate program in chemistry or biochemistry. It requires a minimum of 40 hours of chemistry and biological science courses beyond general chemistry.

What are the different areas of chemistry?

Many areas and sub-disciplines of chemistry and biochemistry overlap each other and other fields outside of chemistry and biochemistry as well.  Multiple examples of such overlaps can be found in the department of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Oklahoma.  Nonetheless, primary sub-discipline labels are still attached to many of the faculty in consideration of their broadly identified "current primary region of interest" and/or their primary area of didactic concentration during their graduate and/or postdoctoral studies.

Analytical Chemistry is a discipline within chemistry and biochemistry which is substantially focused upon the identification, determination, and quantitation of various bio/chemical substances and/or classes of substances.  Thus, analytical chemists are generally more concerned with chemical and physical properties of matter that will allow the distinguishment of such species. Likewise, analytical chemists are more broadly concerned with the instrumentation and procedures employed in the identification and measurement of chemicals.  Many individuals would more strongly associate analytical chemists, as opposed to chemists of other sub-disciplines, with the applied areas of electrochemistry, spectroscopy, separations, and equilibrium/kinetics.

Biochemistry is a study of the chemistry of life.  The discipline includes a study of the structure of proteins and other macromolecules and how they are formed and organized into what we see as parts of the body, organs, organelles and cells.  Proteins are multifunctional and an important part of Biochemistry is devoted to an understanding of how they work, including a study of metabolism as it relates to the utilization of nutrient to create energy or build molecules needed by the body.   The structure of other macromolecules such as lipids and complex carbohydrates and how they are made and work is also studied.  The storage and transmission of genetic and other information is also considered.  Finally, the discipline includes a study of how the above processes are regulated. Closely related to this is a study of how cells and organisms grow, differentiate and reproduce.  Underpinning all of the above are the tenets learned in Physical, Organic, and Inorganic Chemistry.  In addition, it is impossible to describe the study of the above without a working knowledge of Analytical Chemistry.

Next to parents, educators have the greatest influence on a young person's development. They are not only teachers but also role models and mentors. Teachers of chemistry--whether in colleges, high schools, middle schools, community colleges, or graduate schools--say helping shape the lives and minds of students is the most satisfying aspect of their work. It is the reason they have chosen teaching as the career in which to practice their knowledge of chemistry.

Inorganic chemistry is concerned with the structure, properties, and reactions of all compounds not derived from hydrocarbons. It has applications in every aspect of the chemical industry, including catalysis, materials science, pigments, surfactants, coatings, medicine, fuel, and agriculture.  Inorganic chemists are employed in fields as diverse as the mining and microchip industries, environmental science, and education.  Their work is based on understanding the behavior and the analogues for inorganic elements, and how these materials can be modified, separated or used often in product applications.

Organic chemistry is the branch of chemistry that deals with the structure, properties, and reactions of compounds that contain carbon. It is a highly creative science.  Chemists in general and organic chemists in particular can create new molecules never before proposed which, if carefully designed, may have important properties for the betterment of the human experience. The very foundations of biochemistry, biotechnology, and medicine are built on organic compounds and their role in life processes.  Most all of the modern, high tech materials are composed, at least in part, of organic compounds.

Physical chemistry is concerned generally with the structure, energy, and transformation of matter, placing special emphasis on the principles of quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and kinetics. Physical chemists are focused on understanding the physical properties of atoms and molecules, the way chemical reactions work, and finding out what these properties reveal. Their work involves analyzing materials, developing methods to test and characterize the properties of materials, developing theories about these properties, and discovering the potential use of the materials.