Chemistry is central to modern science and, ultimately, most phenomena in biology, medicine, geology, and the environmental sciences can be described in terms of the chemical and physical behavior of atoms and molecules. Because of the wide appeal and utility of chemistry, UCSC offers many lower-division courses, differing in emphasis and style, to meet diverse needs. Students should also note the numerous upper-division course offerings and select those most suitable to their academic interests. The curriculum in chemistry exposes the student to the principal areas of modern chemistry, including organic, inorganic, physical, analytical, and biochemistry. The curriculum is designed to meet the needs of students who plan to end their formal education with a bachelor of arts (B.A.) or bachelor of science (B.S.) degree, as well as those who wish to go on for an advanced degree. The UCSC chemistry B.A. or B.S. graduate is well prepared to pursue a career in chemistry or an allied field.

Degrees Offered

  • B.A.
  • B.S.
  • M.S.
  • Minor
  • Ph.D.

Study and Research Opportunities

  • B.A.; B.S. with concentrations in biochemistry and environmental chemistry; undergraduate minor; M.S.; Ph.D.
  • Several undergraduate research scholarships and scholarly meeting and conference travel awards are available to eligible chemistry students.
  • Senior thesis is an opportunity, open to all undergraduate students, to do cutting edge research in collaboration with graduate students, postdocs, and faculty in a team setting, often leading to co-authorship in journal publications.

Information for First-Year Students (Freshmen)

Prospective chemistry majors are encouraged to get a solid foundation in high school mathematics; familiarity with algebra, logarithms, trigonometry, and analytic geometry is particularly recommended. Students who take chemistry at UCSC begin with Chemistry 1A or 1B, both of which require a strong background in high school chemistry. To assess your level of preparation in chemistry, please see the Chemistry Self-Assessment examination on the Chemistry Department website. Students with a weak chemistry background should check this website for recommended preparatory programs.

Information for Transfers

The Chemistry and Biochemistry Department welcomes applications from community college students who are prepared to enter as junior-level chemistry majors. Students intending to transfer must complete one full year of general chemistry and calculus prior to transfer; and would be well served by also completing a year of calculus-based physics and organic chemistry. Students preparing to transfer from a California Community College should reference before enrolling in courses at a community college. Prospective transfer students should consult the Chemistry Department website for more information on preparing to transfer into the chemistry major. 


  • Chemistry
  • Environmental Science
  • Government Research
  • Medicine
  • Patent Law
  • Public Health
  • Teaching

These are only samples of the field’s many possibilities. For more information you can check the American Chemical Society college to career website.


Awards, Honors, and Recognitions

A list of recent awards, honors, and scholarships awarded to chemistry majors can be found at:

Alumni Focus

Howard Hang received the Dean's and Chancellor's awards for research. He is currently a professor at Rockefeller University. In a recent magazine interview he said: “The science bug didn’t catch me until I took organic chemistry at UCSC."

Beau Norgeot developed his own research project using elements of bioinformatics and biochemistry to design a protein biologic for treating skin cancer. He received the Steck Award for this work, UCSC’s top honor for undergraduate research.

Department Website

More Information

Chemistry and Biochemistry Department Office:
Physical Sciences Bldg, Rm 230


University of California, Santa Cruz
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, California 95064
(831) 459-4002