Apr 19, 2024  
Course Catalog 2023-2024 
Course Catalog 2023-2024 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Chemistry and Biochemistry

Catherine M. Oertel, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry; chair

Anthony R. Allen, Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Jason M. Belitsky, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Katelyn Bustin, Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Shuming Chen, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Matthew J. Elrod, Robert and Eleanor Biggs Professor of Natural Science and Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Rachel F. Hems, Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Manish A. Mehta, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Cristinel P. Mîinea, Instructor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Laboratory Manager
William H. Parsons, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Lisa M. Ryno, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Rachel A. Saylor, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Kevin Skinner, Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry

arrow Visit the department web page for up-to-date information on department faculty, visiting lecturers, and special events.

Chemistry and biochemistry are interdisciplinary subjects with roots in physics and mathematics and with applications in biology, geology, neuroscience, environmental science, medicine, and a wide range of technologies.

Chemistry uses an atomic-level perspective to examine structures, reactions, and measurements of molecules, while biochemistry integrates chemical principles with modern molecular biology. Both fields are experimental sciences using both benchtop and instrumental techniques. Study in chemistry or biochemistry can lead to a variety of careers besides chemical or biochemical research. Among these are medicine, teaching, patent law, business, and interdisciplinary sciences such as molecular biology, environmental science, pharmacology, toxicology, materials science, geochemistry, and chemical physics.

arrow See information about Research, Internships, Study Away, and Experiential Learning (RISE).

arrow Explore Winter Term projects and opportunities.

Departmental Policies

Initial and Advanced Placement

The following score(s) will correspond to credit for the following course(s), fulfilling corresponding prerequisite requirements (if applicable) and counting toward total credits needed for graduation:

  • AP Chemistry, 4 or 5  →  CHEM 101  (one full course)
  • IB HL Chemistry, 6 or 7  →  CHEM 101  (one full course)

Note: Transfer credit received for CHEM 101  may count toward the biochemistry major, chemistry major, and chemistry minor.

General Chemistry

Students who earn transfer credit for CHEM 101  are eligible to enter at CHEM 102  in the fall or spring.

Note: Students who have earned an A-levels score of A*, A, or B do not receive transfer credit for CHEM 101 , but may begin college chemistry with CHEM 102 .

All students planning to take general chemistry should take the general chemistry placement survey. Students with no high school preparation are eligible to enroll in CHEM 101 , but may also benefit from taking a 000-level course (i.e., courses designed for non-majors) prior to doing so.

Organic Chemistry

Students with exceptional high school preparation in mathematics and chemistry as well as either a 5 on the AP Chemistry Examination or a 6 or 7 on the IB HL Chemistry Examination may petition the department chair to enroll in CHEM 205  (fall or spring).

Upon earning a grade of C- or better in CHEM 205 , the student would also receive transfer credit equivalent to CHEM 102 .

Transfer of Credit for Content Taught by the Department

Prior approval is required for chemistry coursework taken away from Oberlin to count in place of an Oberlin course.

Note: Except for coursework transferred in at the time of entry by transfer students, the department cannot approve transfer of credit for courses taken at community colleges.

arrow View the detailed procedure and required forms for the transfer of credit process.

Majors and Minors


Courses in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Oberlin College are designed to emphasize fundamental principles and their application to observed phenomena. These courses develop chemical reasoning and experimental skills, reflect the interdisciplinary nature of chemistry and biochemistry, and prepare students for success in graduate or professional programs. Biochemistry courses in particular provide students with the tools to study the chemistry of life and biology in atomic detail.

Chemistry and biochemistry are experimental sciences. In addition to learning skills and techniques in laboratory courses, students have opportunities for in-depth research experiences with faculty during the semesters, summer, and Winter Term.

Gateway Course Sequence to More Advanced Coursework

The normal introductory sequence to further study in the department is the general chemistry sequence CHEM 101  followed by CHEM 102 ; students may begin this sequence in either semester. A grade of C- or better in CHEM 102  is a prerequisite for most chemistry courses at the 200-level and above.


The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry curriculum is approved by the American Chemical Society (ACS); as such, the department is empowered to certify graduates who satisfy the ACS guidelines. An ACS-certified bachelor’s degree is recognized by employers and the chemistry community as a mark of broad and substantive undergraduate training. The requirements for earning a certified degree are detailed within the major requirements.