Chemistry investigates matter as we encounter it in everyday life, studying its atomic and molecular basis and the transformations it can undergo. Chemistry is cross-disciplinary and it closely connects to physics and biology. Innovations occur both at the fundamental and applied level and are vital in developing new material, energy and health strategies in society.

At UCU you obtain theoretical, practical knowledge, insight and tools as well as experimental skills to deal with these challenges. 

Chemistry pops up almost everywhere in society: agriculture, archaeology, art, astronomy, biology, climate change, communication, computers, cosmetics, earth, energy, environment, food, forensic science, heating, materials, medicine, pharmaceutics, physics, toxicology, transport and so on. Because of this very wide range of applications of chemistry the introductory course firmly establishes their common basis. You learn to understand matter in terms of atoms, chemical bonds, molecules and their interactions and transformations. You learn how to use the periodic table as a tool to understand analogies between different elements based on their similarities and differences in orbitals (“electron clouds”). These orbitals interact and combine into different types of chemical bonds of widely different strength. You meet chemical reactions and see how these create new molecules and materials, while costing or sometimes generating energy (although you will see entropy ultimately decides whether or not a reaction may occur). You also encounter reaction mechanisms and different spectroscopy techniques – based on energy transitions – which help to characterize materials and reactions.

The tracks in chemistry then branch out to deal with the three main topics of chemistry, Chemistry of Materials, Chemical Conversion and Chemistry of Life. In the central track you get more insight how different materials are produced by chemical reactions and how these are influenced by tuning their mechanisms. This part is broadly divided in organic and inorganic reactions which are integrated in organo-metallics near the end of Chemistry II. In the Advanced Chemistry course you delve deeper into this by specifically studying the role catalysts play in (energy-efficient) reactions. If you are more theoretically inclined, you can combine your mathematical skills with physical insight in Physical Chemistry to understand the quantum-mechanical foundations of the introductory course as well as studying the statistical basis of energy and entropy, which particularly shows up in applications of soft matter (like food and paint and many biological systems). Similar applications come back in the Advanced Chemistry course, where you also encounter diffraction and scattering as research techniques.

In Biochemistry you will encounter the way nature performs chemistry in living systems dealing with peculiar solvents – like water – and how it controls its energy and entropy with the help of genetically programmed catalysts. This molecular insight in the functioning and metabolism of living systems combined with reaction mechanisms and strategies serves to understand the chemistry of developing (new) medicines in Medicinal Chemistry.

As described above, chemistry is by its nature connected to many other disciplines, so many combinations are possible.

The biochemistry track as well as the central chemistry track (see next section) connect logically to the Molecular Cell Biology track (UCSCIBIO11 / UCSCIBIO21 / UCSCIBIO31), but the emphasis is on the more detailed chemical description. UCSCICHE23 Biochemistry is one of the prerequisites of UCSCIMED32 Pharmacology. The biochemistry track is part of the pre-med tracks.

UCSCICHE22 Physical Chemistry is also part of the physics tracks (and its double degree programme) and you may either enter it via UCSCICHE11 Introduction to Chemistry or via UCSCIPHY12 Relativistic and Classical Physics. Moreover, UCSCICHE22 serves as the main prerequisite for UCSCIPHY3 Advanced Physics.

If you are interested in sustainability, combine chemistry with UCINTSUS21 Sustainability and UCINTSUS31 and/or UCSCIEARxx courses.

If you are interested in the history of science, technical art history or conservation and restoration consider taking the lab course UCSCICHEL6 Chemistry and Art and combine your chemistry tracks with UCSCIHIS11 History and Philosophy of Science, UCHUMHAR22 Museum Studies and UCHUMHAR32 'Heritage': Dynamics of Collections. This track provides internships in a wide range of (inter)national museums (via the UCU Cultural Heritage Programme – CHIP).

The central chemistry track UCSCICHE11 Introduction to Chemistry, UCSCICHE21 Chemistry II and UCSCICHE31 Advanced Chemistry deals with core chemistry.

Combine the central track with lab course UCSCICHEL7 Chemistry: a little bit of everything (or UCSCICHEL6 Chemistry and Art when the combination attracts you).

The biochemistry track UCSCICHE11 Introduction to Chemistry, UCSCICHE23 Biochemistry and UCSCICHE32 Medicinal Chemistry form a track of the chemistry of living systems which can be combined with biology and is also part of the pre-med tracks. UCSCICHE23 Biochemistry also connects to UCSCIBIO11 Introduction to Cell Biology as a prerequisite. Note that UCSCICHE32 Medicinal Chemistry can also be followed after UCSCICHE21 Chemistry II, but requires some familiarity with biology.

Combine the biochemistry track with lab courses UCSCIBIOL4 Biochemical pharmacology and/or UCSCICHEL5 Metabolic Biochemistry Lab.

UCSCICHE22 Physical Chemistry requires mathematical insight and skills from UCSCIMAT11 Basic Mathematics: Calculus. The course is also part of the Physics tracks and you may either enter it via UCSCICHE11 Introduction to Chemistry (where you have the advantage of having the necessary chemical background in a more basic and pictorial form) or via UCSCIPHY12 Relativistic and Classical Physics (where you get a more rigorous treatment of the classical physics employed). It serves as the main prerequisite for UCSCIPHY3 Advanced Physics. In combination with UCSCICHE11 Introduction to Chemistry (and a little extra work) it is an alternative prerequisite for UCSCICHE31 Advanced Chemistry.

The lab course UCSCICHEL6 Chemistry and Art also contains a lot of physical chemistry (of soft matter).

Because of the wide scope of chemistry in combination with adjacent or other tracks, many options for Master programs are possible and it is not doable to list all of them. With the appropriate and obvious combination of tracks you could proceed to Molecular and Cellular Life Sciences, Nanomaterials ScienceDrug Innovation, Energy Science, Sustainable Development, Science Education and Communication and History and Philosophy of Science at Utrecht University. Similar or differently pitched programs can be found at most universities around the world. An example how to go on with chemistry in an interdisciplinary context is Technical Art History at the University of Amsterdam.

Because of the large number of options it is important to start thinking as early as possible about preparing for them. This determines the choice of courses within the chemistry tracks but also the combination with other tracks. It is important to choose practical lab courses to get insight into the scientific method employed to perform research. Exchange universities usually offer a wider range of chemistry courses, which you can use to broaden or deepen your knowledge and skills base. There are also options for off-campus courses at Utrecht University. Finally, your thesis research can prepare you for getting into your master of choice. The chemistry fellow is available during your whole UCU career for a tailor-made advice.

SCICHE11 Introduction to Chemistry
You learn to understand matter in terms of atoms, chemical bonds, molecules and their interactions and transformation and how this is governed by energy and entropy.

SCICHE21 Chemistry II
You study organic and inorganic materials and their reactions/mechanisms on the basis of modern concepts of bonding.

SCICHE22 Physical Chemistry
You study the quantum-mechanical and statistical-thermodynamical foundations of chemistry (and physics) and the mathematics this entails.

SCICHE23 Biochemistry
You study the chemistry of living systems, the main processes that occur in cells and pinpoint the important features of a number of diseases.

SCICHE31 Advanced Chemistry
You study topics related to chemical and biochemical structure, function and reactions: catalysis, protein crystal structure determination and scattering in nanoscience

SCICHE32 Medicinal Chemistry
You learn how chemists work to discover, design, and synthesize a pharmaceutical agent that has a desired biological effect on the human body.

Combination with many different tracks at UCU are possible and different off-campus courses are available depending on the specific topics you are interested in. You can also follow additional courses on exchange. The chemistry fellow is available during your whole UCU career for a tailor-made advice.

Level Code Course Recommended Courses Off-campus
1 SCICHE11 Introduction to Chemistry    
2 SCHICHE21 Chemistry II    
SCICHE22 Physical Chemistry
SCICHE23 Biochemistry
3 SCICHE31 Advanced Chemistry    
SCICHE32 Medicinal Chemistry

Black arrow: prerequisite
Green arrow: choose 1 out of 2 courses (2 arrows), or recommended course (1 arrow)

SCICHEL5 Metabolic Biochemistry Lab
This course is an introduction to laboratory techniques in biomedical research with a strong focus on metabolism. The goal is to clarify the biochemistry that underlies physiology and pathology.

SCICHEL6 Chemistry and Art
This course provides a connection between the fields of chemistry and technical art history, reconstructing historical recipes and investigating these with modern techniques.

SCICHEL7 Chemistry: a little bit of everything
This course offers a broad set of practical chemical experiments: the making of chemicals, the purification, characterization and quantification of what you create, and understanding the theory and mechanisms behind it.

SCIBIOL4 Biochemical pharmacology
In this module the interaction between small organic molecules and proteins, enzymes and receptors will be measured in detail using biochemical techniques.

Level Code Lab Course Prerequisites Recommended Other
1 SCICHEL5 Metabolic Biochemistry Lab (W) SCICHE11 and SCIBIO11  
SCICHEL6 Chemistry: a little bit of everything (S) SCICHE11
SCICHEL7 Chemistry and Art (W) SCICHE11
SCIBIOL4 Biochemical Pharmacology (S) SCICHE11 or SCIBIO11

W/S = Winter/Summer

Contact person

Dr. Gert Jan Vroege is the chemistry fellow at UCU, and has his office in Newton-Dd.