Chemists discover new life saving drugs, help to build a greener future and investigate the fundamental physical properties of life itself.

You will graduate from Somerville at the end of this 4-year course with investigative skills and a deep and experimental understanding of the world around you.


Chemistry teaching at Somerville is led by our two full-time Tutorial Fellows in Chemistry, Associate Professor Jonathan Burton and Professor Michael Hayward. Jonathan is our Tutor in Organic Chemistry, and his research group investigates total synthesis methods for organic molecules. In 2016, he won a Matter, Plants and Life Sciences department teaching award for excellence in teaching. Michael Hayward, our Tutor in Inorganic Chemistry, leads the Hayward Group which studies the synthesis and characterisation of novel solids, with a particular interest in new electronic and magnetic materials. 

In your first three years, you will learn through tutorials in Somerville (one or two per week), lectures at the Faculty (usually about ten a week), and practical classes in the laboratories of the Chemistry Department (two afternoons a week), with exams at the end of each year. You can learn an optional Supplementary Subject in your second year and many Somerville chemists enjoy taking advantage of this opportunity to increase the depth of their study in a given area, examine related disciplines or see their main subject in perspective. Possibilities include Biochemistry and Biophysics, Ceramics, Pharmacology, Quantum Chemistry, Anthropology, and the History and Philosophy of Science. 

Your fourth year is devoted to an original Masters research project. Under the supervision of a member of the Chemistry sub-faculty, you will write a thesis which could even go on to be your first publication. Most students work in one of the three main Chemistry departments, but you can also choose to work in a closely related department such as Biochemistry, Molecular Biophysics and Materials Science. You will have a free choice of Department for Part II projects, and in recent years Somervillians have been represented in all the main departments.

For more information about the course structure and admissions requirements, visit the University’s course website.


Chemistry is one of Somerville’s largest subjects. We aim to give places to 8 undergraduates each year. Together with our Biochemists, we have a supportive community of scientists spanning 4 year groups.

We have a long history of training brilliant chemists, including one of the very first two women to study Chemistry at Oxford, Mary Watson. For decades Somerville was the home of the crystallographer Dorothy Hodgkin, the only British woman to win the Nobel Prize in Science, who first studied at Somerville and then taught here as a Tutorial Fellow in Chemistry for over thirty years. 

Next steps 

Chemists enter widely varying careers. Somerville chemists often continue in Chemistry to work for a PhD or DPhil degree, but recent graduates have entered industry, the civil service, school teaching, financial services and other professions. One particularly well-known Somerville Chemistry alumna has even entered No.10 Downing Street as the UK’s first female Prime Minister…

Fellows and Lecturers
  • Jonathan Burton

    Sue and Kevin Scollan Fellow & Tutor in Organic Chemistry; Professor of Organic Chemistry
  • Michael Hayward

    Sue and Kevin Scollan Fellow & Tutor in Inorganic Chemistry; Professor of Inorganic Chemistry
  • Simon Cassidy

    Stipendiary Lecturer
  • Tommy Pitcher

    Retaining Fee Lecturer
  • Fay Probert

    Dorothy Hodgkin Career Development Fellow
  • Dean Sheppard

    Departmental Lecturer
Where Next?