Chemistry is a four-year course in which the final year is spent entirely on a research project.
In their first three years undergraduates attend tutorials arranged by the College (many with College tutors) and lectures and practical classes are organised in the Chemistry Departments, as are some classes. In the first year, students work towards the preliminary examination taking five papers. Chemists are all expected to take the subjects Physical Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry and General Mathematics and a combined Physics and Biological Chemistry paper. Tutorials in the first year are mostly given by Fellows of the College. Some subjects are taught by classes, which are organised by the University Departments. In the second and third years students attend lectures, practicals, tutorials and classes in Organic, Inorganic and Physical Chemistry.
There is an opportunity to take a Supplementary Subject in the second year and many Somerville chemists have taken advantage of this. These courses allow students to increase the depth of their study in a given area, to study related disciplines or to see their main subject in perspective. They include: Biochemistry and Biophysics, Ceramics, Pharmacology, Quantum Chemistry, Anthropology, and the History and Philosophy of Science. Final written examinations are taken at the end of the second year (3 general papers) and third year (3 general and 3 advanced papers).
The fourth year of the Chemistry course is devoted to an original research project which is written up as a thesis and examined. The research is done under the supervision of a member of the Chemistry sub-faculty; many students’ research projects result in publications. Most students work in one of the three main Chemistry Departments but it is possible to work in closely related departments such as Biochemistry, Molecular Biophysics and Materials Science where much of the work is closely related to Chemistry. Somerville chemists have a free choice of Department for Part II projects; in recent years they have been represented in all the main departments. Chemists enter widely varying careers; recent graduates have entered industry, the civil service, school teaching, financial services and other professions. Somerville chemists often continue in Chemistry to work for a PhD or DPhil degree.
Applicants should be studying Chemistry to A-level (or an equivalent qualification) and expect to obtain a good grade. An A-level qualification in Mathematics is also advised for the course. There is some flexibility about the remainder of the sixth form course; while Physics A-level is particularly helpful and most candidates have all their A-A/S-Levels in science/mathematics subjects, we also welcome those with mixed A-levels. Those who have not taken Physics to A-level will be advised on a short course of reading before they come into residence.
The College aims for an entry of eight undergraduate chemists each year. We also welcome applications from research students with places in any of the Chemistry departments.