Understanding chemistry—the underlying principles that govern the interactions, composition, and reactivity of matter in all its forms—is critical to addressing the most pressing environmental, technological, and societal challenges.

Occidental’s chemistry program is guided by the principle that the best way to learn science is to do science. As a chemistry major, you will develop a deep and comprehensive understanding of the principles of chemistry through a rich, hands-on laboratory experience in your classes and in research projects with faculty mentors. Research is at the core of our curriculum. Every chemistry major carries out original laboratory research, working side-by-side with department faculty on high-impact contemporary problems such as:

  • mapping the complex chemistry of living systems
  • synthesizing novel compounds in drug design
  • engineering biomolecules, guided by genomics and bioinformatics
  • developing new energy sources
  • creating and studying novel nanomaterials

Nearly all chemistry majors participate in Oxy’s Summer Research Program, and many go on to co-author papers in peer-reviewed journals and present their research at national and international conferences. Our culture of mentorship and community is perhaps the greatest strength of the program. Peer mentoring and our Academic Mastery Program enhance the collegial atmosphere outside the lab. Our long history of student achievement validates our approach: Occidental chemistry graduates have excelled in academic research; applied/industrial research and engineering; medicine and the health professions; education; government; and business.

Over the past 25 years, Oxy chemistry majors have had a 100% acceptance rate into graduate programs in chemistry, biochemistry, and chemical engineering, and an 89% acceptance rate into medical, dental, pharmacy, and M.D./Ph.D. programs. Our program has also produced three Rhodes Scholars, a Marshall Scholar, and 12 National Science Foundation Graduate Fellows.

Traditionally, the chemistry department has not allowed online courses to apply for transfer credit due to the lack of a hands-on lab component. In light of current circumstances and shifting college policy, the department has decided to allow transfer of online courses for the summer of 2020 onlyas long as they meet the following criteria: if the online course is intended to replace an Oxy course with co-curricular labs, the online course must have a separate lab component. This lab component does not have to be an in-person lab experience; it may be a virtual lab component. If you are unsure about what your potential summer class offers or if it meets the requirements, please consult with the Department. All individual courses still need to be approved by the department Chair in order to ensure adequate rigor and topical similarity.

Meet Our Faculty

Research You Might Take Part In

Working with a surgical team at the University of California-Irvine, the Hill Group is developing non-invasive molecular based surgical modalities to replace the scalpel and sutures for reshaping cartilaginous tissues. They are currently working on electrochemical-based corneal refraction.

Professor Mike Hill

The Cannon Lab is generally interested in developing new methods for the synthesis of carbon-carbon bonds in order to synthesize pharmaceuticals and other important biomolecules. Current projects include the use of blue LED light to promote catalysis and new methods for the synthesis of amino acids, one of the key building blocks of biology.

Professor Jeffrey Cannon

Cannon Lab Website

The Despagnet-Ayoub group focuses its efforts on designing organometallic complexes for space applications, including electrolytes for batteries operational on ice planets and catalysts for converting carbon dioxide to oxygen on Mars.

Professor Emmanuelle Despagnet-Ayoub

One of the goals of the Navarro lab is to develop new chemical transformations that facilitate the synthesis of biologically active natural products. It is currently targeting the synthesis of one particular natural product, swerilactone A, which shows promising biological activity against hepatitis B.

Professor Raul Navarro

Navarro Lab Website

One team of Occidental researchers combines chemical modification with genetic engineering to exploit virus nanoparticles to perturb the coagulation cascade. The technology can be used to reverse heparin-induced anti-coagulation following surgical procedures, or prevent blood clot formation during surgical intervention.

Professor Andrew Udit

What Our Graduates Are Doing

Attending faculty, hematology, Johns Hopkins University

Jason Willis

Ph.D. program in chemistry, Harvard University

Jack Thomas-Colwell

Professor of Chemistry & Biomedical Engineering, B.U.

Mark W. Grinstaff

SVP of Product, Patform and Partner Marketing & Strategy

Mark Woollen

Ph.D. program in educational social work, UT Austin

Katherine Hess

M.D., Emergency Medicine, USC Keck School of Medicine

Nick Saade

Master's program in chemical engineering, USC

Chester Cahill
Contact Chemistry
Norris Hall 302