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Catalog Information Subject to Change

The current ESF Catalog is online only, and is updated as needed throughout the year. To view the version officially associated with a particular year of entry to the College, please refer to the appropriate catalog of record.

Department of Chemistry

Ivan Gitsov, Chair
217 Jahn Laboratory


The Department of Chemistry at ESF is unique in that it is organized around the interdisciplinary areas of biochemistry and natural products chemistry, environmental chemistry and polymer chemistry.

We stress a strong foundation in the traditional areas of chemistry (analytical, inorganic, organic and physical chemistry) plus integration of these areas into its specialties. Students at all levels enjoy the advantages of a chemistry program with specialties aligned with the needs of the 21st century.

The department is committed to maintaining its leading role in extending the state of knowledge in its specialties. The department’s home is the 71,000-square-foot Edwin C. Jahn Laboratory. This state-of-the-art facility for research and teaching is well equipped with instruments needed for modern chemical research. The department involves all of its students in research, giving them familiarity with the actual practice of chemistry.

Bachelor of Science in Chemistry

In pursuing a bachelor of science in chemistry, students first receive a strong foundation in analytical, physical, organic and inorganic chemistry before selecting one of three options leading to the degree: biochemistry and natural products, environmental chemistry, and natural and synthetic polymer chemistry.

Each option offers an advanced course of studies beyond the basic courses of the classical undergraduate chemistry curriculum. All options are excellent grounding for professional work at the B.S. level or for advanced graduate study.

Biochemistry and Organic Chemistry of Natural Products

This option stresses a chemical approach to problems in the life and health sciences. Students take advanced courses in natural products chemistry, chemical analysis, and biochemistry. Professional electives in botany, chemical ecology, genetics and molecular biology strengthen connections in the life and health sciences.

Research areas include the elucidation of chemical signals by which organisms communicate with each other, the role of trace metals in the growth of microorganisms, the origin and function of biologically active natural compounds, and synthetic biology and metabolic engineering for the production of value-added products and antimicrobial compounds.

Environmental Chemistry

Environmental chemistry stresses applications of fundamental chemical principles to describe and predict behavior of chemicals in the environment. After obtaining a strong foundation in analytical, physical and organic chemistry, students pursue advanced study in air and water chemistry.

Students in the undergraduate program in the Environmental Chemistry option take all the core chemistry courses as outlined on the chemistry curriculum. In their senior year, they take two lecture courses and one laboratory course in Environmental Chemistry:

  • FCH 510 Environmental Chemistry I - Aquatic Chemistry
  • FCH 511 Environmental Chemistry II - Atmospheric Chemistry
  • FCH 515 Methods of Environmental Chemical Analysis

The senior year culminates in a senior research project undertaken under the supervision of one of the chemistry faculty. This give students the opportunity to experience research ranging from laboratory work to field-intensive studies.

Natural and Synthetic Polymer Chemistry

Students take advanced courses in mechanisms of polymerization and polymer synthesis, physical properties and characterization of polymers, and laboratory techniques of polymer synthesis and characterization. Special topics courses in contemporary polymer and material science are available as electives. In addition, courses in carbohydrate chemistry provide a solid background for chemists planning careers in paper, plastic, high-tech, energy, membranes, and related areas. Biochemistry is an appropriate elective for students interested in the growth of biotechnologies while environmental chemistry complements this program for students interested in working on problems of biodegradation.

Lower Division Required Courses

APM 205Calculus I for Science and Engineering G4
APM 206Calculus for Science and Engineering IIG4
EFB 101General Biology I: Organismal Biology and EcologyG3
EFB 102General Biology I LaboratoryG1
EFB 103General Biology II: Cell Biology and Genetics G3
EFB 104General Biology II Laboratory G1
ESF 200Information Literacy 1
EWP 190Writing and the Environment G3
EWP 290Research Writing and HumanitiesG3
FCH 132Orientation Seminar: Chemistry 1
FCH 150General Chemistry I G3
FCH 151General Chemistry Laboratory I G1
FCH 152General Chemistry II G3
FCH 153General Chemistry Laboratory II G1
FCH 221Organic Chemistry I 3
FCH 222Organic Chemistry Laboratory I 1
FCH 223Organic Chemistry II 3
FCH 224Organic Chemistry Laboratory II 1
FCH 232Career Skills for Chemists 1
PHY 211General Physics IG3
PHY 212General Physics II 3
PHY 221General Physics I Laboratory 1
PHY 222General Physics II Laboratory 1

Lower Division Electives

Course Codes* Credits
Math Elective (Calculus III [APM307] or Statistics [APM391]) 3
Free Elective 2
General Education Courses G 9

Upper Division Required Courses

EWP 407Writing for Environmental & Science Professionals 3
FCH 325Organic Chemistry III 4
FCH 360Physical Chemistry I 3
FCH 361Physical Chemistry II 3
FCH 380Analytical Chemistry I: Gravimetric, Titrimetric and Potentiometric Analysis 3
FCH 381Analytical Chemistry II: Spectroscopic, Chromatographic and Electroanalytical Instrumental Technique 3
FCH 384Spectrometric Identification of Organic Compounds 1 - 2
FCH 410Inorganic Chemistry 3
FCH 495Introduction to Professional Chemistry 1
FCH 497Undergraduate Seminar 1
FCH 498Introduction to Research 1 - 5

NOTE: FCH 384 is a 2 credit course
NOTE: FCH 498 is a 5 credit course

Upper Division Electives

Course Codes* Credits
Professional Electives
Students should complete a three-semester set of professional electives chosen from a list of courses available in the Department of Chemistry office. The courses provide a wide range of study including biology, chemistry, ecology, forestry, environmental law, mathematics, geology, physics, biophysics, and various engineering disciplines.
Electives 9

Option Courses

Biochemistry and Natural Products Option

FCH 530Biochemistry I 3
FCH 531Biochemistry Laboratory 3
FCH 532Biochemistry II 3

Environmental Chemistry Option

FCH 510Environmental Chemistry I 3
FCH 511Atmospheric Chemistry 3
FCH 515Methods of Environmental Chemical Analysis 3

Natural and Synthetic Polymer Chemistry Option

FCH 550Polymer Science: Synthesis and Mechanisms 3
FCH 551Polymer Techniques 3
FCH 552Polymer Science: Properties and Technology 3

Total Minimum Credits For Degree: 121

Graduate Programs

The Department of Chemistry at ESF is unique in that it is structured around four areas of application:

Faculty members in the department are internationally recognized experts and are well funded by federal agencies (NSF, DOE, NASA, etc.), industry, government, and NGOs. Graduate students commonly receive national fellowships. The environment for graduate students is challenging but supportive, as faculty are invested in student success.

Graduate degrees require an appropriate program of courses at ESF and Syracuse University. Master of Science and doctoral students must complete a minimum of 18 credit hours and 30 credit hours of graduate level coursework, respectively. In addition, doctoral students must pass a doctoral candidacy examination.

Current research projects encompass natural and synthetic polymer chemistry, biochemistry and microbiology; organic chemistry of natural products and chemical ecology; environmental chemistry of air and water; climate change.

Masters in Professional Studies (M.P.S.) Degree

The Masters in Professional Studies is designed as a coursework-based program intended for students who need additional courses in Chemistry, but who are not planning on pursuing a research career in the field. M.P.S. students take courses in anyof the subject areas of the department: Biochemistry, Environmental Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Natural Products/Organic Chemistry and Polymer Chemistry. The curriculum is sufficiently flexible to allow a student interested in specializing in one of these areas to take the core sequence in that area, although this is not strictly required. Students who have taken any of these courses as undergraduates may not repeat them for graduate credit.

All students entering graduate programs at ESF are expected to be proficient in communication skills, including technical writing and library skills. This applies to M.P.S. students also and they are required to have completed at least one course in technical writing and one course in library usage, either as an undergraduate or as a graduate student. Alternatively, graduate students can meet the requirement by demonstrating the equivalent in experience in writing and library skills, as determined by the steering committee.

In addition to the formal coursework, the M.P.S. program also requires an integrative experience that allows one to synthesize one's knowledge. This can be a detailed analysis of one particular area of chemistry, an independent study, internship with industry, or work in a research laboratory. The integrative experience should be approved by the student's steering committee prior to starting and the student will be expected to present a written final report on the integrative experience.

M.P.S. Program Requirements

The Master of Professional Studies (M.P.S.) degree requires a total of 30 credits (minimum) in the following configuration:



Chemistry, in the areas of Biochemistry, Environmental Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Natural Products Chemistry or Polymer Chemistry.


Other sciences, engineering and mathematics




Integrative experience (internship or independent study)


Elective coursework, seminars, internships or research experience


Total (minimum)


  • 15 credits of advanced chemistry courses, including graduate chemistry courses are available at ESF and Syracuse University.
  • 6 credits of graduate coursework in Science, Mathematics or Engineering. These may include graduate courses offered at ESF or Syracuse University in physical or biological sciences, mathematics (including statistical analysis), or any area of engineering. Courses must be approved by the student's steering committee.
  • 3 credits of seminar: Either of following, one-credit courses may be repeated, or students may choose seminars offered in other departments with approval of the advisor.
    • FCH 997 Seminar (all students)
    • FCH 797 Graduate Seminar
  • 3 credits for an integrative experience as FCH 898, Professional Experience/Synthesis in Chemistry.
  • 3 credits of additional graduate coursework: These remaining three credits may be drawn from additional graduate level coursework, seminars, internships and research experience as approved by the student’s steering committee.

M.S. & Ph.D. Degrees

The Biochemistry, Environmental Chemistry, and Polymer Chemistry options each have a core sequence of courses that are required for all graduate students in that option. All graduate students must present a department seminar (FCH 997) plus a capstone seminar; the capstone seminar is usually given on the day of the thesis or dissertation defense.

General Requirements

Steering committee and program of study: By the end of their first year of study, all graduate students must formally identify the two faculty who, in addition to their major professor, will provide guidance for their graduate school career. These two faculty and the major professor constitute the steering committee. These faculty must approve the student's program of study: the list of courses the student will take for their degree. This approval must also occur by the end of the first year. Forms are available online at students' MyESF page.

M.S. Program Requirements

M.S. students are required to take at least 18 credits of coursework or non-thesis research; some options require additional credits. While a certain number of research credits are required, successful completion of an M.S. thesis project is determined by effort and effectiveness, not by credits.

Ph.D. Program Requirements

Ph.D. students are required to take at least 30 credits of coursework or non-dissertation research; some options require additional credits. While a certain number of research credits are required, successful completion of a Ph.D. dissertation project is determined by effort and effectiveness, not by credits.

The candidacy exam at ESF has three formats, but Chemistry usually uses format 2 (research report) or format 3 (the thesis proposal). After authoring the document, students defend it orally in front of their steering committee and one or two examiners.

Areas of Study

There are six graduate areas of study in Chemistry:

Biochemistry (M.P.S., M.S., Ph.D.)

Graduate studies in biochemistry reflect the College’s interests in microbial, insect, bio-based fuel, and plant biochemistry.

After completing a one-year sequence in general biochemistry, students select advanced courses from a range of offerings in chemistry, organismal biology and molecular biology. Advanced courses in biochemistry are available both at ESF and Syracuse University.

Environmental Chemistry (M.P.S., M.S., Ph.D.)

The ESF program offering M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in chemistry with an emphasis in environmental chemistry is one of the few doctoral programs of its type within a chemistry department in the United States. The six core faculty and five participating faculty make it one of the largest such programs in the world.

Students take three core courses in environmental chemistry and one course in biochemistry. Subsequent coursework is carefully selected from regularly offered courses on oceanography, biogeochemistry, analytical methods, and basic areas of chemistry. Coursework is also available in ecology, biology, geology, and engineering.

Research in environmental chemistry spans a wide range, from fieldwork to laboratory work to computer modeling. Areas of research include global climate change, coral reef ecosystems, biogeochemistry, atmospheric chemistry, regional and global air quality, and transient and persistent organic pollutants. The program avoids a "pollutant of the week" approach that would leave graduates unprepared for future developments. Instead, it emphasizes a framework wherein students can incorporate new knowledge as it becomes available and deal with new problems as they appear.

Organic Chemistry of Natural Products (M.P.S., M.S., Ph.D.)

Graduate students in organic chemistry of natural products take a one-year course sequence in mechanistic organic chemistry and another in synthetic organic chemistry. Additionally, one-semester courses are required in advanced physical chemistry and the organic chemistry of natural products.

Courses in biochemistry, inorganic chemistry, statistics and specialized courses in chemistry or biology may be arranged and selected by the student in consultation with faculty.

Research in the field of organic chemistry of natural products takes three paths. These paths are the isolation and characterization of new natural substances; the synthesis of new or improved syntheses of better-known natural substances; and the study of the relation of molecular structure to biological response. Chemical research in each of these areas is coupled with biological testing. Research involving isolation and synthetic chemistry requires the student to develop expertise in separation techniques, such as the several methods of chromatography and spectrometric identification of molecules. Successful investigation in structure/activity relationships requires the student to become familiar with statistical methods of analysis.

Polymer Chemistry (M.P.S., M.S., Ph.D.)

Graduate students in polymer chemistry select their courses from a range of offerings in chemistry, chemical engineering, mathematics, physics, and other appropriate areas. These courses will include the one-year sequence in the physical and organic chemistry of polymers and such additional courses as the student and advisor consider necessary.

Special topics in a spectrum of polymer fields are offered or can be arranged in consultation with the faculty.

Research is an essential component of any graduate degree program in polymer chemistry.

Chemical Ecology (M.S., M.P.S., Ph.D.)

As a relatively new interdisciplinary endeavor, workers in this field attempt to understand organismal interactions, both intra- and interspecific, mediated by chemical substances such as hormones, pheromones, kairomones and phytoalexins.

These interactions occur at all taxonomic levels: between uni- and multicellular organisms, microbes and plants, plants and plants, plants and animals, microbes and animals and various species of animals. Study of such interactions has accelerated in recent years through joint efforts of biologists and chemists in basic and applied research in the laboratory and field.

The area of study in chemical ecology is offered through collaboration between the Department of Environmental and Forest Biology and the Department of Chemistry. Interested students should apply to the department of major interest, which will have prime responsibility for setting requirements. Faculty from both areas contribute to the development of a plan of study enabling a student to acquire sophisticated skills in either chemistry or biology and an ample understanding of the other field to grapple with problems requiring an understanding of both.

* Special Course Codes (Code indicates course meets certain program or accreditation requirements. Ignore if there is no relevance to this program of study.) G = General Education Course (GenEd), E = Engineering, ES = Engineering Sciences, M = Mathematic, NS = Natural Sciences, PE = Professional Education, S = Summer-only