Chemistry program

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Discover new medications, monitor pollution, or meet the demand for energy-producing fuels.

Chemistry is great foundation for a wide range of career opportunities.

Chemistry education at UWL blends technical, hands-on research experience using modern equipment with practical skill development. Students are immersed in the process of science — designing experiments, collecting data and presenting results. They also learn soft skills to thrive in the workplace such as teamwork, communication and problem solving.

What can you do with a chemistry degree?

Career possibilities in chemistry are wide ranging. They include positions in industry, research, education, engineering, health professions, public service and more. See industries with the highest concentrations of chemists. Even in times when unemployment rates are high, the chemist remains one of the most highly sought after and employed scientists. The median pay of chemists and materials scientists in 2021 was $79,760 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The American Chemical Society (ACS) College to Career page is a great resource to explore careers in chemistry. Also see the ACS page dedicated to Chemists in the Real World. Chemistry-related occupations and chemistry-related industries are projected to grow in the state, according to the Department of Workforce Development.

Careers in chemistry

  • Research chemist with the Centers for Disease Control
  • Government scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Industrial chemist managing pollution control
  • Science policy advocate for a non-profit organization
  • Chemistry professor (with further education)
  • High school science teacher (with teacher certification)

Further education

  • Medical or other professional study in pharmacy, veterinary medicine, nuclear medicine, optometry, dentistry and more
  • Graduate study in analytical chemistry, biochemistry, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, physical chemistry, material science, polymer chemistry, chemical engineering and more
  • Law school (example: patent law)
  • Industrial management training
  • Graduate study in business

What distinguishes UWL's chemistry program?

Accredited department

The UWL Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry is accredited by both the American Chemical Society-Committee on Professional Training (ACS-CPT) and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB).This recognition acknowledges the quality program, staff and facilities of the department.

Student scholarships available

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry is able to award more than $30,000 in student scholarships annually to support returning undergraduate students in the major and graduates of the program who are entering a professional program in the basic sciences and/or health professions. Learn more about Chemistry scholarship opportunities.  

Undergraduate research opportunities

Students have numerous opportunities to get involved in cutting-edge chemical, biochemical, and educational undergraduate research projects. In 2019-20, the Chemistry Department had the highest percentage of students participating in undergraduate research at UW-La Crosse. Learn about the research interests of faculty.

Hands-on with high-end instruments

Students will gain experience using high-end scientific instrumentation. This instrumentation includes: Imaging and Surface Analysis, Spectroscopy, Electrochemical and Electrical, Separations, Thermal Methods, X-ray, NMR, Radiation, Sample Preparation.

Preparation with technical and soft skills

Students are given broad preparation with both technical and soft skills. This leads to graduates who are flexible and creative problem solvers who can adapt and thrive as their career advances.

Prestigious ACS-certified degree offered, plus other options

The chemistry program is approved by the American Chemical Society (ACS) and offers a prestigious ACS-Certified bachelor's degree in chemistry for students who meet the required guidelines. The chemistry program offers several other bachelor’s degree and minor options. See the catalog for more information. 

Diverse areas of study

Faculty represent all of the major sub-fields of chemistry and have a diverse range of research interests. Areas of expertise within chemistry include: organic, inorganic, nuclear, physical, forensic, atmospheric, environmental, computational, analytical, medicinal, biochemistry and more. 

Make connections with faculty and students

Faculty in the department generously give their time to assist students with coursework, and college and career advising. Students have opportunities to connect and enjoy fund and informative experiences through the Chemistry and Biochemistry Club

Internships available

Students are encouraged to participate in internship experiences, which may be taken for academic credit. They offer practical experiences in the field, and, in some cases, are paid. Campus support is available to help find internships through UWL Career Services and Handshake.

High percentage of graduates successfully pursue doctoral degrees

The Chemistry & Biochemistry Department currently has over 250 student majors. Each year, over 30 students graduate with bachelor of science degrees in chemistry or biochemistry. Typically, 30-50% of graduating seniors apply to, and are accepted by graduate programs at major research universities where they pursue doctoral degrees in chemistry or related areas.

Excellent pre-health choice

The Chemistry Department had 223 total majors in fall of 2022 with 42% of those majors indicating they are on the pre-health track, looking to future careers in healthcare fields.

Co-author with faculty

Students routinely co-author professional presentations ​and publications with chemistry faculty members. Students often present their research at regional and national meetings. Examples of co-authored research include:

  • Roskam JL, Nowak KL, Taylor KT, Rendler SR, and Beyer KD. (2021) Phase diagrams of aqueous solutions of the potassium salts of malonic, succinic, and glutaric acids. The Journal of Chemical Thermodynamics. 158: 106466-106477.
  • Stuttgen GM, Grosskopf JD, Berger CR, May JF, Bhattacharyya B, and Weaver TM. (2020) Closed fumarase C active-site structures reveal SS Loop residue contribution in catalysis. FEBS Letters. 594(2); 337-357.
  • Thielen MK, Vaneerd CK, Goswami M, Carlson EE, and May JF. (2020) 2-aminobenzothiazoles inhibit virulence gene expression and block polymyxin resistance in Salmonella enterica. ChemBioChem. 21(24): 3500-3503.
  • Macedo LJA, Miller EN, and Opdahl A. (2017) Effect of probe-probe distance on the stability of DNA hybrids on surfaces. Analytical Chemistry. 89(3): 1757-1763.

Areas of study


Chemistry is the study of substances, their properties, energies, the ways they interact and combine and change. Traditionally, chemistry has been broken into five main sub-disciplines: Organic, Analytical, Physical, Inorganic, and Biochemistry. The field also includes a variety of applied disciplines. Chemistry is often referred to as the central science because it joins together physics and mathematics, biology and medicine, and the earth and environmental sciences. 

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ACS Certification

UWL's Chemistry program is approved by the American Chemical Society (ACS). This degree track includes the coursework and experiences necessary to satisfy the requirements for ACS certification, meaning students who meet the ACS guidelines will receive an ACS-Certified Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry. 

Undergrad major View a sample plan for ACS Certification Catalogfor ACS Certification

Business Concentration

The chemistry major with a business concentration is appealing to students interested in both the science and business sides of chemistry. Students learn core chemical theory and laboratory skills through a series of chemistry courses. They also gain a strong foundation in business through courses in management, accounting, finance, and marketing.

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Science Education

The Chemistry Education Program includes the coursework and classroom experiences necessary to satisfy the requirements for a science, grades 4-12 (2600) teaching license in the state of Wisconsin.

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Environmental Science Concentration

The chemistry major with an environmental science concentration provides a strong background in chemistry, along with multi-disciplinary, elective course options to explore areas such as climate change, contaminants, renewable energy, geospatial analysis, and ecosystem modeling.

Undergrad major View a sample plan for Environmental Science Catalogfor Environmental Science

Undergrad dual degree

Chemistry majors with interest in engineering may be able to receive both a UWL bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a bachelor’s degree in engineering from UW-Madison. At UWL, students must complete a minimum of 87 credits, including the general education requirements and specific math and science courses in preparation for the engineering program.

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Sample courses

CHM 103 General Chemistry I An introduction to chemistry including topics in atomic structure, chemical bonding, molecular structure, chemical stoichiometry, reactivity, states of matter, solutions, acid-base theory, and nuclear chemistry, and also including selected topics in descriptive and applied chemistry. Scientific inquiry, experimental design and data analysis are included. Lect. 3, Lab 3, Disc. 1. Prerequisite: grade of "C" or better in MTH 150 or placement into MTH 151 or higher. Students who are currently enrolled in CHM 103 may not register for this course again until after priority registration (unless they have instructor/department consent). Offered Fall, Spring, Summer.

CHM 303 Organic Chemistry Theory I A study of the structure, methods of structure determination, stereochemistry and chemical behavior of hydrocarbons, alcohols, and halogenated hydrocarbons. Theories and mechanisms are introduced to explain chemical behavior. Prerequisite: CHM 104; sophomore standing. Students with credit in CHM 300 cannot earn credit in CHM 303. Offered Fall, Spring.

CHM 301 Analytical Chemistry Theory and practice of selected methods of chemical analysis. Titrimetric, potentiometric, spectrophotometric and gas chromatographic methods of analysis are studied. Statistical treatment of data and techniques for quality assurance are also developed. The basic science component in the course is primarily directed towards ionic equilibria. Lect. 3, Lab 6. Prerequisite: CHM 104; sophomore standing. Offered Fall, Spring.

CHM 309 Physical Chemistry Theory I A study of real gases, equations of state, kinetic and molecular theory, properties of gases, molecular energies, classical thermodynamics, chemical equilibria, changes of state and reaction kinetics and mechanisms. Prerequisite: CHM 104; PHY 103 or PHY 203; PHY 104 or PHY 204; MTH 310 or concurrent enrollment. Offered Fall.

CHM 325 Fundamental Biochemistry This course is the study of the fundamental chemical processes in biological systems emphasizing the structure and function of biological macromolecules, metabolism and the regulation of cellular processes, transport mechanisms, nature of biological energy, and applications to cellular and organismal function. Lect. 3, Lab 3. Prerequisite: CHM 300 or CHM 304 are required; a 300 or 400-level chemistry course with a lab (excluding CHM 461, CHM 489, and CHM 499) is recommended. Students with credit in CHM 417 cannot earn credit in CHM 325. Offered Fall, Spring.

CHM 441 Instrumental Analysis A study of the theory and principles of chemical instrumentation including the application of basic electronics, spectroscopy, separation science and electroanalytical methods of chemical analysis. Lect. 3, Lab 3. Prerequisite: CHM 301; junior standing. Offered Fall.

CHM 424 Spectroscopy A survey of important spectroscopic methods used in chemistry; infrared and ultraviolet, proton and carbon-13 NMR, and mass spectrometry. Theory and practice of techniques are covered. Emphasis is placed on structure determination of organic molecules. Analysis of dynamic systems and mixtures may also be covered. Lect. 2, Lab 3. Prerequisite: CHM 300 or CHM 304; junior standing. Offered Spring - Even Numbered Years.

CHM 330 Industrial Chemistry An overview of both the scientific and commercial aspects of the chemical industry. Industrially important chemical processes will be discussed. Topics will include production and end use of basic inorganic chemicals of commercial importance, industrial gases, and petroleum-based products. The economics of various chemical processes will be presented. Global and local topics such as regulatory compliance, product liability, and patent/trade secret documentation may also be discussed. Prerequisite: CHM 300 or CHM 303. Offered Spring - Even Numbered Years.

CHM 461 Nuclear Chemistry A study of the decay of radioactive nuclides with emphasis on the theory of nuclear decay. Laboratory will include the study of the detection of radiation, methods of radio analysis and the safe handling of unsealed radioactive sources. Lect. 3, Lab 3. Prerequisite: four semesters of chemistry courses; junior standing. Students with credit in CHM 361 cannot earn credit in CHM 461. Offered Spring.

CHM 413 Environmental Chemistry Laboratory This course is an exploration of chemical reactivity and measurement in atmospheric, terrestrial, and aquatic ecosystems. Students collect and analyze samples and perform experiments that validate major environmental topics. Lab experiments include measurement of the physical/chemical properties of air, water, and soil relative to environmental standards and toxic thresholds, as well as investigations of the chemistry of greenhouse gases, contaminants, indoor pollution, and acid rain. Lab 4. Prerequisite: CHM 300 or CHM 303 or CHM 301. Offered Fall.