Chemistry at Balliol College

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Balliol College has a distinguished tradition in Chemistry that goes back more than 150 years. In 1853 the College opened its own chemistry laboratory, in what is now the JCR bar. Two Balliol Chemistry alumni have won Nobel prizes: Cyril Hinshelwood (who was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1956) and Oliver Smithies (who was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2007). Another Balliol Chemistry alumnus, Christopher Longuet-Higgins, became a distinguished theoretical chemist, while the American Nobel laureate Linus Pauling deduced the structure of the alpha-helix when he was a Visiting Research Fellow in Balliol.

We believe that prospective applicants studying Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics have the best basis for success in the Oxford Chemistry course, but Biology or Further Mathematics are acceptable alternatives to Physics. (The first year includes Physics courses and classes for the benefit of undergraduates without Physics A‑level.) We warmly welcome applicants from all educational backgrounds: students are selected on the basis of their potential and enthusiasm for the subject.

Chemistry in Oxford is taught by a mixture of lectures, laboratory work, classes and small group tutorials. The tutorials take place in College, and are given by one of the College’s tutors or lecturers (who are listed below). In addition to the College-based tutorials, classes in Mathematics and Physics are arranged in the first year.

About two-thirds of the College’s chemists proceed to complete their professional training by undertaking research for a doctorate in Oxford or elsewhere. Together with graduates from other colleges and universities, there are typically over 20 graduate Chemistry researchers in the College. Those who have finished their studies since 1970 include several who are now professors (including Professor Hagan Bayley, the present Professor of Chemical Biology at Oxford) or industrial research directors. But another is a senior paediatrician, one is a headmaster, several are solicitors, several are in computing, and a few work in the financial industry.

The College’s Chemistry Fellows have wide-ranging research interests. Professor Dermot O’Hare’s is in organometallic chemistry. Professor William Barford’s are in theoretical chemistry, focusing on quantum processes in macromolecular systems, while Dr Matthew Langton’s are in synthetic supramolecular and coordination chemistry, particularly at the interface of biological chemistry and nanotechnology.

The Balliol Chemistry Society (BACCHUS) organises regular social and academic activities, drawing together Balliol’s large community of Chemistry undergraduate and graduate students and the Chemistry Fellows, ensuring that Balliol College is a vibrant and rewarding place to study Chemistry.

Number of places at Balliol: 7.


About the course

Please see the Department of Chemistry website.

Course requirements and selection criteria

How to apply to read Chemistry at Balliol College