Chemistry at Balliol College

Balliol College has a distinguished tradition in Chemistry that goes back more than a hundred and fifty 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 distinguished 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 also 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 twenty 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 and Dr William Barford’s is in theoretical chemistry.

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: 8.


William Barford
Associate Professor, Fellow and Tutor in Physical Chemistry, and Tutor for Graduate Admissions
Dermot O'Hare
Professor of Chemistry, SCG Fellow and Tutor in Inorganic Chemistry
Rachel Quarrell
Fellow Dean and Lecturer in Chemistry
Mark Ford
Lecturer in Chemistry
Michael Laidlaw
Lecturer in Chemistry
Max Marcus
Lecturer in Chemistry
Zoe Turner
Lecturer in Chemistry

About the course

Please see the Department of Chemistry website.

Course requirements and selection criteria

  • Balliol requires Chemistry applicants to offer Chemistry and Maths A-levels (or equivalent), plus one other A-level (or equivalent) in a Science or in Further Maths. Balliol considers Physics highly desirable (see above). See also the University’s entrance requirements.
  • Please see the Department of Chemistry’s selection criteria.

How to apply to read Chemistry at Balliol College

Alumni profile

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