University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Go to chemistry home page.

About the Department of Chemistry

The Department of Chemistry is dedicated to providing a world-class education through its classroom and laboratory teaching; and creating new scientific knowledge through research aimed at solving some of society's most important human health, energy, and environmental problems.

The Department of Chemistry at the University of Minnesota (UMN) provides a world-class education through classroom teaching and cutting-edge research. As a central, core discipline in science and engineering, chemistry is critical for solving society's most important problems and making significant positive impacts on human health, energy, and the environment. The UMN Department of Chemistry has been a national and international leader throughout its history. A wide range of companies and academic institutions from across the world hire our graduates and collaborate with us on research. Department of Chemistry alumni have enormous societal impact as academicians, K-12 teachers, scientists and managers in industrial and government laboratories, lawyers, public policy advocates, entrepreneurs, and in a diverse array of other fields.


Our faculty members have received many prestigious awards. Six members of the department have been members of the National Academy of Sciences and one has received a Nobel Prize. Our award-winning faculty includes recipients of the F. Albert Cotton Award in Synthetic Inorganic Chemistry (John Ellis); Analytical Chemistry Award (Peter Carr); Peter Debye Award in Physical Chemistry (Donald Truhlar); Ralph F. Hirschmann Award in Peptide Chemistry (George Barany); Alfred Bader Award in Bioinorganic or Bioorganic Chemistry (Lawrence Que Jr.); and Carl Marvel Award in Creative Polymer Chemistry (Marc Hillmyer). Three faculty members are Regents Professors (Timothy Lodge, Que and Truhlar); one is member of the National Academy of Sciences (Truhlar); and eight are University Distinguished McKnight Professors. Nine faculty members serve as editors for top chemistry journals, playing a key role in the worldwide dissemination of scientific knowledge.


As a central science, chemistry courses are required for many majors at the university. Forty-one regular faculty members, nine affiliate senior graduate faculty, and seven temporary lecturers teach more than 40,000 student credit hours per year. There are approximately 245 graduate students and 400 undergraduate students majoring in chemistry. More than 110 bachelor's degrees, 43 master's degrees, and 25 doctorates are granted each year.

Ten current faculty members have won teaching awards and are members of the Distinguished Academy of Teaching at the University of Minnesota, attesting to the outstanding quality of instruction provided in the department. Forefront instructional methods are used to enhance learning throughout the curriculum, from the introductory general chemistry level to the most advanced graduate courses. These include peer-to-peer mentoring, active learning, process oriented guided inquiry, and fun and informative demonstrations of chemistry in action.


Research in the department is wide-ranging and interdisciplinary, and addresses key societal needs and university initiatives. Overarching goals of ongoing research projects include improving human health and the environment, developing nanotechnology and novel advanced materials for a myriad of applications, and unraveling problems associated with devising new, alternative sources of energy. Research performed by graduate and undergraduate students as well as some 72 postdoctoral associates resulted in more than $14 million in research expenditures in 2012-2103. The department houses a number of multi-disciplinary and collaborative research centers including the Center for Metals in Biocatalysis, Center for Sustainable Polymers, Center for Analysis of Biomolecular Signalling, Nanoporous Materials Genome Center, and SciDAC Partnership for Charge Transfer and Charge Transport in Photoactivated Systems as well as the director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Materials Research Science and Engineering Center. Researchers are also participating in the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology.

The department also sponsors a summer research program for outstanding undergraduate students. The Lando/NSF Chemistry Summer Research Program encourages students in the chemical sciences to learn more about research in chemistry and provides them with the opportunity to work in a lab under the direction of a faculty member. Currently, support for this program comes from a combination of university and National Science Foundation-Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) sources.

In addition, the Heisig/Gleysteen Chemistry Summer Research Program is designed to encourage students in chemistry to learn more about research in chemistry and provide them with the opportunity to work in a lab under the direction of a faculty member. This program runs in conjunction with the LANDO program, which brings in students selected from a national competition. Last year, we were able to support 32 chemistry majors to do research this summer. Nine of those students received awards for a second year, and became the leaders for the program. They led weekly lunch talks focused on how to get the most out of research experiences. On their own, they put together a series of literature talks guided by the department's faculty members.


Diverse and dynamic efforts to inform the public about chemistry and its societal significance are critically important for an educated citizenry. We do chemistry demonstrations and discuss chemistry careers in local elementary, junior high, and senior high school classes and local libraries. We have participated in events at the Science Museum of Minnesota, local parent-teacher association meetings, the Minnesota State Fair, Math & Science Family Fun Day at the university, the Bell Museum, and University on the Prairie.

We also bring students to campus for special chemistry camps, workshops, and demonstrations. Students and their parents meet our professors and graduate students, learn about chemistry through hands-on experiments, and see chemistry in action.

The popular Energy and U show is an interactive presentation that emphasizes the important topic of energy through a choreographed set of demonstrations that integrates physical and chemical principles, energy conversion demonstrations, explosions, audience participation, music, and humor. Last year, approximately 10,000 3rd-6th grade students and teachers saw the show.

The Department of Chemistry, Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science, and Center for Sustainable Polymers created a display for the Eco Experience Building at the Minnesota State Fair. From the development of safer chemical products and processes to the creation of chemicals and materials from renewable resources, energy efficiency initiatives, and efforts to minimize waste and prevent pollution, this exhibit focuses on green chemistry and engineering. The multi-faceted exhibit includes informative displays highlighting the latest research and teaching, and hands-on activities for young people.


We have many ways for you to keep in touch with what's happening in the Department of Chemistry. Check out our website home page. Join our Facebook group. Follow us on Twitter. Or join the chemistry group on LinkedIn. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.