Chemistry Department

Chemistry Information

Chemistry is the study of matter and energy and the changes that they undergo. Everything that is known in the physical universe is made up of either matter or energy and the rest is just empty space. Chemistry is often referred to as the central science. All other branches of the physical sciences touch upon the subject of chemistry and indeed, here at UH Hilo all majors in the Natural Sciences Division except for Mathematics and Physics are required to take courses in Chemistry. Chemistry will play an important role in your lives in many ways. Many of the political decisions about the environment today have their basis in chemically oriented questions. This is in part due to the integral role that chemistry plays in the development of modern high technology. It is also an essential part of everyday living. As you cook, eat, and clean in and around your homes, you are made aware of the many "chemicals" that are constantly in your daily life.

Chemistry at UH Hilo

The Chemistry program at UH Hilo offers two distinct plans, the traditional Chemistry major with a Physical emphasis and another plan with a Biosciences emphasis. The first two years of both plans are almost identical, requiring the General and Organic Chemistry, Physics and Calculus. The next two years diverge. The Physical emphasis major requires more upper division courses in Chemistry while the Biosciences major requires upper division courses in Biology along with Chemistry courses. Both plans lead to a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry. Either plan prepares a student for the job market immediately after graduation or for further pursuing their education in graduate or professional schools. As the name implies, the Biosciences emphasis is designed for those students who are seeking careers in health-related fields such as medicine.

Why Study Chemistry

Chemists contribute in a myriad of ways to our society today and will continue to do so practically and theoretically. This notion becomes more apparent as we head into a future that is becoming more technologically oriented. Our lives are becoming more dependent upon what chemistry can do. The study of life itself can be approached as a question of chemistry. Chemistry is omnipresent and it can be overwhelming, however, it can also be enlightening and comforting to be able to have a better understanding of our physical universe by studying Chemistry.


The mission of the undergraduate degree program in chemistry is to offer a general and specific set of courses in several areas in chemistry that will provide students within its majors a fundamental understanding, through qualitative and quantitative reasoning, of matter and energy and the changes that they undergo. The program is designed to prepare students for advanced degrees in graduate or professional programs and for students who are seeking to immediately enter the work force as teachers and technicians. Because few students major in chemistry, graduates tend to find options for further study and career opportunities.

Goals for Student Learning in the Major

Both programs of study are designed to provide students with the following:

  • A fundamental understanding of analytical, inorganic, instrumental, organic and physical chemistry.
  • A basic understanding of physics.
  • Basic knowledge of the differential and integral calculus and statistical analysis.
  • Basic chemistry laboratory skills.
  • Skills to do chemical research.
  • The ability to engage in scientific inquiry.
  • An understanding of the relationship of chemistry and the environment.
  • The experience of preparing and presenting a seminar.

In addition, the Biosciences Emphasis imparts to students a basic knowledge of anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, and genetics.

Prospects for Chemistry Graduates

Either B.A. curriculum prepares the student for the job market immediately after graduation or for further education in graduate or professional school. As the name implies, the Biosciences emphasis is designed for students who are seeking careers in health related fields such as medicine. Chemistry majors who also complete the UH Hilo Teacher Education Program may apply for initial basic teaching certificates in elementary and secondary education in the State of Hawaiʻi.

Chemistry for Non-Majors

Non-chemistry majors who choose to fulfill part of their General Education requirements with CHEM 100 Chemistry and Society (3) or CHEM 151 Elementary Survey of Chemistry (3) will gain insight into the chemical nature of the universe. It is also possible to pursue a minor in chemistry. Requirements for all programs are described below.


The Chemistry Program offers two majors designed to meet the differing needs of students: