Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

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prospective students

Prospective Students  

Frequently Asked Questions:

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Message from the Chair to Prospective Students  

We are happy to hear that you are considering applying to San Francisco State University (SFSU) and are particularly pleased that you are considering a major in chemistry or biochemistry.

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry offers an outstanding educational environment for students.  Our faculty are dedicated to providing our students with excellent classroom and laboratory instruction, extensive hands-on experience using modern instrumentation, and one-on-one advising.  In addition, students have the opportunity to participate in research on significant chemical or biochemical problems under the direct supervision of faculty members that are recognized authorities in their fields.  A degree in chemistry or biochemistry opens a multitude of employment opportunities in companies within and outside of the Bay Area, particularly in biotech and pharmaceutical companies.  Many of our graduates go on to pursue advanced degrees in M.S. and Ph.D. programs and gain entry into medical, dental, pharmacy, and veterinary schools.  Our Department also features an active student-run organization called the Chemistry & Biochemistry Student Association (CBSA), which offers a variety of activities to build community among students and faculty and enhance the educational experience of chemistry and biochemistry majors at SFSU.  You can find more information about CBSA at

As a prospective student, you probably have many questions about our programs and should be aware that our Department is committed to providing our students with timely and regular advising.  You are strongly encouraged to attend an orientation session that will be offered from 12-1 pm on the first friday of every semester in Thornton Hall room 327.  You should note that all of our undergraduate majors are required to meet with an advisor during the fall to assess their progress towards their degree and answer questions about courses, electives, SFSU policies and procedures, research and scholarship opportunities, and career options.  If you have more immediate questions about our programs, please stop by our Department office in Thornton Hall room 730, contact one of our office staff via phone (415-338-1288), e-mail (  (or refer to our Department web site at

We look forward to meeting with you and wish you the best in your academic endeavors.


Dr. Teaster Baird, Chair

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Why Consider a BA/BS degree in Chemistry or Biochemistry at SFSU?

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry offers an outstanding educational environment for undergraduate and graduate students. Our mission is to educate, train, and produce versatile chemists and biochemists that understand both the theoretical basis and practical applications of their discipline. Department faculty provide quality instruction across a wide range of sub-disciplines. Our degree programs are designed to prepare students for various professional positions (i.e., biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, chemical manufacturing, and other laboratory-based industries), health professions (i.e., medical, pharmacy, and dental school), graduate study, and teaching positions.

  • Our faculty provides quality instruction across a wide range of specialties.

  • Class sizes are typically small and students receive individualized instruction.

  • Students have the opportunity to pursue undergraduate research under the direct supervision of faculty.

  • Faculty Research Interests

  • The Department has an excellent collection of modern facilities and instrumentation, including an NMR Facility, Mass Spectrometry Facility, and the Computational Chemistry and Visualization (CCV) Laboratory.

  • Department Equipment List

  • The student-run Chemistry and Biochemistry Student Association (CBSA) offers a variety of activities including social events and free tutoring.

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry is housed in two adjacent buildings: Thornton Hall and the Science building. Some relevant facts and figures about the Department are listed below.The Department currently employs 23 tenured and tenure-track full-time faculty.The Department currently has 487 undergraduate students in chemistry and biochemistry degree programs. The Department currently has 31 graduate students in chemistry and biochemistry. Department faculty bring in a total of approximately $1,000,000 in grant funds per year to the University.

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What is the difference between a BA and BS in Chemistry?

Please check out the program descriptions for a full explanation.

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What Career Opportunities do these Degree Programs Prepare You For?

The Department’s degree programs are designed to prepare students for a variety of chemistry/biochemistry-oriented positions in industry or government labs. These same programs also can be used as a foundation for students interested in alternate career paths, such as high school science teaching, sales or marketing, management, environmental advocacy, patent law, technical writing, and forensic science to name just a few. Many of our graduates use their degrees as preparation for graduate studies in chemistry or biochemistry. A chemistry and biochemistry degree provides excellent preparation for medical, pharmacy, dental, and veterinary schools.

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What are the Requirements for Entry into these Degree Programs?

Minimal high school preparation for SFSU’s undergraduate programs in chemistry and biochemistry include two years of algebra, one year of geometry, one half year of trigonometry, one year of physics, and one year of chemistry. Students who have not had these classes may take the equivalent courses at SFSU listed below.

Students are expected to meet basic mathematics requirements prior to enrollment at SFSU. This can be achieved by passing the SAT math exam or ELM exam with a total score of 550 or higher or by meeting the appropriate coursework with grades of C- or better. For more details on the various exemptions, students are urged to refer to the SFSU Bulletin or consult with an advisor.

MATH 60 Algebra I equivalent to 1st year high school algebra
MATH 70 Algebra II equivalent to 2nd year high school algebra
MATH 107 Plane Trigonometry prereq: grade of C or better in MATH 70
MATH 109 Pre-Calculus Mathematics prereq: grade of C or better in MATH 70
PHYS 101 Conceptual Physics prereq: high school algebra
CHEM 100 Preparation for Chemistry prep for college chemistry

Transferring from Another College or University

Many of our majors are transfer students who have come here from local community colleges or other 4-year schools. Most have already completed some chemistry, math, and physics courses at these other institutions. Many of these courses are essentially equivalent to comparable SFSU courses. The process of determining equivalency is called articulation.

Articulation requires a formal, written agreement that identifies courses (or sequences of courses) on a "sending" campus that are comparable to, or acceptable in lieu of, specific course requirements at a "receiving" campus. Successful completion of an articulated course(s) assures the student and the faculty that the student has taken the appropriate course(s), received the necessary instruction and preparation, and that similar outcomes can be assured, enabling progression to the next level of instruction at the receiving institution.

The equivalency of many math and science courses at local institutions has already been evaluated. However, this process of evaluating equivalency is ongoing, as academic institutions are constantly revising their programs and courses, and hence the equivalency of a specific course from some other university may not be known. Given that determining equivalency of courses offered at every other university in California, the U.S., and the world is an impossible task, determination of equivalency must often done on a case-by-case basis.
In order to facilitate this process, students should fill out the department’s course equivalency form and submit it along with either their DARS report or an unofficial copy of their transcripts from the university certifying their completion of the course and stipulating the letter grade and either a copy of the syllabus from the course or a description of the course from the University catalog which will aid the department in determining equivalency.

Students should note that in meeting the University requirements for the number of upper-division credits, no course transferred from a community college may count towards upper division credit. The most common example where this problem occurs is in organic chemistry. Although organic chemistry courses transferred from a community college may meet the Department’s degree requirements, it does not count towards meeting the total number of upper division units required for graduation with a degree in SFSU’s chemistry and biochemistry programs.
For more information on articulation and course equivalencies, students can refer to  ASSIST (Articulation System Stimulating Interinstitutional Student Transfer), which allows the user to request information on course equivalencies between the university where the course was taken and the “receiving” university. The website for Assist is

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What are the degrees that Chemistry offers?

The Chemistry Department at SFSU offers the BA Chemistry, BS Chemistry, and BS Biochemistry degrees.  

The BA in Chemistry is well suited for students whose career goals involve the integration of chemistry with other fields of study such as secondary education, business, technical sales, and forensic science. It includes fewer units in the major and can be combined with a minor in engineering, business, social sciences, or the humanities to prepare students for alternate career paths (see section on career opportunities above). Students considering a career in teaching science at the K-12 level should consult with an advisor from the Education Department, as specific courses are required for the credential program.

The BS in Chemistry, which is approved by the American Chemical Society, prepares students to pursue careers in traditional chemical-oriented positions. Compared to the BA in Chemistry, this program has a heavier emphasis on chemistry, calculus, and physics. The extensive lab training provides excellent preparation for a career in industry and a strong foundation for graduate studies or entry into a medical or dental school.


The BS in Biochemistry is designed for students who wish to be well qualified for a career in biochemistry, modern areas of biology, or the rapidly growing field of biotechnology. This program allows students to tailor their program to pursue additional courses in molecular biology and clinical sciences. The extensive lab training provides excellent preparation for a career in the pharmaceutical industry and a strong foundation for graduate studies or entry into a medical or dental school.

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Applying for Admission to SFSU:

Services: Information on applying to SFSU, entrance requirements, entry level English and math exams, residency requirements, tours of campus, etc.
Provider: Student Outreach Services
Location: Student Services Building room 106
Phone: 338-2355
Web site:

New Student Orientation:
Services: General orientation sessions for new and transfer students.
Provider: Advising Center
Location: Administration Building room 212
Phone: 338-2101
Web site:

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