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7 fantastic universities to study Chemistry abroad

By Sean Campbell• Last updated: Nov 29, 2023
7 fantastic universities to study Chemistry abroad
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Ah, Chemistry. It’s a love it or hate it kind of subject while we’re at school, given just how difficult it can be, but its importance as a field of study is undeniable. After all, Chemistry is everything.

Actually, let’s change that; everything is chemistry. Everything that’s ever happened, is happening right now, and will happen in the future is a chemical reaction. That’s pretty huge.

A degree in Chemistry can propel you into a career in research, engineering, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, environmentalism, and forensics, as well as a whole range of other challenging, valuable fields.

Picking the right university to study a chemistry degree can be a real challenge though, since pretty much every university offers it. Googling a list of the world’s best places to study the subject returns the usual suspects -- the Ivy League in the US and Oxbridge in the UK, and well, we can’t all go to one of these schools.

To help lighten the stress a little, we’ve checked out a bunch of locations around the world, and come up with a selection of 7 fantastic universities to study Chemistry abroad.

1. Trinity College, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Trinity College’s School of Chemistry is ranked number one in Ireland, and sits comfortably in the top 100 worldwide. Dublin has actually become a hub for chemical research, development and innovation over the past decade -- a whole host of major corporations like GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer have set up operations there. That right there is an immediate boost to your career prospects. In fact, this course comes with the option of doing an internship between third and fourth year at a pharmaceutical company.

Local job opportunities aside, the most notable feature of Trinity College’s Chemistry degree is the fourth (and final) year Capstone Research project. Here, you’re able to undertake long term independent research in Trinity’s laboratories, or even overseas in places like Vienna, Bologna, Toulouse, or even further afield in the USA, Australia or China. The topic on which you choose to focus is up to you, but popular choices are chemotherapy, DNA chemistry, supramolecular chemistry, computational chemistry and materials processing.

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2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA

With arguably the most prestigious undergraduate programme on earth, MIT’s Department of Chemistry boasts the self-assured slogan, “Innovation. Impact. Infinite possibilities.” That just about sums up the spirit of a school that’s associated with so many intellectual heavyweights. In the field of Chemistry alone, pioneering minds like James Mason Crafts, Arthur Amos Noyes, and F. Albert Cotton are all MIT alumni.

Naturally, this elite status makes MIT a difficult university to get into. However, the good news is that it has a long tradition of accepting international students. The draw of going to MIT is about much more than its prestige though, it’s also about its facilities and equipment. The Lincoln Laboratory, The Institute for Soldier Nanotechnology, and the Plasma Fusion Center are all on campus, while MIT houses some of the world’s most cutting-edge research technology.

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3. Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK

Northumbria University sits just outside the top 50 in the UK for chemistry degrees, which is still a very respectable ranking. But it’s the diversity and practicality of this chemistry programme that appeals to us. Students go deep on subject matter such as natural product and medicinal chemistry, advanced instrumental and structural methods, and theoretical computation. Just like at Trinity College mentioned above, the final year involves a detailed research project, where you’ll be paired with, and mentored by, a staff member experienced in your field of choosing.

Following third year, you’re recommended to take a year working on placement in the chemical industry, where you can really hone your real-world skill set. In terms of facilities, Northumbria’s Department of Applied Sciences is an important player in the research world, so they have the cutting edge resources and equipment to suit.

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4. University of Huddersfield, UK

The University of Huddersfield has been teaching Chemistry since way back in the 1840s, so they know their stuff. Ranked at number 41 in the UK for their programme, this is also a four year course (including an optional placement year in the UK or abroad).

But the thing that really caught our attention with this course is the amount of choice given to you, the student, from the second year onwards. First year modules are all compulsory, to give you a strong foundation on data handling, methodology, and a rounded understanding of the field of Chemistry as a whole. However, as soon as you enter second year, you’re able to refine your learning and start to specialize in fields such as chemical engineering, crime scene forensics, toxicology and chemical therapeutics.

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5. University of California, Berkeley, USA

If you fancy living in the sunshine while studying Chemistry, then consider Berkeley, one of the absolutely elite schools for the subject -- ranked number 5 in the entire world! Berkeley’s place on the elite list is well deserved since a staggering 13 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to Berkeley researchers. That will make entry pretty tough of course, but hey, the sky's the limit!

You’ll be learning under the guidance of some of the world’s leading figures in the field, joining research groups, and covering the fundamentals such as physical, organic and inorganic chemistry. Then, when you’ve mastered the basics, you’ll dive into the more specialized subjects -- things like nuclear and biophysical chemistry, as well as chemical biology. All of this, rest assured, will be done in the kind of world class facilities to be expected of a world class university.

6. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, USA

Sticking to the USA for now but heading further south to the cultural melting pot of Louisiana. LSU offers an incredibly interesting Environmental Chemistry programme, which focuses on how chemistry can be used to protect the planet and, well, human beings, from the effects of climate change.

Whereas the vast majority of chemistry programmes focus on Chemistry at, well, a chemical level, LSU’s Environmental Chemistry differs in the way that it takes a much broader and more holistic view -- focusing heavily on the interactions between humans and the environment.

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7. University of Glasgow, Scotland

Chemistry has been a feature of Glasgow University since 1747. The university itself, for the record, opened its doors many, MANY moons ago in 1451. In its time, quite a few brainy people have come through, including Nobel Prize winners for Chemistry, Sir William Ramsay, Lord Todd, Frederick Soddy and Sir Derek Barton.

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So I guess we’re trying to say that the University of Glasgow has a prestigious history. But what about today? Well, that’s pretty great too. It currently sits at number 6 in the UK according to the Complete University Guide. Meanwhile, Glasgow University itself is a World Top 100 University, and is considered the 11th best in the whole of the UK. That makes it pretty elite. The important research carried out by the university today includes chemical photonics, energy conversion and storage, and supramolecular, electronic & magnetic systems. And that all sounds pretty cool to us!

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Sean is a freelance writer, copywriter & editor from Ireland.

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