Skip to McMaster Navigation Skip to Site Navigation Skip to main content
McMaster logo

Honours Sustainable Chemistry (B.A.Sc.) (4 Year Program)

Chemistry is at the heart of the development of many of the beneficial technologies that we take for granted, from improved crop yields to energy-saving light emitting diodes. Increasingly, chemistry in academia and industry is being practiced in a more sustainable way, following the 12 rules Green Chemistry. This means developing processes that are fundamentally more efficient, increasingly using renewable feedstocks, employing water as an environmentally friendly solvent, generating less waste, and ensuring that waste is non-toxic and can be processed by the environment. The Honours Sustainable Chemistry program provides students with a uniquely integrated and inquiry-based approach to research and problem-solving in chemistry and chemistry-related areas. The traditional practices of Chemistry are examined through the lens of sustainability, with the objective to develop students who can identify and implement better ways to practice chemistry. In this program, students may choose to focus on experimental work, with access to elite analytical laboratory facilities with some of the most modern instrumentation found in any university in Canada.

See the Sustainable Chemistry newsletter.

Expandable List

Industrial Chemistry Poster containing images of pollution in contrast to a scenic sunset

What Is Sustainable Chemistry?

“It’s not about the chemistry, it’s about the mindset”

“Sustainability is the bigger picture of the materials that we use in our lives and how they are produced, from creation of the product – whether that is your cell phone, or your medicines and food products. What solvents are used, what waste products are created, what is the life cycle assessment of that product in terms of end-of-life recycling or disposal. What are the impacts of any of those components in terms of environmental impact and cost? Could chemists envision alternate choices that would improve the environmental impact or sustainability of the products from production through use to recycling?”
Land, air, water diagram

As a society, and particularly as chemists, we must:

  • Take renewable materials from the planet
  • Efficiently process them to give desired products
  • Return them to the planet in a form that allows uptake in the natural world
  • Understand the interactions of chemicals with the compartments of nature

Who wants this? Academics, Consumers, and Companies. The Sustainable Chemistry Program will help chemists deliver this!

Contents Of The Program

  • Green chemistry
  • Life cycle analysis
  • Using energy wisely
  • Degradation pathways in the environment – including thinking about toxicity
  • Metrics to quantify sustainability

What’s the maximum enrollment number for this program?

  • Enrolment is not limited

Who’s teaching in the program?

Academic Opportunities During The Program

This program offers a Co-op option (Co-op proceeds through the Faculty of Science co-op office; inquiries should be directed there)
3-unit credit courses CHEM 3EP3 and CHEM 3RP3 allow students to undertake, respectively, an experiential placement which can be on- or off-campus; and/or a research practicum, which is generally undertaken with faculty members in the Department in their research laboratories.
There are many opportunities for paid employment for undergraduates, either in research (e.g. summer research opportunities such as the prestigious NSERC or Audrey Cameron awards), or as a first-year TA (be a member of the “black lab coat” crew!)
Students in this program are eligible to apply for the senior thesis course in chemistry (CHEM 4G12), a capstone course for the program that involves an extensive research project with a faculty member in level 4.

Opportunities After Completion Of A B.A.Sc. In Sustainable Chemistry

There are many fields of employment for students with critical skills that intersect chemistry and environmental science.

There will be increasing interest in improving the life cycle of chemicals. Examples include:

  • Lower green house gases to mitigate climate change
  • Assessment of the impact of new chemicals
  • Confirmation that existing processes do not release toxic entities
  • Replace petroleum-derived materials with natural starting materials
  • Quantify sustainability of processes for companies
    • Improve the process, improve market acceptance, improve the bottom line
  • Quantify sustainability of processes for the government
    • Environmental/Health Ministries

Where Else Can SusChem Students Go?

  • Students graduating from this program will be eligible for graduate programs in chemistry (NOTE: typically within Canada this would require completion of electives within the Sustainable Chemistry program to reach 18 Units of level 4 chemistry); or in broader based programs such as environmental sciences, where chemical skills are in high demand (again, potentially subject to completion of appropriate courses).
  • As with all programs, students with high grades will be eligible for admission to professional schools (e.g, medical school, dental, pharmacy, law).

For a complete list of program requirements please view the Calendar Description and Program Admission Requirements.