Molecular Sensors and Biotechnology

Track Information


Chemistry, Biochemistry, Chemical Biology, Chemical Engineering and related disciplines


Master of Science (MS) in Chemistry


6 months coursework + 9 months paid internship


Summer Term: February 15*


Lynde Ritzow:

Program Description

Molecular probes and biotechnology, a specialized field of chemistry, has wide spanning applications in the areas of health diagnostics, environmental monitoring, and national security. Like designing a lock for a key, each molecular sensor is designed to interact, detect and produce a measurable signal in the presence of a specific analyte. Inexpensive, user-friendly, and mass producible devices employing molecular sensors include CO detectors, glucose monitors and pregnancy tests. Advanced applications also exist for the diagnosis of COVID-19, detection of explosives and identification of air and water contaminants.

Students interested in the biomedical field can apply their knowledge in the development of sensors for fluorescent imaging, drug development, pathogen detection and early detection of diseases.

Students in this focal area typically have a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, Biochemistry, Chemical Biology, Chemical Engineering and related disciplines. Students will earn a Master of Science in Chemistry with Emphasis in Molecular Sensors & Probes.

To learn more about the career paths of alumni, check out our partner list and alumni bios or contact us.

Common industrial and national lab job titles and general descriptions of roles that span the consumer products, pharmaceutical, medical, life science, agricultural and defense industries are provided below.

*This program will continue to accept applications after February 15. Applicants should reach out to Recruitment Director, Lynde Ritzow at to determine enrollment availability. All programs begin coursework during the summer rather than fall term.

Common Industrial and National Lab Job Titles

Students who complete the molecular sensors and biotechnology track work in a wide variety of chemistry and engineering roles within the life sciences, pharmaceutical, fragrance and materials sectors as well as peripheral sectors. The track, launched in 2019, will prepare alumni for a range of chemistry, engineering and management roles- all requiring technical knowledge, communication, teamwork and the ability to quickly learn new information. A selection of roles is highlighted below.

Chemometrician: Utilizes design of experiments and statistics to evaluate resultant data from sensor data collection experiments in an effort to enhance sensor design and specifications to desired media and conditions. Example: Interpret and translate raw signals from environmental sensors into tangible data that informs users of hazardous materials.

Chemist: Identifies novel molecular sensor materials using a diverse array of organic and inorganic synthetic strategies and develops methodologies for testing sensor devices. Example: Develops and synthesizes a new molecular sensor capable of recognizing explosive agents to be employed in devices to enhance TSA testing for air travel.

Scientist or Engineer: Develops methodologies using molecular probes for both general and targeted biological imaging. Example: Employs new methods of bioconjugation (the linking of biological materials to non-biological substrates) to develop assays for virus detection.

Analytical or QC Chemist: Utilizes a variety of analytical and spectroscopic techniques to analyze and characterize fabricated sensors. Example: Uses UV-Vis and fluorimeter instruments to measure the quantum yield of a newly developed fluorescent imaging probe.

Biochemist: Develops sensor materials to recognize biological analytes including biomarkers, nucleic acids, illicit chemicals, and metabolites by synthesizing recognition units, testing recognition interactions between analyte and sensors. Example: Designs biomarker discovery strategies with clinical experts to identify persons with diseases such as cancer. May also characterize effects of disease treatment.

Manufacturing Chemist or Engineer: Responsible for manufacturing-scale production of probes and custom test kits that are produced for laboratory contracts or catalogued products. Example: Use synthetic knowledge to address and troubleshoot manufacturing scale-up processes and to enhancing development processes.

Student and Alumni Success Metrics


Students who have completed 9-month paid internships since 1998


Average annualized internship compensation for 2022 cohort


Graduates who are employed in their field within three months


Summer and Fall Terms
Over the summer and fall terms, students complete core coursework, electives and professional development (the equivalent of 6 chemistry classes, plus professional development).
Between the summer and fall term, students have the opportunity to interview with company partners during the program’s Annual Networking event. The majority of internships are lined up during this event with internships typically beginning in the winter term.

Winter, Spring, and Summer Terms
The majority of students fulfill their internship component through employment beginning in January and ending in September. In this scenario, students enroll in 10 internship credits per quarter during the winter, spring and summer terms.

The majority of molecular sensors and biotechnology track students complete their master’s degree in 15 months.



Students in the Molecular Sensors and Biotechnology track complete a total of 55 credits broken down as follows:

  • Core courses.  There are four required, core courses for a total of 16 credits.
  • Elective courses.  Students select and complete two elective courses for a total of 8 credits.
  • Professional development.  All students complete a one-credit professional development course.
  • Internship.  The culmination of the curriculum is three terms of internship credits for a total of 30 credits.

Details about the curriculum are provided in the sections below.

Graded Coursework (Summer and Fall Terms)
Students develop critical hands-on technical training and foundational knowledge through curricula specifically informed by industry.

  • CH 610: Chemical Biology (4 Credits, Graded)
    Students learn key concepts of synthetic chemistry that apply to biologically-relevant molecules, bioconjugation techniques, and surface interactions – all of which are central to the development of sensors and probes targeting biomedical fields. Understanding the intricate interactions between biomolecules (DNA, RNA, biomarkers, and proteins) helps bridge the gap to designing components that can be used in industry platforms to monitor and maintain physiological processes.
  • CH 610: Chem Analysis and Signal Transduction (4 Credits, Graded)
    Students take a deep dive into molecular sensor construction and application within the field. Examples of technologies covered include optical, electronic, nanomaterial, and array-based sensors. By studying academic and industrial leaders in the field, students will gain a view of the sensor design process from the chemical design of recognition units, to the incorporation of transduction elements, and finally the integration of these elements into electronic devices.
  • CH 610: Synthetic Methods in Chemical Biology (4 Credits, Graded)
    Through significant hands-on experience, students become proficient in the synthetic techniques frequently used for production of chemical probes and sensors. Skills used include air-free handling techniques, purification methods and instrumentation used to characterize sensor structure and properties (eg NMR, IR, HPLC, GC and fluorescence). Cooperative group learning in the lab will generate important teamwork skills necessary for project development and time management.
  • CH 610: Molecular Sensors Immersion Lab Course (4 Credits, Graded)
    Students work in teams to solve a specific real-world problem. As a project-based course, students apply concepts and ideas gained during previous sensor coursework. Students propose and perform experiments, collect data, interpret results and draw logical conclusion on a new and relevant project to the molecular sensors and probes field. The projects are structured to simulate an industrial environment, providing students an opportunity to apply technical learning and soft skills such as time-management, trouble shooting, critical thinking and teamwork skills to effectively achieve project goals.
  • Electives: Chemistry-related discipline Graduate Electives (8 credits, Graded)
    Students further specialize or broaden their knowledge through 8 credits of elective coursework. Popular electives amongst students include: Design of Experiments, Advanced NMR, Physical Organic Chemistry and Lens or Market (an entrepreneurial- based elective). Students may also opt to complete their elective requirements at institutions outside of UO. If this option is of interest, please reach out to Lynde at

Professional Development (Summer Term)
No matter how long you’ve been out in the world, working well with other people is the key to success in all facets of industry – regardless of the sector. Hands-on training in communication, leadership and team-work are program differentiators that have led to 20+ years of success in launching the careers of students. Through a 1-credit course, activities infused throughout the technical coursework, and workshops, students gain the know-how to accelerate their careers.

  • CH610: Professional Communication in Science. (1 Credit, Pass/No Pass). Students learn and apply foundational skills critical for career progression of scientists and engineers. Core elements include: composing a competitive resume; sharing impactful answers during behavioral and technical interviews; and building a strong professional network.

Internship (Typically Winter, Spring and Summer terms)
Students complete paid, 9-month, master’s level internships as part of their degree requirements.

  • CH601: Internship Credits. (Total of 30 credits at 10 credits/term. Pass/No Pass). Within an industrial or national lab setting, students gain hands on experience in the application of their knowledge. Each term, students write a review paper (to be approved by their supervisor) to demonstrate advancement of technical knowledge. Additionally, at least one formal evaluation hosted between the student, partner supervisor and UO instructor will be conducted (typically at the 4-6 month mark of the internship).


The Knight Campus serves as a home base for instruction, personal belonging storage and lounging for students in the molecular sensors and probes focal area. Hands-on training occurs in the new, state-of-the-art instructional lab facilities. The synthetic space contains an abundance of fume-hoods and equipment, allowing students to gain and refine a wealth of synthetic skills. An additional small instruments lab contains an expansive variety of analytical equipment necessary for structural and characterization of newly synthesized molecules.  Additionally, device fabrication and testing equipment is available. Instrumentation frequently used by students include:

  • Analytical and Preparative High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC): industry standard instruments that will be used to monitor reactions and to separate, identify, and quantify products.
  • Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometer (GCMS): analytical instrument that will be used to identify different volatile substances in a sample.
  • Ultraviolet–visible Spectrometer (UV-Vis): used to analyze the optical properties (absorption, transmission) of materials (dyes, probes).
  • Fluorescence Spectrometer: used to analyze the fluorescence properties of a material including fluorescence excitation, emission, and lifetime.
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Spectrometer: instrument used for compound characterization and structural identification.

Information on additional core facilities, such as CAMCOR, that students access through core or elective coursework can be found on the Facilities page.


The program has multiple subject-matter experts who serve as instructors. Recent instructors include:

Dr. Jess Lohrman, Interim Manager of the Molecular Sensors & Biotechnology Track, Knight Campus Graduate Internship Program, University of Oregon
Dr. Jim Hutchison, Senior Associate Vice President, Knight Campus and Lokey-Harrington Chair & Professor, Dept of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Oregon
Dr. Darren Johnson, Professor, Associate Director of Materials Science Institute, Dept of Chemistry, University of Oregon
Dr. Mike Pluth, Professor, Dept of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Associate Vice President of Research, University of Oregon


Student typically have backgrounds in chemistry, biochemistry, chemical biology, chemical engineering and related disciplines. Competitive applicants have previous research experience or project-based coursework experience and strong performance in upper division undergraduate course work. Prior experience in molecular probes and biotechnology  is not necessary. Please note that these are recommendations; we are happy to answer questions about your competitiveness for this program.

In recognition of the financial impact of the pandemic and the program's commitment to accessible education, we are waiving the application fee for all domestic applicants applying for Summer 2021 by the priority deadline (February 15). Full application instructions should be reviewed prior to beginning an application.

This track will continue to accept applications after February 15. Applicants should reach out to Recruitment Director, Lynde Ritzow at to determine enrollment availability. All programs begin coursework during the summer rather than fall term.