Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 1.5 hours / session

Discussions: 1 session / week, 1.5 hours / session


Basic knowledge of organic chemistry required. Students need permission from the instructor to enroll.

Overview and Calendar

This course evaluates and discusses the formation and diagnostic structural properties of organic compounds with particular emphasis on those molecules which form chemical fossils. It is structured around the biosynthetic and phylogenetic origins of recalcitrant hydrocarbons.

1 Mass spectrometry for organic geochemists
2 Biomarker concept & acetogenic lipids
3 Acyclic isoprenoids
4 Hopanoids part 1
5 Hopanoids part 2
6 Steroids part 1
7 Steroids part 2
8 Pigments
9 Application of intact polar lipids as biomarkers
10 Molecular biosignatures
11 Petroleum formation and occurrence
12 Oxygen deficiency in the past

The lectures comprise a Monday formal lecture (1.5 hours) and set readings. The Wednesday session is a discussion of a topical research article/paper.


Read the set of publications associated with the lecture plus the topical article(s) set for weekly class discussion.

Class Participation

Critically evaluate the weekly topical article(s) and, taking it in turn, present a synopsis for about 10 minutes on some key of the papers.


70% for weekly participation on the discussion. One term paper will be required for 30% of the credit (pass/fail).