Camille Dreyfus directed that the Foundation's purpose be "to advance the science of chemistry, chemical engineering and related sciences as a means of improving human relations and circumstances." The Foundation has sought to identify and address needs and opportunities in the chemical sciences through a series of programs and awards.

In broad terms, the programs support young faculty of exciting potential or early accomplishment, develop leadership in environmental chemistry, support undergraduate research with emeritus faculty, and openly solicit for projects that advance the chemical sciences at all levels.