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Doctoral Degree

The program leading to the Ph.D. degree emphasizes the attainment of a high level of competency in a specialized area of chemistry, but also requires the development of a broad knowledge, at least partly through course work and by attending research seminars. By the time the degree is earned, the student should show promise of becoming a capable and independent research scientist.The major emphasis for the Ph.D. degree is on research.

Timeline for Graduation with your PhD

Information on University Graduate School's requirements for advancing through your PhD: PhD Candidacy and Thesis Submission

Thesis & Dissertations

Information on preparing theses and dissertations from the University Graduate School.

Degree Requirements

Students may major in analytical, chemicala biology, inorganic, materials, organic, or physical chemistry. These fields are also acceptable as minors.

  • A total of 90 credit hours are required for the Ph.D. degree, of which at least 24 credit hours must be in course work.
  • Major courses: a minimum of 12 credit hours to be completed in the major field, following a sequence of courses approved by the student's advisory committee.
  • Minor courses: a minimum of 6 credit hours to be completed in another area.
  • Foreign students are required to take a placement exam in English upon their arrival and may be required to take a remedial course in English.
  • All doctoral students in chemistry are required to enroll in C500 Introduction to Research during their first year of study.
  • In the fifth semester, students meet with their research committee to review past performance and to evaluate plans for completing their Ph.D. degree.
  • The final examination, usually oral, primarily covers material in the dissertation.


A major may be taken in analytical,chemical biology, inorganic, materials, organic, or physical chemistry. A minimum of 12 credit hours, exclusive of research, is required for the major. If a student has been exempted from one or more required courses in the major field, he or she may ask the Director of Graduate Studies to petition the Dean of the University Graduate School for acceptance of less than 12 credit hours of formal course work for the major.


One minor, consisting of 6 credit hours, is required. The minor may be within the Chemistry Department or in another department. A list of approved minor courses may be obtained from the Graduate Office. If a minor in another department is chosen, the student must satisfy the requirements of the minor department. If a minor within the Chemistry Department is chosen, the student must take 6 credit hours in an area other than his or her major. Course work for a minor inside the Department must be approved by the student's advisory committee.

Basic Courses

Each student is required (unless specifically exempted by the Graduate Standards Committee) to take the basic graduate level courses in his or her major field, and all beginning graduate students are expected to enroll in Introduction to Research (C500) . Organic students are expected to take Spectrometric Methods of Structure Determination (C503), inorganic students are expected to take Spectroscopic Methods in Inorganic Chemistry (C502), analytical students are required to take Chemical Instrumentation (C501), materials chemistry students are required to take Fundamentals of Materials I (M501) and (M502), and physical students are expected to take Atomic and Molecular Quantum Theory (C561) and Chemical Statistical Mechanics (C567). All students must take the second-year requirement course during their third and fourth semesters: A800, B800, N800, M800, P800 and R800.

Research Advisor

Each student engaged in research must be associated with a research advisor. Students express their preferences for first-year research advisors (C500 Introduction to Research) through a specific procedure involving research presentations by the faculty and student-faculty interviews. The initial assignments to research groups are made by the Director of Graduate Studies with the approval of the department chair. Assignments to thesis advisors are made by mutual agreement between the student and faculty member involved, and are subject to approval by the Director of Graduate Studies. The research advisor helps the student select courses and guides the student's research. In addition, the research advisor serves as chair of the student's interim advisory committee and research committee.

Advisory Committee

All students are assigned an advisory committee before the beginning of their second year in residence. The advisory committee consists of the student's research advisor (the chair), major and minor representatives chosen by the student in consultation with his or her advisor, and a major representative chosen by the Director of Graduate Studies.

The principal functions of this advisory committee are to approve the students proposed course of study, to advise the student on research during the period prior to advancement to candidacy, and to conduct the fifth-semester review of student's progress.

This committee cannot be nominated as the student's research committee until the student has been advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree (which occurs after the fifth semester review) but it should be anticipated that the members of this interim committee will eventually serve as the student's research committee.

Outline of Course of Study and Appointment of Advisory Committee

Since almost all course requirements are met during the first two years, a complete course program must be planned by the end of the summer of their first year. All students must submit the "Outline of Course of Study" and the "Appointment of Advisory Committee" forms signed by their committee members to the Graduate Office. By their signatures, the faculty members indicate their approval of the student's plan of course work.

The plan of course work may be revised. Students wishing to make changes must get the permission of their advisory committee and the committee members must initial any changes made on the student's outline. The course outline forms are kept on file in the Graduate Office.

Second Year Requirement

All PhD students in the Department are required to register for a minimum of two semesters prior to their fifth semester of residency (in their third and fourth semesters) in the appropriate second-year course. The course the student selects will be based on his or her major area. Analytical Chemistry Majors will take the course A800; Chemical Biology, B800; Inorganic, N800; Materials, M800; Organic, R800; and Physical, P800. Each of these courses earns one credit hour and each student must earn at least two credit hours. These courses do not count towards the 12 credit-hours required to satisfy the major coursework requirements or towards the minor credit-hours required for a PhD in chemistry.

Qualifying Exam Review

Each Ph.D. candidate is orally examined by his or her interim advisory committee no later than the end of the fifth semester of residence (summers excluded). As part of this examination, each student must: (a) submit a progress report demonstrating substantial research progress during the first five semesters, (b) submit a plan of proposed research for the remainder of the thesis, and (c) present a seminar to the department.

If an extension of the fifth-semester evaluation is needed, the student should first submit a petition to the Director of Graduate Studies. This petition must be supported by the Research Advisor and the Advisory Committee and must atate reasons for such a request. (Not enough research is not a reason to petition).

Admission to Candidacy

A student is recommended for admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree after he or she has completed the fifth-semester review. At the same time, in consultation with the student's research advisor, the appointment of a formal research committee is recommended to the Dean of the Graduate School.

Research Committee

This committee must include the research advisor as chairperson, two additional faculty representatives from the department of chemistry (normally within the major field), and one faculty representative from the minor field. All members of the committee must be full, associate, or affiliate members of the graduate faculty. All faculty residing as a committee member must have the Endorsement and approval of the Graduate School. Usually, but not necessarily, the Research Committee members are the same as the members of the Interim Advisory Committee.

The student's Research Committee is nominated after completion of the requirements for candidacy. The committee should immediately consider and approve the student's proposed thesis outline. The nomination of the Research Committee together with the proposed thesis outline must be approved by the Graduate School at least nine months prior to the Ph.D. thesis defense. Once appointed, the Research Committee becomes responsible for the progress of the student toward the doctoral degree, and for the acceptance of the thesis and approval of the final oral examination.

Fourth Year Requirement

The purpose of the 4th year requirement is to facilitate discussion between each PhD candidate and one (or two) member(s) of their committee (NOT the advisor). It is for the expressed benefit of the graduate student to increase contact with other faculty members as the student reaches the final stages of his or her PhD career. In this first meeting, students and faculty should discuss: (a) student’s progress towards their PhD since their candidacy exam (b) student’s expected graduation date and plans to meet that date (c) career goals post-PhD.

This meeting should be scheduled at the convenience of both the faculty member and student anytime throughout the student’s 4th year. Upon the conclusion of this meeting, this form should be filled out and returned to the Graduate Office.  Although this requirement is only for a single meeting, it may be the first of many: graduate students are encouraged to interact with the members of their committee throughout their entire graduate career.

Departmental Exit Seminar

At the time of the Final Exam, the candidate must present a full seminar on his or her dissertation to the department.

Final Examination

The final examination constitutes primarily a defense of the thesis, but the Research Committee or any other members of the graduate faculty in attendance may ask any question judged by the chair (the research advisor) to be relevant to the doctorate in chemistry. After the examination has ended, the research committee will decide whether or not to accept the thesis and recommend the awarding of the doctoral degree.