First Year Student Courses
C505 Graduate Professional Development Seminar
Being a successful graduate student entails juggling many talents, including effective teaching, productive research, breadth in coursework, scientific communication, working with diverse teams, and much more. It takes hard work and a commitment to developing these talents, and this course is designed to help you identify and develop the professional skills necessary for success in graduate students and your later career. Topics include: graduate career planning, mentoring and support networks, active learning and learning theories, managing the literature, scientific ethics, laboratory safety, goal setting, data management, and working in a diverse research environment.
The completion of a thesis based on original research is crucial to the completion of an advanced degree in chemistry. The first year course, “Introduction to Research” (C500), provides an early opportunity for students to gain experience in this kind of work. At the end of the second semester of C500 the student submits a written report on his or her work (whether or not the research project has been completed). Based on this report and their own observations, the research adviser and the Graduate Standards Committee will assign a grade. To the student’s question, “Will I be able to go on for a PhD?” this grade provides a concise answer: A, yes; B, maybe; C, unlikely.
Participation in C500 implies no permanent commitment on the part of either the student or the supervising faculty member beyond the first year. Students are strongly encouraged to take advantage of this flexibility when they feel that it would be better to change research groups at the end of C500. While there may be a reluctance to “throw away” the research efforts of the first year, it should be recognized: (1) that a major benefit derived from C500 by most students is on learning how to do research, and that this experience will move to any new research area; (2) that first-year results usually play a very minor role in most completed PhD theses; and (3) that moving to a research area in which the student is developing a stronger interest could significantly enhance the quality and quantity of their research efforts.
New students entering the graduate program in chemistry normally enroll in C500 for three credit hours in their first and second semesters, submitting their final report at the end of their second semester of graduate study. Exceptions can be made on an individual basis.
Choosing an Advisor
Students are strongly encouraged to read about the active research projects in faculty laboratories by visiting faculty web pages, reading papers, and meeting with senior students. The C500 course features a mechanism by which faculty and incoming graduate students can become acquainted.
First, students will attend short lectures given by faculty on their research during the first few weeks of the semester. During this seminar series, students are expected to attend the lectures given by professors in their major and minor areas and all of the Assistant Professors. There will be a Research Poster Session and attendance is expected.
After the faculty seminars and poster session, students are to select whether they will follow the Interview Pathway or Rotation Pathway toward group selection, and their pathway will be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Standards Committee. With the Interview Pathway, students will meet with at least 5-6 research groups through ~3 interactions each. With the Rotation Pathway¸ students will rotate in 3 groups for 3 weeks each. A full description of each pathway is provided in the C500 manual, which you should receive at orientation.
In November, students will submit their preference for a C500 advisor. The Director of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Standards Committee, according to the preference of each individual will make a tentative assignment of each student to a C500 advisor, pending approval by the Department Chair.
Assignment of Students to Advisers
The chair or the graduate standards committee can limit the number of students assigned to each faculty member. The range of interests represented in each incoming class is usually quite a good match to the range of interests within the faculty. It happens, therefore, that students are almost always assigned to their first choice of research adviser. Problems arise only when a given adviser is selected by more students than can be reasonably accommodated. When this occurs, no final decision is reached without conferring with all the students involved. Experience has shown that satisfactory arrangements can usually be found. The C500 assignments are subject to the final approval of the department chair.
Biochemistry Rotation System
In the area of biochemistry, a second option exists. Most students elect to participate in a rotation system that involves working with up to three different professors for short periods of time. The details of the rotation option will be outlined by the biochemistry faculty member on the Graduate Standards Committee during pre-semester counseling. Biochemistry students can participate in the standard, one-professor system, however. The choice is up to the student.
First Semester Activities
Immediately after assignment, each student is provided with a place in the laboratories of his or her adviser. Through the duration of the course, students should expect to devote a minimum of 12 productive hours per week to their research projects.
Activities during the second semester are devoted entirely to research work and the preparation of a final report. The final report should be a term paper worthy of six semester hours of credit. It must reflect sustained effort, care, and thoroughness both in the preparation of the report itself and in the related studies and research. It should include:
- An introduction clearly stating the objective of the work.
- A discussion of important background information. This should not be an extensive review, but it should explain the “starting point” for the work. Facts that the reader will need to know in order to follow and understand the research report should be anticipated and presented here. Any points which involve discussion of results obtained in the course of the project should be avoided in this section.
- A description of experimental techniques and procedures (this section can be placed at the end of the report). Presentation of results (other than routine characterization of synthetic products) should be avoided in this section.
- Results and Discussion sections. Each project will have unique features that call for specific modes of organization. The presentation of all results before any discussion is the way scientific papers are frequently organized
- Conclusions section summarizing the main findings.
If there are fewer results than originally hoped for, the student should explain why. Students are encouraged to discuss questions regarding the preparation of their reports with their research advisers. The final C500 report will be due the middle of the spring semester. The official date will be announced by the Graduate Office via email no later than January 1. Please submit a pdf copy of your final document to the Graduate Office. The graduate standards committee and the research advisor then assign a grade. Incompletes are not permitted in the second semester.
At the Chemistry Honors Banquet each April, an award of $1,500 is presented to the graduate student who has submitted the most outstanding C500 report in the preceding academic year. Criteria for selection of the outstanding report include the quality and quantity of the research, the originality of approach, and the quality of the final report. The name of each recipient of the award is engraved on a special plaque, which is displayed in the Chemistry Department.