Doctoral Program

The Ph.D. degree is the highest academic degree offered by our program, and is entirely focused on innovative research in the chemical sciences. Study for the Ph.D. should ideally be completed within five years beyond the baccalaureate degree, and all courses and degree requirements must be finished within seven years. These requirements include the following:

Ph.D. Progression Reminders

phd progression

Demonstration of Proficiency in Undergraduate Chemistry:

Students must pass at least three diagnostic examinations in undergraduate chemistry areas, including Organic Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, and Biochemistry.


The Ph.D. degree requires at least 72 credit hours beyond the baccalaureate degree (42 credit hours beyond the Master's degree). Students must maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average in these courses throughout their studies. In our program, the student's research advisor and Supervisory Committee will make recommendations about coursework to be taken. Prior to a research advisor being chosen, the Program Director must approve course selection.

Core Courses:

  • Students must complete 6 credit hours of Departmental Seminar (in addition to the seminar component of the Advanced Research course). These seminars broaden our students' exposure to the wide breadth of research in industry and academia.

Selection of a Research Advisor and Supervisory Committee:

This is one of the most important decisions a student will make during the graduate career. The research advisor will provide mentorship and serve as chair of the student's Supervisory Committee that will assist the student in selection of coursework and evaluate progress in research. Ph.D. students should choose a research advisor by the beginning of the second semester. The Supervisory Committee must have at least four members all holding the Ph.D. degree. Three members, including the research advisor, must have a tenured or tenure-track faculty appointment in the Chemistry department. The fourth member is required to be from outside of the Chemistry Department.

Supervisory Committee Meetings

These meetings are required at least once each year, for the student to update the committee on progress in coursework, research, teaching duties, and other related activities.

Promotion to Candidacy

After completing the proficiency requirements for undergraduate chemistry (in at least three areas), each graduate student should present to the Supervisory Committee a written document outlining the student's research progress and future plans. This research summary is also to be presented orally to the committee, and a successful defense results in the student being promoted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. This should be completed before the end of the third academic semester (excluding summers). At the discretion of the committee, the student not promoted to candidacy within this time-frame may elect to complete an M.A. or M.S. degree, or be terminated from the program. Students must pass at least three diagnostic examinations in undergraduate chemistry areas, including Organic Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, and Biochemistry.

a) The student is expected to meet the following, minimum, requirements before scheduling the Candidacy meeting: (i) Be an active member of a research group, (ii) have selected a full committee, (iii) Be producing data (that will ultimately be defended in the oral presentation), (iv) Have plans for carrying out future research (again, that is to be presented orally).
b) The student must produce a written document that clearly lays out (i) background and significance of their current and/or future research plans (ii) appropriate citations from relevant literature, (iii) data that supports the aforementioned research plans, and (iv) a workable plan for making progress toward a publication on the topic of interest.
c) The student must successfully defend their written document via an oral presentation given to their full committee. During this presentation, the student should expect questions that range from basic background knowledge to very detailed questions directly related to their past, present, and future research. A good rule of thumb is to be able to explain very clearly everything you include in your written document and oral presentation.

Original Research Proposal (ORP) Examination:

After being promoted to candidacy, the student must prepare and defend an original research proposal to his or her Supervisory Committee. This should be completed by the end of the fifth semester (excluding summers). At the discretion of the committee, the student not passing the ORP examination within this time-frame may elect to complete an M.A. or M.S. degree, or be terminated from the program.

a) Before the student's committee signs the topic approval form, the student must produce a 1-page whitepaper that includes the following: (i) a proposed title, (ii) a description of the topic being proposed (i.e., extended abstract), and (iii) a specification of the grant format (e.g., NSF/NIH/ACS-PRF) that the final proposal (see below) will be based on. The committee may include a list of proposal format stipulations (in addition to those below) as part of their approval of the whitepaper.
b) The student must produce a well-written proposal document of 6-15 pages (including figures), written in the format of a grant proposal, that clearly lays out the (i) background and significance, (ii) any preliminary data that helps to demonstrate feasibility of the project, and (iii) methods and/or approaches that are being proposed for successful completion of the proposed research. A list of cited references indicating thorough literature research of the proposed topic must be appended to the proposal (i.e., the reference list does not contribute to the page limit).
c) The student must successfully defend the aforementioned proposal (see (b)) in an oral presentation to the committee. Note, the written proposal must be finalized and submitted to the committee for review at least 1 week prior to the oral defense.

The approval of the topic for the original research proposal (as indicated on the topic approval form) does NOT need to be unanimous if the Major Professor is among the majority of the committee in approving the topic. In the event that there is a lack of unanimity, the committee shall discuss prior to a final decision.

Research Data Presentation

At least one semester prior to the final defense for the Ph.D. degree, each student must give an oral presentation on his or her completed research to his or her Dissertation Committee. This should be done preferably by the end of the fourth year (eight semesters, excluding summers). The Dissertation Committee will advise the student on the specific research milestones to be met before the student can "write up" the final dissertation.

Publication and Presentation Requirements

To receive the Ph.D. degree in Chemistry, the student must publish at least one peer-reviewed manuscript on his or her doctoral research, and give at least two presentations at a scientific meeting.

Oral Defense of the Ph.D. Dissertation

Upon completing all the research and other program requirements, the student will schedule a final oral defense of the written Ph.D. dissertation. This presentation is open to the public and is the final requirement for the doctoral degree.