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Graduate Studies in Chemistry - Degree Requirements

Entrance Examinations

Every entering graduate student must take qualifying examinations during the week prior to the first semester of classes. Examinations measure the students’ undergraduate preparation in analytical, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry, and are used to guide placement of students in the proper courses. By the end of the first year, each student must demonstrate undergraduate level competence in three of these four areas by achieving scores in the 40th percentile or completing equivalent coursework. In unusual cases, the student’s advisory committee may waive part of this requirement.


Each student must complete sufficient research to be able to write a thesis (M.S.) or dissertation (Ph.D.) of publishable quality. The dissertation particularly should give evidence of an exhaustive study of a specialized field, and should be an authoritative statement of knowledge on the subject, as well as an original contribution to modern chemistry. In the work leading to, and in the preparation of, the thesis or dissertation, each student is advised by a committee consisting of the individual faculty member directing the work and at least two (M.S.) or three (Ph.D.) additional faculty. This committee is selected by the student in consultation with his or her research advisor, and is subject to approval by the faculty of the Department and the Dean of the Graduate School. All students must select a research advisor and advisory committee by the end of the first semester of graduate study, and thereafter meet with the committee at least once each semester.


All students are required to take at least two core courses, usually in their area of research specialization. Core courses are offered in analytical, inorganic, organic, physical, and wood chemistry. All course registrations are made in consultation with the student’s advisor and advisory committee. At least 17 hours of the total required for a particular degree must be classroom hours; the remainder comprise course credit for research activity. In addition, each student is expected to attend all scheduled Department colloquia and seminars, and to give one subdisciplinary seminar each year except the first.

Comprehensive Examinations

Ph.D. students must take a series of written comprehensive examinations over a nine-month period, usually during their second year of graduate study. Three examinations must be passed within five attempts. The student’s advisory committee will choose the examinations from a list of examinations in various areas offered during the year. After passing the comprehensive examinations, the student prepares an original research proposal, not closely related to his or her research. The proposal is written in the format of a national granting agency, such as NSF, and is defended in an oral presentation before the advisory committee and the general faculty of the Department.

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