Qualifying exams are given upon entrance in the fall; these are simply diagnostic tools to assist students in choosing courses and to give faculty an idea of the student's preparation for graduate-level study. These examinations are offered in organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, biochemistry, physical chemistry and chemical physics.
Students need to satisfy a six-course requirement, and this is usually completed during the first year. All first-year students enjoy a fellowship that enables them to focus on their coursework and to investigate research opportunities. (There is no teaching requirement during the first year.) As well as departmental courses, students may also take advantage of the wide array of courses offered in allied departments such as the departments of physics and molecular biology and in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. The choice of courses depends on the student’s preparation and research goals.
Incoming students choose their research adviser after they have properly evaluated the many research opportunities available. First-year students are required to attend twice-weekly faculty research talks offered during the fall semester, whereby they will get to know all of the faculty and their research areas. Students are encouraged to evaluate research opportunities through informal discussions with faculty and students, and also to meet more formally with at least three faculty members. With permission from the director of graduate studies, students may choose an adviser from another department, provided their research project relates to chemistry, and that the adviser outside the department agrees to supervise the student. Choosing a permanent adviser usually is accomplished by early to mid-December of the first semester.
After deciding on a permanent adviser, the next step is for a student to choose two faculty members who, together with the permanent adviser, will become the student’s advisory committee for the length of the student's Ph.D. program. The student will meet with the advisory committee at the end of the first year and at least once a year thereafter. However, members of the advisory committee are available to provide input to the student at times other than the formal meetings.
In the fall or winter of the second year of study, students take the general examination, an oral examination based on the thesis research area and related general knowledge. Students prepare a written proposal based on their thesis research and defend it before the Generals Committee. The oral portion of the exam begins with a seminar-like presentation to the committee and is followed by questions that test the candidate's preparation to do the thesis research. Upon passing the general exam, a student proceeds to Ph.D. candidacy.
Teaching is an integral component of a graduate student's academic experience. Most graduate students fulfill this requirement during their second year, but interested and qualified students can often teach in subsequent years as well.
The student's research culminates in the writing of a thesis. The student's advisory committee evaluates the thesis, and the student finishes the Ph.D. requirements by defending the thesis research in a final public oral examination. It normally requires four to five years to complete the Ph.D.
The Graduate Student Handbook has detailed information about the program and its requirements.