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Graduate Program Requirements in Chemistry

Fields of Study

The Department of Chemistry offers programs for advanced study in chemistry leading to the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. 

Research Opportunities

Facilities for research in the various fields of chemistry are housed in the Herbert C. Brown and Richard. B. Wetherill Laboratories of Chemistry. Focus areas for research in chemistry include: analytical, biological, inorganic, organic, physical, physical-organic, atmospheric, materials, environmental, nuclear, radio-chemistry, physical-biochemistry, and chemical physics. 


It is desirable to have a minimum of 35 semester hours of undergraduate credit in chemistry as a basis for graduate work. The 35 hours must include the basic undergraduate courses in general chemistry, quantitative analysis, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and physical chemistry. In addition, the student should have credit in mathematics through integral calculus and one year of physics. Additional courses in mathematics and physics are desirable.

Master of Science Program

Only under special circumstances are applicants admitted directly to the master’s program. An exception is granted for US military veterans and active service applicants who are fully funded by scholarships or other military programs, and are seeking an MS degree. 

The plan of study offered for the degree shall specify a primary area and related area or areas. The minimum course requirement is 18 hours, of which 9 shall be in the primary area. At least 12 hours of 600-level courses must be included in the plan of study. Credit earned in excess of the requirements for the bachelor's degree or as a graduate student elsewhere may be used for part of the course requirement.

All candidates for the Master of Science degree at the West Lafayette Campus are required to submit a thesis. Some candidates for the MS may also be required by their faculty advisor to hold a thesis defense.

Doctor of Philosophy Program

Getting Started

Each incoming graduate student will meet with a faculty advisor who will help select courses that are consistent with the student's interests and background and help satisfy departmental course requirements.

Selection of Thesis Supervisor and Advisory Committee

Most students will select a thesis advisor during their first semester of graduate study. Each student's thesis advisor will work with him/her to select additional faculty to complete the advisory committee. The committee will include the student's thesis advisor, one member of the graduate faculty from the student's area of focus, and one member of the graduate faculty from outside the student's area of focus. Two members of the committee must be from the Department of Chemistry. The committee and student will develop a plan of study for the remaining courses needed to satisfy the student's area of focus and departmental requirements.

Course Requirements

Each student must earn credit (maintaining a grade-point average no less than 2.8) in a minimum of eighteen hours of graduate courses (600 level or approved 500 level), nine hours of which must relate to the student's area of focus and nine of which must be in at least two other areas. It is strongly recommended that courses in at least three areas of study be completed during the first two semesters. At least nine of the eighteen hours must be in chemistry courses. The student's area of focus could be any one of the traditional areas of chemistry or a special-focus area approved by the student's committee and the Graduate Studies Committee.

Part of the course requirements can be satisfied by credit in graduate courses from another institution, subject to approval of the student's committee and the Graduate Studies Committee.

Seminar Requirement

Before the end of their sixth semester students must present a formal seminar. The timing and content of the seminar must be approved by the candidate's committee and the faculty member in charge of the seminar program.

Written Report

At the end of every Spring semester, each student will provide a written research report to their committee describing research progress and future plans.

Pre-Candidacy Assessment/Examinations

Students admitted prior to the Fall 2023 semester must pass five cumulative examinations by the end of their fourth semester in order to take their candidacy examination (oral preliminary exam). Students admitted for Fall 2023 or any semester thereafter will not need to take the cumulative exams; however, they will be subject to a new form of assessment, currently under development, that must be passed/completed prior to taking their candidacy examination at the end of the fifth semester. Additional information can be found here.

Candidacy Examination

To establish Ph.D. candidacy, all students must pass an oral preliminary examination prior to the end of their fifth semester of graduate study. The oral examination by the student's advisory committee will include a discussion of the student's research and defense of an original research proposal that is different from the student's thesis research.

Thesis Defense

The thesis defense will consist of two parts. The first part will involve a public presentation of the research with time and format arranged to permit questions from the audience. Immediately following the presentation the candidate will be examined on the material in the thesis and on related topics by the student's advisory committee plus one additional member of the graduate faculty from the student's area of focus.


As a vital part of the graduate training program in chemistry, all graduate students are required to be engaged in a training assignment each term. These assignments vary according to the needs and professional aspiration of the student and increase in responsibility as the student progresses. They are designed to supplement the more formal coursework by a variety of pre-professional activities such as assisting in research and teaching under staff supervision. The amount of time required of the student varies from 10 to 20 hours a week, depending upon his or her level of progress and type of assignment. The purpose of these assignments is to expose the student to some of the types of activities in which he or she ultimately will be engaged after receipt of the degree. Students from outside the United States may be excused from the training requirement because of their different purposes and needs.