About the Doctorate Program


Graduate students may earn a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in chemistry. The doctoral curriculum consists of formal course work, annual research talks and research leading to the doctoral dissertation.

The formal course work consists of two segments: qualification courses (taken in the first year) and advanced courses in and outside of the student's selected major subdiscipline (analytical, biochemistry, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry). The qualification courses present the core material of the different subdivisions of chemistry. Advanced coursework is intended to expose students to the newest and most sophisticated developments in the field. The nature of these courses changes with time; new advanced (or special topics) courses are added regularly as timely subject matter needs introduction into the curriculum, and older courses are revamped or phased out.

The cornerstone of the PhD degree is the dissertation research project. During the course of the PhD project, the student learns to demonstrate his or her capacity for original research which represents a significant contribution to knowledge in the field of chemistry. The written dissertation and its successful oral defense complete the PhD degree.

PhD Program Details

The important skills demanded by all employers (industry, academia, government) of PhD chemists are technical expertise in their field; the ability to define, address, and solve research problems; technical and personal leadership; and the ability to communicate orally and in writing. In addition, industry emphasizes the ability to work in teams, while academic careers require a strong teaching ability.

Technical expertise is emphasized throughout the PhD curriculum. Students must complete six qualification courses -at least three of which are in their sub-discipline of chemistry- with a B+ average in their first year of the program. They must then complete two more courses during their graduate career. Students give annual talks on their research progress. The second and third year talks comprise the candidacy exam. Dissertation research is the capstone that demonstrates technical expertise and the ability to work independently on a project.

Our PhD students can gain experience in personal and technical leadership by working with undergraduate students doing research in the laboratory of their mentor. Graduate students mentor undergraduates, teach them laboratory skills, supervise day-to-day operations, and often define the problems and strategies the undergraduates will undertake. This approach has proven to be a superb tool for training both graduate and undergraduate students.

Oral and written communication skills are developed through curricular requirements and individual student opportunities. All students must give research talks to their PhD committee in the spring semester of their first year as part of Chem 771 (general research plan for the future), their second year (research and associated literature), and third year (focusing on their independent intellectual contributions to the project and research progress update). In their fourth year, they must communicate research progress to their committee, usually as a divisional seminar. As their dissertation research is being completed, students have first a closed defense in front of their committee and then an open defense to their committee and the public. All these talks demand that students be well versed in all aspects of PowerPoint and other presentation modes. In addition to the curricular requirements, there are ample opportunities for students to communicate orally and in writing. Students are strongly encouraged to present posters of their work at the annual Oesper Symposium, and at the University Graduate Poster Forum. They also present posters or podium papers at regional and national meetings of the ACS, at specialized meetings in Ohio and nationally. Opportunities to write technical papers also abound. On average, students have 4-5 publications when they graduate, most of which are written wholly or in part by the student.

Working in teams is fostered throughout the department. Many projects are collaborative (e.g., in the sensors area, where analytical, physical, and biochemistry are joined in most of the projects) or interdisciplinary, and students may have co-advisors for their dissertation. Collaborations with the Genome Research Institute, the Medical School, other departments, universities, industry, and government also provide opportunities for collaborative or interdisciplinary team approaches to problems.

All students have the opportunity to do some teaching in the PhD program. All incoming graduate students who are supported by the Department must serve in their first year as a departmental teaching assistant (TA). After students select their research advisors, they then have the opportunity to be supported by either a departmental teaching assistantship or as a research assistant on their advisor's grant. Graduate students can be provided the opportunity by their advisors to present one or more lectures to classes taught by the advisor. For the subset of graduate students in our program who are interested in pursuing a career in teaching, the university's Preparing Future Faculty program is an excellent opportunity.

The department has taken a leadership role in providing mentoring and guidance to our students interested in industrial related careers. An important addition to the graduate curriculum is a one-credit course "Life After Graduate School," offered to third- and fourth-year graduate students in the department. The course, which serves as the basis for an ACS program that is presented nationally, covers what chemists do in the "real world" as a way to help students decide on the right job for them, the skills needed to find that job, and the skills and knowledge needed to succeed. Although the main focus of the course is preparing the students for employment in industry, the topics covered also include teaching at universities and four-year colleges as well as working for the government, emphasizing that the career choices available to our graduate students are numerous and more diverse than students anticipate. Students are encouraged to investigate their interests and particular talents to find career activities best suited to their goals and personalities.