PhD in Chemistry and Biochemistry


The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry offers a graduate program of study leading to a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Chemistry and Biochemistry.

You will need to complete 56 credit hours with a B average (GPA = 3.0) to graduate. If you have an assistantship, you will need to maintain a GPA of 3.0 at all times to keep the assistantship. To complete the program in 4-5 years, you will need to take 6-9 credit hours in each semester, excluding summer. You do not need to register for any courses during the summer semester, unless you graduate during the summer.  If you intend to graduate in summer, you must register for one credit of dissertation (CHE 799). All 56 credits must be completed within seven years.

Required Core Courses:  Two of the following courses (6 credits)

CHE 651 Advanced Medicinal Chemistry (3 credits)
CHE 656 Enzyme Mechanisms (3 credits)
CHE 659 Receptor Biochemistry (3 credits)
CHE 658 Nucleic Acid Biochemistry (3 credits)
CHE 660 Biochemical Pharmacology and Disease Targets (3 credits)

Research Techniques (25-37 credits)

Students take CHE 691 before beginning research. Students must carry out research project(s) under the supervision of a graduate faculty member and register CHE 780 for credits. Upon passing the comprehensive examination (see below), students will be qualified to register for CHE 799.

CHE 691 Introduction to Graduate Research (1 credit)
CHE 780 Research Problems in Chemistry and Biochemistry (12-18 credits)
CHE 799 Dissertation (12-18 credits)

Seminars (2 credits)

Students must present two seminars, the first on a literature topic that is not directly related to their dissertation (CHE 751) and the second on their dissertation research (CHE 752). The first seminar is typically presented in the first or second year of study, and second seminar is typically presented during the last semester of study.

CHE 751 Literature Seminar (1 credit)
CHE 752 Dissertation Seminar (1 credit)

Electives (12 hours minimum)

Up to 12 credits may be earned from graduate courses in chemistry, biochemistry, biology, mathematics or physics. The student’s coursework plan must be approved by the departmental Graduate Studies Committee and the student’s Dissertation Committee.

Comprehensive Examination

The comprehensive examination consists of a written research proposal and oral presentation based on the student’s dissertation research.  The written proposal is typically prepared using NIH guidelines, and should includ­e a literature review, hypothesis, specific aims, preliminary data, research design and methods, timeline and references. Following a public oral presentation of the proposal, each student must defend their proposal in front of their dissertation committee. Each Ph.D. student must pass the comprehensive examinations (both written and oral) before the end of their second year. After successful completion of the comprehensive examinations, students may begin enrolling for dissertation research, CHE 799.

Other Requirements

Directed dissertation research: Students will choose a research advisor and should begin their dissertation research within the first 3 months of joining the program.

Seminar: Students are required to attend all departmental seminars.

Dissertation Committee: Students must choose a dissertation committee prior to the completion of 18 credit hours in the program. The committee must consist of 4 members of graduate faculty, two of which must be full members. One of the committee members is the student’s research advisor, who serves as the chair of the committee and must be a graduate faculty member of the home department.

Dissertation: Students must complete a written research dissertation and give a public oral presentation of their completed work while registered for CHE 752 seminar. In addition, the student must defend the dissertation orally in front of his/her dissertation committee. The seminar and dissertation defense should occur in the same semester that the student applies for graduation. If the research work in his/her dissertation have involved the contributions from other students and/or research collaborators both inside and outside the Department, the contributions from each person must be clearly defined.

Annual Evaluation: Each year students will be required to give an oral annual presentation to the graduate faculty in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.  This presentation will provide an opportunity to review and evaluate progress in the program, and to ensure that all important milestones have been completed. Participation in the annual evaluation is mandatory for all Ph.D. students enrolled in the program.  Unsatisfactory evaluation may lead to the termination of the student’s assistantship.