Chemistry PhD

Doctor of Philosophy Program

The PhD degree is awarded for original investigation leading to a significant advance of knowledge in a specialized area. Courses and seminars provide necessary background in the knowledge, basic principles, methods and theories of chemistry. Under the guidance of the departmental graduate committee, students complete those courses that best serve their particular needs. In the course of their training, they are expected to demonstrate by appropriate examinations a breadth of knowledge in chemistry, a perspective of the relation of chemistry to other fields of knowledge — particularly the fields of mathematics, physics and biology — and competence in-depth in a specialized area of chemistry. At the earliest date consistent with their general progress, students select a research topic and begin research. 

The most important and rewarding component of the PhD program is thesis research. Each student is expected to complete a significant and original research project, publish peer-reviewed research articles, write a thesis describing the work, and defend the work before a committee of chemistry and non-chemistry faculty members.

  • Summary of Requirements
    1. Normally at least six courses (24 to 32 credits), two of which may be from the fields of biology, mathematics or physics.

      Biological Chemistry emphasis: at least three courses in chemistry, and the remainder from the fields of biological sciences and other sciences (physics, computer science, geology, mathematics or engineering), as approved by the faculty advisor for individual student programs, for a total of six to eight.

      Materials Chemistry emphasis: at least three courses in chemistry, including CHEM 544, and at least two courses from the fields of materials science and engineering, geology, physics, or engineering, as approved by the faculty advisor for individual student programs, for a total of six to eight.
    2. Passing of a comprehensive literature review examination in a specialized area, followed by an oral examination in the specialization.
    3. One semester of CHEM 592 (Graduate Seminar).
    4. Two semesters of CHEM 593 (Frontiers in Chemistry).
    5. Completion of original research in a specialized area of chemistry.
    6. Submission of a written dissertation and an oral defense of the dissertation.
  • Comprehensive Examination

    The comprehensive examination consists of two parts, a comprehensive literature review (CLR) and an oral examination.

    1. Comprehensive Literature Review:

      The CLR exam itself consists of an oral (CLR-o) and a written (CLR-w) part and is administered at the end of the spring semester, normally within the last two weeks of the Graduate Seminar course (CHEM 592). A second CLR exam is offered, as needed, at the end of the fall semester.

      Only PhD students who have met all placement requirements are eligible to take the CLR exam. Students who have not successfully completed all placement requirements by the time of the spring CLR exam have the option to take it for the first time at the end of the fall semester.

      PhD students who join the Chemistry Program in the spring semester should enroll in the Graduate Seminar course (CHEM 592) in the spring semester, and take the CLR exam typically in the following fall semester, or at a later time after having successfully completed all placement requirements.

      The topic of the exam is identified and decided upon by the advisor and the student.

      Committees administering the exam in a relevant topic are appointed by the GPC and consist of at least three tenured or tenure-track faculty members.

      The exam consists of a 20-minute presentation followed by a discussion of up to 40 minutes. The total allotted time for the oral examination is one hour.

      The student must submit a written report (CLR-w) on the comprehensive literature review to the Graduate Seminar instructor no later than a week before the CLR-o exam. The length of the CLR-w should be of the order of five pages (excluding references and figures).

      Students who take the CLR exam offered at the end of the fall semester (when no Graduate Seminar course is taught) must submit the written report on their CLR to the GPC chair no later than a week before the CLR-o exam.

      The student performance is assessed by the committee members based on an evaluation form that incorporates both the CLR-w and the CLR-o components of the exam.

      Students who fail their first CLR exam will have the opportunity to retake it by the end of the following semester. Failing the CLR examination a second time will be grounds for dismissing the student from the PhD program.
    2. Oral Examination:

      The comprehensive oral examination is normally held within three months after the cumulative examination requirement is satisfied, but need not be taken before the end of the second year.

      For all students except those in the Biological Chemistry emphasis program, the Examination Committee will consist of at least four tenured or tenure track faculty members, including at least three chemistry tenured or tenure track faculty members, one of which must be tenured and not the student’s dissertation research advisor. The committee will be chaired by a tenured chemistry faculty member other than the dissertation research advisor.

      For students in the Biological Chemistry emphasis program, the Examination Committee will be the same as the Committee that administered the written examination.

      For students in the Materials Chemistry emphasis program, one member of the examination committee will be a tenured or tenure-track faculty member outside the Chemistry Department but in the Materials field.

      The student should confirm the membership of the committee with the dissertation advisor and Graduate Program Director; arrange for a date and time acceptable to committee members; reserve a room for the examination with the department secretary; deliver an abstract (of approximately one page) to the committee members one week before the scheduled date; and deliver to the department secretary a copy of the abstract, a list of the committee members, and the date, time and room number. The secretary will prepare a notice of the examination, send copies to all department faculty members, and post notices in public places in the department.

      Following the preliminary oral examination, the Examination Committee will provide the student with a written evaluation of the student's performance. If the student fails the examination, the Examination Committee will advise the student to receive a terminal Master's degree and the student will not be eligible for further financial support.
    3. Alternative Comprehensive Examination and Area of Curricular Specialization:

      A student may, together with the student’s faculty advisor, prepare a proposal, with justification, for an alternative comprehensive examination and area of curricular specialization and submit the proposal to the GPC for its approval. If approved, the research advisor and the student nominate a guidance committee of at least five faculty members, including at least three chemistry faculty members. The committee will be chaired by a tenured chemistry faculty member other than the dissertation research advisor. After approval by the GPC, the guidance committee becomes responsible for administering a comprehensive examination of the approved format, and for monitoring the student’s progress toward the degree.
  • Dissertation Prospectus

    A dissertation prospectus, appropriately approved, in writing, by the student’s examination committee members, must be submitted to the GPC within one month or no later than the beginning of the next semester, whichever comes first, after a successful completion of the comprehensive oral.

    The dissertation prospectus may be written either in narrative style or as an outline. It is typically two pages long, including the committee signatures, but may be longer.

    The dissertation prospectus is not intended to be an abstract of the final dissertation. Rather, it is to reflect the current status of the dissertation research.

  • Admission to PhD Candidacy

    After the student passes the oral examination and submits an approved dissertation prospectus, the student is admitted to PhD candidacy and achieves ABD (All But Dissertation) status. The student is required to complete all comprehensive examinations and obtain ABD status before the beginning of the fifth semester.

    In special circumstances, two credits of the Graduate Seminar requirement and two credits of the Frontiers in Chemistry requirement may be postponed until after admission to candidacy.

  • Dissertation Committee
    The dissertation committee is normally the same as the comprehensive oral examination committee.
  • Oral Progress Report

    Satisfactory progress toward the degree will require the student to present an oral progress report to the Dissertation Committee at a time to be determined by the Dissertation Committee. A normal timeline would require one progress report per year following the oral examination.

    Following presentation of the oral progress report, the Dissertation Committee will provide the student with a written evaluation of the student's performance with the aim of advising the student how to progress. The Committee will also determine the date of the next required oral progress report.

    Failure to present a progress report at the scheduled time or an unsatisfactory evaluation of any oral progress report will reflect unsatisfactory progress toward the degree and may result in termination of financial support. The Examination Committee may also advise the student to receive a terminal master's degree.

  • Dissertation Defense
    1. The dissertation defense committee will normally include the Dissertation Committee plus an outside examiner. There will be at least one tenured chemistry faculty member who is not the dissertation advisor. The committee will be chaired by a tenured chemistry faculty member who is not the dissertation advisor.
    2. Outside Examiner: The Dean of the Graduate School, acting upon a recommendation from the Department, adds an outside examiner to the examination committee as the representative of the faculty of the Graduate School. The outside examiner is either a Binghamton faculty member from a related area outside the student's major program, department or division or someone from a related discipline outside the University. Normally, the outside examiner will have no involvement in the supervision of the student's dissertation. The outside examiner reads the dissertation and participates fully as a dissertation-examining committee member during the dissertation defense. The outside examiner's function on the examination committee is to render an independent judgment and to assure that the dissertation satisfies Graduate School standards.

      At least one month prior to the defense, a graduate student, after a discussion with the dissertation advisor, should establish that the proposed outside examiner is willing to serve on the committee. The graduate student should then complete a Request for Approval of Nomination of Outside Examiner form. The graduate student should obtain the signature of the Graduate Director on the form, submit the form to the Graduate School and provide the department office with a copy.

      If the nominee is from another institution, the Graduate Director should forward the nominee's academic credentials, including a vita, to the Assistant Dean for Administration at the Graduate School to be evaluated. The program director should also include a brief statement (one paragraph) that explains the relevance of the nominee to the student's dissertation research topic and the nominee's experience in evaluating doctoral research (e.g, as outlined in the description above regarding criteria for appointment). The Dean then invites the nominee or another faculty member to serve as outside examiner. The nomination should be submitted to the Graduate School no later than one month before the defense.
    3. See guidelines for preparing and submitting a thesis or dissertation.
    4. Copies of the dissertation must be delivered to the members of the dissertation defense committee at least two weeks before the defense.
    5. The student should arrange for a date and time acceptable to committee members and reserve a room for the defense with the department secretary. The secretary will prepare a notice of the defense, send copies to all department faculty members, and give to the student to post in public places in the department.
  • Submission of the Dissertation to the Graduate School
    The Student must turn in the final copy of the approved dissertation to the Graduate School no later than one month after the date of the dissertation defense or by the end of the semester (Fall, Spring or Summer) in which the student defended, whichever comes later, unless the Dissertation Committee specifies otherwise.


Once You’re Admitted


Placement Exams


Entering students must demonstrate proficiency at the undergraduate level by satisfying a placement requirement. Three options are available.

  1. Pass ACS Placement Examinations in the areas of analytical, inorganic, organic and physical chemistry;
  2. (Biological Chemistry emphasis) pass the ACS Placement Examinations in any two traditional subdisciplines of chemistry (organic, analytical, inorganic, physical) and a Placement Examination in biochemistry;
  3. (Materials Chemistry emphasis) pass the ACS Placement Examinations in inorganic and physical chemistry, and either a Placement Examination in solid state and materials sciences, or the ACS Placement Examinations in analytical and organic chemistry.

The biochemistry and solid state/materials sciences placement examinations for students in interdisciplinary programs are comprehensive, making the overall placement requirement comparable for all students.

Deficiencies

  1. A student may not enroll in a graduate course in any subdiscipline area for which the placement requirement has not been satisfied.
  2. All deficiencies must be removed within twelve months after entering the program. Failure will lead to dismissal from the program.
  3. A placement deficiency is normally removed by course work as determined by the GPC. Deficiencies in analytical, inorganic, organic, or physical chemistry are removed by:
    1. Receiving a grade of B or better in an advanced level undergraduate course in Harpur College (numbered 300-499),
    2. Receiving a grade of S in a remedial tutorial assigned by the GPC.
  4. Deficiencies in biochemistry or solid/state materials sciences are removed by one or two courses as specified by the GPC on an individual basis.
  5. Entering students who have already taken the appropriate courses in Harpur College may petition the GPC to have the corresponding placement examination(s) waived. The biochemistry or solid state/materials sciences requirement may be waived if the student transcript shows at least two appropriate courses in Harpur College or the Watson School.
  6. Remedial course work will match the deficiency as close as possible. Remedial courses cannot normally be counted in satisfying the degree course requirement; exceptions are indicated in writing by the GPC at the time of the placement.
  7. A placement deficiency may also be removed by retaking the Placement Examination successfully after a period of self-study. Placement Examinations are given three times a year: the week preceding the beginning of the Fall semester, the first week of the Spring semester, and the last week of the Spring semester.
  8. Satisfying the placement requirement is to be given absolute priority during the first two semesters in residence and will be the first concern in arranging the student’s schedule.
  9. Students who fail all Placement Examinations upon entering will automatically be placed on probation; failure to remove at least two deficiencies by the end of the first semester will result in dismissal.