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.
  • Checklist for PhD Students - Progress in Degree

    All PhD Students are required to complete all steps in the checklist. Detailed deadlines and standard procedures are provided in subsequent sections.

    -  Selection of Faculty Advisor 

    -  Comprehensive Literature Review (CLR) Examination

               o   Written Exam (CLR-w)

               o   Oral Exam (CLR-o)

    -  Preliminary Oral Examination

    -  Dissertation Prospectus

    -  oral Progress Report(s)

    -  Dissertation Defense and Graduation

              o  Graduate Application for Degree (GAFD) and Recommendation for Award (RFA) forms

              o  Dissertation Defense

              o  Submission of Dissertation

              o  Exit form

  • Selection of Research Advisor

    Deadline: Selection of a faculty research advisor by the end of the first semester is recommended and is required within the first twelve months after entering the program.

    Standard Procedure: The student must fill out and submit the “Selection of Faculty Research Advisor” form (https://www.binghamton.edu/chemistry/about/resources/advisor-selection.pdf) to officially complete the selection of research advisor. The students are responsible to acquire the following signatures: 

    • Three faculty members who the students have discussed research possibilities with.
    • The student’s signature for declaring the choice of research advisor.
    • The faculty member’s signature for accepting the student.
    • The signature of the Graduate Program Director.

    The completed electronic form should be submitted to the Department Secretary.

  • 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, no later than four weeks from the completion 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. Students must submit their slides for the oral presentation 24 hours before the CLR-o exam…

      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:

      After the passing the Comprehensive Literature Review Examination, the Preliminary Oral Examination must be completed before the beginning of the fifth semester.

      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 approximate one page) to the Department Secretary by email at least one week before the scheduled examination date. 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 and Admission to PhD Candidacy 

    1.  Dissertation Prospectus 

         Deadline: Within one month after the completion of the Preliminary Oral        Examination, or no later than one week before the beginning of the next semester, whichever comes first.

         Standard Procedure: The students are responsible to acquire signatures from all examination committee members. Electronic version of the dissertation prospectus should be submitted to the Department Secretary.

    2.  Admission to PhD Candidacy 

         Deadline: The student is required to complete all comprehensive examinations and obtain ABD (All But Dissertation) status before the beginning of the fifth semester. 

         Standard Procedure: Once the completed and signed dissertation prospectus is received (see the procedure above), the Department Secretary will fill out the Recommendation for Admission to Candidacy (ABD form) and send to Graduate Program Director for final approval. The final form will be sent to the Graduate School. 

  • 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. Dissertation Defense Committee: 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.

      Deadline: The students are responsible to discuss with their dissertation advisors, establish that the proposed outside examiner is willing to serve on the committee and inform the Graduate Program Director the proposed outside examiner at least one month prior to the defense.

      Standard Procedure: 

       If the proposed outside examiner is on the pre-approved outside examiner list (https://www.binghamton.edu/grad-school/resources/policies-procedures/manual/policies-doctoral.html#205), the student should inform the Graduate Program Director the proposed outside examiner by email. A request will be sent by the Graduate Program Director to the Graduate School for approval.

      If the proposed outside examiner is not on the pre-approved outside examiner list. The students are responsible to submit the following documents to the Graduate Program Director:

      -          The Outside Examiner Request Form (https://www.binghamton.edu/grad-school/resources/policies-procedures/manual/policies-doctoral.html#205)

      -          The current CV from the proposed outside examiner

      The Graduate Program Director will submit the above documents with a statement that explains the relevance of the nominee to the student’s dissertation research topic and the nominee’s experience in evaluating doctoral research to the Graduate School for approval.

      3.      Prior to the Dissertation Defense 

      The students are responsible to submit copies of their dissertation to all the dissertation defense committee members at least two weeks before the defense.

      The students are responsible to arrange for a date and time acceptable to committee members for the defense and deliver an abstract (of approximate one page) to the Department Secretary by email at least one week before the scheduled defense date.

  • Graduation

    1.  Graduate Application for Degree (GAFD) and Recommendation for Award Form (RFA)

    The GAFD and RFA are required to notify the University of a student’s intent to fulfill their degree requirements at the end of the current semester.

    Deadline: The deadlines for submitting GAFD and RFA are posted and updated on the Graduate School website: https://www.binghamton.edu/registrar/student/grad_degree_completion.html

    Note that if a GAFD is submitted for a particular semester and the student does not defend by the end of the semester. A new GAFD must be submitted for a later semester.

    Standard Procedure: Students must complete and submit the GAFD and RFA forms on BU Brain. Please follow the procedure specified on the Graduate School website: https://www.binghamton.edu/registrar/student/grad_degree_completion.html

    2.  Submission of the Dissertation to the Graduate School

    Deadline: The deadline for dissertation submission are posted and updated on the Graduate School website: https://www.binghamton.edu/registrar/student/grad_degree_completion.html

    Dissertation Formatting Guide: Use the dissertation formatting guide and samples provided on the Graduate School website to prepare the dissertation: https://www.binghamton.edu/grad-school/resources/graduation/submitting-thesis-dissertation.html#step1 Additional information can be found in the Graduate School Manual: https://www.binghamton.edu/grad-school/resources/policies-procedures/manual/index.html#thesis-or-dissertation

    Submission of the dissertation electronically: Follow the procedure on the Graduate School website to submit the dissertation electronically: https://www.binghamton.edu/grad-school/resources/graduation/submitting-thesis-dissertation.html#step2

    Note that all students are required to also submit Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) and processing fees after the submission of dissertations. Students will receive Email notifications from the Graduate School for the acceptance or the requests of revisions of their dissertation.

    3.  Exit Form: Exit Form (https://www.binghamton.edu/chemistry/about/resources.html) must be submitted by the students before leaving the program. 


Once You’re Admitted


Placement Exams

Placement Examinations will be given to entering students to evaluate their background in undergraduate level chemistry. Examinations will be offered in the following six sub-discipline areas: Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Biochemistry and Materials Chemistry. Entering PhD/MS students take a minimum of three/two placement exams. The placement examinations will provide the Chemistry Department with information that helps to assess the entering class as a group. The Graduate Program Director will review the results with each graduate student and advise them individually on their course selections.