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Chemistry and Biochemistry: Graduate Programs


The vast majority of graduate students are admitted as PhD students. At the graduate level, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry offers the PhD, as well as MS and MA degrees. The PhD program at the University of Arizona prepares high-achieving students for senior research positions in industry or government laboratories, or a career in college-level or university-level teaching and research.

Concentrations for the PhD in Chemistry are available in:

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biological Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Physical Chemistry
  • Chemical Education

These concentrations can include an emphasis in chemical physics, materials science, optical sciences, polymer sciences, surface sciences, astrochemistry, bioorganic science and several other interdisciplinary fields.

Doctor of Philosophy: The Doctor of Philosophy with a major in chemistry is primarily a research degree. The number and selection of courses is tailored to the individual student's needs and interests according to the guidelines available from the Department. The minor work may be satisfied within the Department. A dissertation based upon original laboratory research is required. All students must pass a comprehensive examination and a final oral defense examination.

-Certificate in Entrepreneurial Chemistry: PhD candidates have the option of earning the Certificate in Entrepreneurial Chemistry by completing requirements in addition to the regular PhD program. Courses in Entrepreneurship, Business for Scientists and Management, as well as a portion of the dissertion devoted to the business aspects of the student's research, are required for certification.

Masters Degrees: A thesis based upon original research is required of the Master of Science degree. All students must pass a final oral examination. Master of Arts: Students who plan to teach chemistry in secondary schools will find this program adapted to their needs. The M.A. degree is a non-thesis degree that is awarded for advanced study in chemistry beyond the bachelor's degree.

Expected Learning Outcomes: 

The primary educational objectives of the Ph.D. program are:

  • To develop proficiency in the critical analysis of scientific research problems
  • To assess which problems are important enough to pursue vigorously
  • To pursue and solve a research problem of interest to both the student and mentor
  • To produce publishable research in the field
  • To follow ethical principles of the discipline for citing sources, using human subjects, and working with colleagues
  • To teach and mentor effectively
Assessment Activities: 

Qualifying Exams: Upon entering the program, each student takes qualifying examinations in the five traditional subdisciplines of chemistry: analytical, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry (a biological exam is also required for students in the Biological Chemistry Program). Based on the examination results and a subsequent meeting with the Graduate Program Committee, an initial program of study is planned.

Cumulative Exams: During the first semester, students begin taking cumulative examinations, which are offered once a month throughout the academic year. A student must pass six of these exams to advance to the Comprehensive Examination.

TA Teaching Evaluation: To determine teaching quality and effectiveness, undergraduate students from each Chemistry and Biochemistry lab section complete and submit a hand-written, open-ended survey answering to several apsects of graduate TA teaching. These surveys are read by two different individuals (for the sake of precision) who each summarize findings within each lab section. A committee of faculty, staff, and graduate students meet each semester to report on the findings and to discuss necessary actions and awards. When consensus is reached, the committee then submits a final report to the Department Head.

Comprehensive Exam: The major requirement of the Ph.D. degree is the research dissertation, which presents a new and unique contribution of knowledge to the chemical sciences suitable for publication in a major scholarly journal. Students generally select a research director by the end of their first semester and begin dissertation-level research within the next year. Three to four years of mentored research follow, culminating in the Final Oral Examination. During this time the student takes progressively increasing responsibility for the direction of his/her research. The transition from student to colleague is completed with the successful defense of the dissertation in front of the student's committee.
The Comprehensive Examination involves the oral defense of an original research proposal formulated by the student, before his/her Dissertation Committee. During this phase of the program, the student also presents one or more literature-based seminars to the Department, thereby developing public speaking and critical thinking skills. 

Updated date: Tue, 09/14/2010 - 10:13