Ph.D. Program Requirements for Current Students

General Requirements

PhD students are required to take seven letter graded courses in Chemistry and complete a total of 60 credits for a degree. All PhD students are required to be engaged in undergraduate laboratory teaching for a minimum of two semesters. In addition to the coursework, research, and teaching, all students are required to pass both oral and written candidacy exams. The written component requires students to pass six doctoral cumulative exams. The oral component is conducted in the form of a research proposal that must be passed before the student enters the fifth semester. All degree requirements must be completed by the end of the student’s second year, allowing them to move into PhD Candidacy at the beginning of their third year.

A record of highly productive graduate research is essential for the success of a graduate study.

Important Contact Information

Department of Chemistry
Main Office
Chemistry 122
1 (518) 442-4400

Brian A. Gabriel, Department Administrator, CH124;
-General Questions, Scholarship Information, Research Assistantships, Student
Research Advisor, Course Registration, Admissions

Stephanie Waltersdorf, Department Secretary, CH 122;
-General Questions, Scheduling Appointments, Payroll, Event Information

Colin Henck, Lab Coordinator, CH 309C;
-Graduate Student Teaching Labs, Proctoring, TA Duties

Important Links

Department of Chemistry -
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Year One of Graduate Studies

First year is very important to a new student. But our faculty and staff are here to guide you for a successful study from the beginning.

One week prior to the start of classes new students are required to attend the new graduate student orientation event. Orientation is hosted by the Chemistry Department and is designed to welcome new students to the chemistry department and assist them with their transition to graduate school and life at UAlbany. New students will have the opportunity to socialize with other graduate students in the program as well as receive academic advisement and course enrollments as well as teaching assignment for those who will be TAs. During orientation week all new students will have the opportunity to hear research seminars given by the chemistry faculty. Students are also required to participate in and pass safety training and the mandatory, professional code of conduct training.

All new graduate students are also required to take the American Chemical Society (ACS) graduate student entrance exams. The ACS exams are used to evaluate a student’s prior educational experience and helps the department to determine the best path for a student to successfully complete the graduate coursework at UAlbany. New students will be tested in the areas of Biochemistry, Organic Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, and Analytical Chemistry. New student orientations end with a department-wide back-to-school BBQ in the chemistry garden.

Research/Research Rotation
All PhD students are expected to complete 15 credit hours in each semester. Joining a research lab, and conducting experimental research is essential to the Ph.D. degree. Student must be fully engaged in research throughout the calendar year and for the duration of their graduate studies.

All new PhD graduate students are required to participate in a 3 credit Research Rotation course that is designed to allow them to sample the research program in two faculty research labs in general during their first semester. After each rotation the student is evaluated by the faculty member using a Research Rotation Evaluation Form. At the end of the student’s first semester, he or she is expected to join a faculty research group where they will remain for the rest of their research and studies. Student will be required to submit a Research Advisor Selection form to the department. For exceptions to this time line, a student should talk to Brian or Dr. Shekhtman.

PhD students will take 3 letter graded course in their first semester and 2-3 letter graded courses in their second semester. Students are expected to be fully engaged in research while also taking classes. A graduate student is expected to maintain at least an average GPA of 3.0 in order to be considered for degree completion.

PhD Candidacy Exams – Written (Cumulative Exams)
The Department will offer four doctoral cumulative exams (CUMES) each semester; this amounts to one exam per month. Written exams will be offered in all five areas of chemistry (Organic Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Analytical Chemistry). Students are given two hours to complete as many CUMES as they can during that time period. PhD students must pass a total of 6 CUMES by the end of their second year. Students should begin taking CUMES starting from their first semester of study.

Year Two of Graduate Studies

The second year of a student’s studies will consist of completing remaining courses (out of the 7 letter graded courses), pass all 6 written doctoral CUMES and complete 60 credits. In addition, students must successfully defend their oral research proposal and will submit a Research Proposal Defense Form, to the department, before entering their candidacy.

PhD Candidacy Exams – Oral (Research Thesis Proposal Defense)

Written research proposal. Upon completion of the cumulative examination requirement, a doctoral student writes a formal research thesis proposal by working with his or her mentor. The thesis should contain preliminary data. The proposal should be sent to the research proposal defense committee about one month ahead of the defense date.

Research proposal defense committee. The research proposal defense committee should be composed of four chemistry faculty members. One of them is the student’s research advisor. The student and his or her research advisor are responsible for identifying committee members whose areas of specialization are similar or complementary to those of the student.

Committee role. Prior to the defense, all committee members should read and critically judge the quality of the proposal in both writing and scientific content. The student must make an oral presentation and defend the proposed work to the committee, which will question the student on the specific material contained therein, as well as general points of chemical methods and theory raised in the proposal.

Benchmarks for satisfactory performance. The committee members can pass, conditionally pass or fail a candidate, based on the quality of the writing and content, oral presentation, general chemistry knowledge, research ideas and progress. Being able to independently answer questions in a satisfactory fashion during the presentation is also an important benchmark. The committee members should also offer advice to the student about writing, presentation and research ideas as well as the expected timeline to complete the proposed work. If the committee decides to pass the student, the student should acquire the signatures of all committee members and turn the signed form to the Department in a timely manner.

Subsequent Years Leading up to the Thesis Defense

The subsequent years of a student’s graduate studies will consist of intense research working with their faculty mentor, publishing papers, attending international, national, regional, or local conferences, and working towards writing a dissertation. Students must obtain at least one high impact, first author publication before being considered for graduation. Prior to graduation students must submit their thesis to the committee for evaluation.

The following are general guidelines for completing research work leading up to a thesis defense.
Dissertation Defense
Dissertation defense largely follows the requirements described in the research proposal defense but with the following difference.

  1. Thesis. A thesis is much more expansive and in depth than the research proposal. A sizable body of the work must be the basis of the thesis. The thesis must be sent to all committee members far ahead of time to be reviewed.
  2. Dissertation defense committee. The dissertation committee should contain an additional committee member who is an external reviewer and who is not from the Department of Chemistry. The outside reviewer should be familiar with and/or able to understand and comment on the work. The external reviewer has the equal right in voting whether or not to grant the degree.
  3. Oral defense. When a student chooses a date for the oral defense of his or her dissertation, the student must inform the department ahead of time so that the Department announces the name of the student, the title of the thesis and the time of the thesis defense. The first, public part of the dissertation defense is an oral presentation of the thesis work. The second part involves a closed-door meeting only with the committee, in which the committee questions the knowledge (both general and subject based) of the candidate. The oral defense cannot take place until a thesis is approved by the committee. After the successful conclusion of these proceedings, the student must submit a Dissertation Defense Form to the department. Please list all of the publications on the second page of this form. The first author paper(s) should be listed first.

For detailed information about how to complete the thesis work, a student should consult his or her own research mentor.

Before you leave for your new position, you should turn over your data, lab notebooks, and the key to your mentor. Please also leave your new contact information with the department. We welcome you to keep in touch with us and visit the department if the opportunity arises.