Department of Chemistry

Ph.D. in Analytical/ Forensic Chemistry

The aim of this program leading to the Ph.D. in analytical/forensic chemistry is to develop an ability to conceive significant research problems in chemistry, to design experiments for the successful investigation of these problems, and to communicate the results of these efforts to the scientific community. The program is designed to train the student to become an independent researcher capable of pursuing a career and in academics, crime laboratories, or industrial settings.
The program of study and research requires multiple academic years of full-time study and commitment to research beyond the B.S. or M.S. degree level.

Proposed Multi-Year Curriculum

The analytical/ forensic chemistry Ph.D. track will require a minimum of 60 credits (of these, a minimum of 18 credits in letter graded courses), are required for the completion of the degree. Three courses are to be chosen from the following set of six core courses: Chm 520A, B (Inorganic Chemistry I, II), Chm 525A, B (Physical Organic Chemistry I, II), Chm 535A, B(Physical Chemistry I, II), Chm 540A, B (Biochemistry I, II) or Chm 544 (Biochphysical Techniques) and must be taken within the first three semesters. Two of the six required courses must be within the student's field of specialization. The letter-graded course requirements must be completed within 6 semesters of the date when the student enters. The remaining coursework will consist of advanced classes in analytical methods, biochemistry, forensic chemistry, pharmacology, toxicology and a seminar in chemistry, selected from the list below, among others. Participation in the internship/practicum course will be dependent upon the acceptability of the candidate to the Department of Chemistry and the host institution or agency. Among the criteria used by these agencies will be completion of Forensic Chemistry Chm 550 A, B and a possible background check of the applicant. Please see the Graduate Bulletin for additional information.


Analytical/Forensic Chemistry Course Descriptions

  • ACHM 517 Advanced Synthesis Laboratory (3): Experimental investigation of advanced syntheses of organic and inorganic compounds including their separation and analysis. The goal of the course is to develop skills and understanding for the application of complex procedures and methods common in current practice. Prerequisite(s): Consent of the instructor.
  • ACHM 524 Seminar in Chemistry (1): Searching the chemical literature; techniques and practice in oral technical presentation.
  • ACHM 526 Experimental Methods of Organic Structure Determination (2): Discussion of modern methods of organic structure determination such as multinuclear NMR, 2D-NMR techniques, IR and Mass Spectrometers. Coverage of interpretation of the spectral results obtained. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.
  • ACHM 540A,B Comprehensive Biochemistry (3, 3): Chemical characteristics of living matter, amino acids, polypeptides and proteins, supramolecular assembly and membrane structure; enzyme mechanisms and kinetics; bioenergetics and the chemistry of metabolism; electron transport and other transports across membranes; biosynthesis, storage, and expression of genetic information. Additional assignments will be required, including a term paper and oral delivery. Prerequisite: Consent of instructor.
  • ACHM 550A Advanced Forensic Chemistry (3): This course combines a series of advanced seminars, lectures and laboratories, and individualized laboratory exercises which focuses on current topics and methods of analyses used in forensic laboratories. Seminars in Forensic Chemistry will include topics such as Introduction to Criminalistics, Ethical Dilemmas, and Computer Assisted Data Analysis. Lecture and laboratory courses will include Microscopy, Drug Chemistry, Questioned Documents, Toxicology, Latent Prints, Trace and Firearms/Tool marks. Students will be given "hands-on" experience with various analytical methods currently being used in forensic laboratories including chromatography (TLC, GC, GC/MSD), Visible UV and Fluorescence Spectrophotometry, Infrared Spectroscopy, and Mass Spectroscopy. Various separation/extraction techniques such as Solid Phase Extraction and liquid/liquid extractions will be covered. One lecture and two laboratory periods each week. Prerequisite: Consent of the instructor.
  • ACHM 550B Advanced Forensic Chemistry (3): Continuation of AChm 550A. This course combines a series of advanced seminars, lectures and laboratories in Forensic Chemistry. Topics such as public speaking on technical and non-technical subjects as well as courtroom testimony will be covered. Lecture and laboratory topics will include DNA in forensics, quantitative methods in drug chemistry and toxicology as well as advanced statistical methods. One lecture and two laboratory periods each week. Prerequisite: AChm 550A.
  • ACHM 558 Introduction to Medicinal Chemistry/Pharmacology (3): Medicinal chemistry is an interdisciplinary course at the interface of chemistry and pharmacy and is involved with designing, synthesizing and developing pharmaceutical drugs. It will include the following topics: molecular modeling, rational drug design, combinational chemistry, QSAR, and cheminformatics. Prerequisites: Consent of Instructor.
  • ACHM 580A, B Forensic Drug Chemistry Internship/Practicum (4, 4): Faculty and field instructor-supervised practicum in a mirrored, professional laboratory setting where qualified students will have the opportunity to apply forensic chemistry methods, techniques, and analyses learned in their academic program. Students pursuing a M.S. degree in Applied Chemistry with a Forensic emphasis may apply to the Department of Chemistry for permission to enroll in this course. Admission to the Forensic Drug Chemistry Practicum course will be dependent upon the acceptability of the candidate to the Department of Chemistry and the host institution or agency. Among the criteria used by these agencies will be completion of Forensic Chemistry AChm 550A, B and a possible background check of the applicant. Enrollment in the course is limited in number and is therefore determined on a competitive basis. Application to the program must be made six months in advance of the beginning of the proposed practicum. As students progress through the practicum, they will be tested and certified in stages on their knowledge of the various techniques and equipment encountered. A written i.e. certified record of the work performed by the student would be the end product of the practicum. (S/U graded). Prerequisite: AChm 550A,B.
  • ACHM 699 Chemical Research (3-6): Original experimental and theoretical research problems. Prerequisite: Consent of the department chair.
  • ACHM 699T Chemical Research (3-6): Original experimental and theoretical research problems. Prerequisite: Consent of the department chair.

Advisement/ Internships

The course of study of each student is planned with in consultation with the Graduate Committee. Each student follows a program of study consisting of courses in chemistry and in related fields consistent with the research program and professional objectives. Once a Research Advisor is agreed upon, advising will switch to the Research Advisor. The Research Advisor must approve the Internship. Internships are available on a competitive basis and are available at the discretion of the sponsoring agency. A memorandum of understanding between the Department of Chemistry and the agency or company sponsoring the practicum will be required. This memorandum will delineate the University's expectations of the intern as well as the responsibilities of the sponsoring agency or company. Each semester, the field instructor will be required to provide an evaluation of the student using a departmental evaluation form. It will be incumbent upon students who intend to pursue this degree program to find an internship/practicum that is acceptable to the department. It may be necessary for a student to undergo a background check as part of his/her application to an agency or company for consideration as an intern within the Practicum portion of the program. Consequently, application to enroll in the Practicum must be made six months in advance of the beginning of that portion of the program.


Attainment Examinations

All students are required to pass American Chemical Society graduate- level examinations in organic and physical chemistry and either inorganic or biochemistry by the end of the first full year of study. Students may opt to discharge the requirements for subdisciplines in which a failing grade was received on the first trial by enrolling and passing with a grade of B or better the appropriate undergraduate or remedial course(s) under the advisement of the Director of Graduate Studies. Once this latter option is chosen, the student's grade in the course(s) will be the sole determinant of the attainment requirement. Failure to pass the required attainment exams by the end of the first full year of study or to pass the remedial course after one attempt will constitute grounds for academic dismissal.

The Foreign Language/Research Tool Requirement

Students may fulfill this requirement by either a) Foreign Language Attainment or b) Research Tool Attainment.

Foreign Language Requirement

The approval of the foreign language is based upon the requirement that there is a sufficient body of chemical literature in the chosen language for there to be merit in understanding the language. The language chosen shall not be the student's native language. Prior Graduate Committee approval of the language is required except for German, French, Russian, and Japanese.


Research Tool Requirement

The student along with the Graduate Committee select the procedure required for demonstrating competency. Competency in a research tool must be demonstrated to an examiner authorized by the Graduate Committee to evaluate students in each research tool area. Chm 526, Chm 544, Chm 561 or Chm 570 may be used to satisfy the research tool requirement, with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies, but may not additionally be counted toward the course requirements. If Chm 544 is taken to fulfill core course requirements, it may not be used to fulfill the research tool requirement.


Qualifying (Cumulative) Examinations

The student must pass two cumulative examinations within the first two years and a total of six cumulative examinations within the first three years to satisfy this requirement. Examinations are given eight times in an academic year. Each of the four sectors: biochemistry, organic, inorganic, and physical will give a separate exam. Exams from more than one sector may be taken on any occasion. The subject of specialization of a student is determined by his/her selection of cumulative examinations. A minimum of four examinations must be passed in his/her chosen sector.



A student must complete the proposition requirement before being admitted to candidacy. The student will submit in writing to their doctoral subcommittee a description of the research they intend to conduct for their dissertation. This description should include highlighting the background, significance and planned approach that will be used to conduct this study. This written proposal must be defended in a formal presentation to the Committee.


Full Time Study in Residence

Each student in a doctoral program must engage in full-time study beyond the master's degree or equivalent at the University in at least two sessions after admission to the advanced program. This requirement is designed to insure for each doctoral student a sustained period of intensive intellectual growth. For this purpose a student will enroll in full-time study (12 credits) taken in each of two sessions.


Admission to Candidacy

A student is admitted to candidacy for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy upon the following:

  1. Satisfactory record in course and seminar study;
  2. Satisfactory completion of the research tool requirement;
  3. Completion of University residence requirements;
  4. Satisfactory completion of the doctoral qualifying examination.

Ph.D. Dissertation

The final requirement to be met by the student is the completion of research, writing of a dissertation (thesis) on this work, and presentation of a thesis seminar. The thesis seminar will be scheduled to take place within two weeks after the date of submission of the thesis to the doctoral committee. Following the public presentation the student and the doctoral committee meet to discuss necessary changes, if any, before the final copy is submitted.