About the Program
We believe that the most important part of your graduate program is the research experience. Course work and other activities are selected to enhance and broaden this experience. These programs are tailored to a student's individual needs and special interests.
Five graduate-level courses are required for the Ph.D. Formal course work is generally finished in the first twelve to eighteen months, permitting students to begin full-time research early in their career. Courses are selected according to the special interests and needs of each student. Penn State's Chemistry Department is noteworthy in its effort to break down unnecessary barriers; hence, there are no formal divisions between Chemistry areas. Lists of suggested courses are provided for concentration in specific areas of chemistry (analytical, biological, chemical physics, inorganic, materials, organometallic, organic, physical, polymer, surface, theoretical). Students are encouraged to begin research as soon as they are ready and to choose courses that strengthen their research capabilities.
Students may choose from a variety of intermediate and advanced courses in Chemistry, including courses on special topics taught by faculty members actively doing research in those areas. Courses in related fields, such as physics, mathematics, biochemistry, biophysics, polymer science, materials science, and computer science, may also be taken.
Each student takes an oral comprehensive exam. This exam consists of a description of the student's research progress and the defense of a brief original research proposal.
Completion of a dissertation based on original research is the most important requirement for the Ph.D. in Chemistry. This research usually begins during the first year of study. Each student selects a faculty advisor, who heads a committee responsible for guiding research development. The culmination of the Ph.D. program is the presentation and oral defense of a thesis based on the student's research.