Chemistry Graduate Program

Comprehensive Examination for the Doctorate

In preparation for the Oral Comprehensive Examination, students must:

  1. Satisfactorily complete the courses outlined in their Individual Curriculum Form they are eligible to schedule the Oral Comprehensive Examination. 
  2. Present a seminar on their research activities that will be evaluated by at least three members of their Research Advisory Committee.  After the seminar, the Research Advisory Committee will meet with the student to discuss strengths and weaknesses of their presentation and the results of this evaluation will be submitted to the Graduate Affairs Administrator.

Once the Ph.D. aspirants have satisfactorily completed these requirements they are eligible to schedule the Oral Comprehensive Examination. Aspirants for the Ph.D. in Chemistry must pass this examination during the Fall or Spring semester of their 3rd year (summer examinations are not allowed without special permission from the Graduate Affairs committee).  Students who fail to meet this requirement will be ineligible for support through Departmental or research funds until this requirement is passed. Students that fail their first Oral Examination can petition the Graduate Affairs Committee for extension of support to allow a second attempt at the Oral Examination.


(See:  The committee for the Comprehensive Oral Examination shall consist of at least five members of the Graduate Faculty, the majority of who must be faculty or courtesy faculty of the Chemistry Department.  At least one member must be from a department other than the aspirant’s major department. This outside member officially represents the Office of Graduate Studies.  It is common for some members of the Oral Exam Committee to be members of a student’s Research Advisory Committee.

Exam Format

  1. Before the examination, the aspirant will prepare a novel and creative research proposal in an area outside of his/her own specialty.  Here specialty is used to describe an area closely related to the aspirant’s thesis work but not necessarily the discipline (i.e. physical, analytical, etc.).  This topic should be chosen in conjunction with the student’s Research Advisory Committee and be approved 5 weeks prior to the anticipated date of the Oral Examination.
  2. The format of the proposal shall follow the current NSF or NIH guidelines, but should not exceed 10 pages in length.  The written proposal must be distributed to the student’s Oral Examination Committee a minimum of 1 week prior to the date of the Oral Examination.
  3. Exams must be scheduled with the graduate school no later than two weeks before the examination at which time the student will distribute a copy of the proposal to each member of the examination committee (See Graduate Affairs Administrator for details.).  Any member of the committee may request revisions before acceptance for presentation at the exam.  Final revision must be completed no later than one week prior to the examination
  4. The aspirant will present and defend the research proposal to the committee at the oral examination.  Although the research proposal will normally be a major portion of the oral examination, the committee may also examine the aspirant on more general subject areas (not necessarily related to the proposal) or on his/her current research activities.
  5. Typical comprehensive examinations last 2 to 3 hours.  The grade on this examination will be “Satisfactory” or “Unsatisfactory”.  A majority of the Oral Examination Committee members must concur that the student should receive a “Satisfactory Pass” for this grade to be assigned.  If the aspirant receives a grade of “Failed” on the comprehensive oral examination, he or she may be allowed upon the recommendation of the Department, to repeat it; but under no circumstances may the aspirant take it more than twice.  In any case, the examination may not be repeated until at least 90 days have elapsed since the last unsuccessful attempt.

Chemistry department receives more than $8.5 million in research grants annually
14 chemistry faculty members have NSF CAREER Awards
Longest-running chemistry Research Experience for Undergraduates in the nation
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