Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Chemistry

Graduate student works with laser table in lab

Graduate studies in Chemistry at KU are intended to prepare graduate students for any of the multitude of career pathways available to individuals who hold a doctorate in the Chemical Sciences. Graduate studies differ from the undergraduate experience in that each activity and requirement of the graduate program is designed to prepare students to become independent, creative practitioners of Chemistry.

The full list of courses required for a Chemistry Ph.D. at KU can be viewed on the KU Academic Catalog website.

Chemists at KU still make new materials and find new and exciting applications for these compounds, and study how chemical reactions occur. We apply this knowledge to developing compounds that fight disease, to creating cleaner and more efficient chemical processes for industry and to applying chemistry in other manners that benefit society. Striving for a Ph.D. or M.S. degree is about creating and completing an independent, original research project in the chemical sciences. For KU students, this experience becomes the foundation for their future careers in the increasingly diverse scientific enterprise.

Research in Chemistry graduate programs used to take place exclusively in the laboratory. At KU, students apply a broader definition of the term laboratory to include many other types of research environments:

  • Medical facilities where researchers study the efficacy of therapeutic agents and analyze the results of clinical trials,
  • Computer laboratories where the modeling of molecular structure, chemical reactions and phase changes are contributing enormously to our understanding of the complex systems around us,
  • Fields and streams where environmental chemists strive to understand how chemicals derived from natural processes and human activity impact the quality and diversity of life, and
  • Classrooms where individuals study strategies for improving student learning of scientific concepts.

KU Chemistry: A Multidisciplinary Experience

Chemistry is an incredibly multidisciplinary science at KU. As the tools we have developed to study molecular processes have become ever more powerful, chemists have been able to study more and more complicated systems. In our department, graduate students participate in projects including the location and function of neurotransmitters in the brain, how supercritical fluids can enhance the activity and selectivity of catalysts for chemical transformations, the details of what happens at the solid/liquid interface as materials begin to melt, how nuclear pore membrane proteins open to allow access to the genetic material in the nucleus of the cell, and how the HIV virus does such an effective job of evading detection by the human immune system. Chemical Sciences research at KU is an extremely exciting collaborative experience.