Chemistry PhD Requirements

The steps in our program include courses, qualifying exams, presentation of an original research proposal, presentation of a research plan, and the writing and defense of a dissertation. Each of these steps is detailed below. The final outcome expected for a PhD degree is published original research. Students are advised throughout the program by a primary research advisor, an advisory committee, and the departmental Graduate Programs Committee (GPC).

The timeline for specific Department of Chemistry requirements follows:

Activity Time Form
Orientation Two weeks before first semester  
Advisor selection Before 10th week of first semester Departmental
Begin research work Week 11 of first semester  
Advisory committee meetings As needed  

A timeline to degree for all Michigan Tech graduate students and copies of the forms used to document your progress are available from the Michigan Tech Graduate School website.

Plan for First-Semester Graduate Students

Course Requirements


Research Plan

During the spring semester of the second year each student orally presents a research plan describing the objective of his/her thesis research, the results of a literature search, and descriptions of intended experiments or procedures. Preliminary results may also be included. Presentations are 20-30 minutes in length.

This presentation takes place within the context of the seminar course (CH5900). The instructor distributes to faculty and graduate students a schedule of dates and topics of presentations for students enrolled in the class. All presentations take place during the regularly scheduled class hour. Students who are scheduled to present a Research Plan distribute to their Advisory Committee members a few days before their talk a 1 page abstract of the presentation (or a hardcopy of the PowerPoint slides). If a committee member is unable to attend the presentation, these provide information for the absent advisory committee member(s) to determine if they will sign the Report on Research Proposal Exam (D6) form. The advisory committee may also ask for a repeat presentation at a time when the entire committee is available.

When the Advisory Committee approves the plan, the Report on Research Proposal Exam (D6) is submitted. In terms of the timing of events, this talk takes place before (and is not a substitute for) presentation and defense of an original research proposal, which is part of the Report on Qualifying Exam (see the original research proposal section).

Qualifying Examinations

All doctoral students will take a Qualifying Examination (QuE) in the 4th semester of their Ph.D. study.

Examination Requirements

The examination focuses on the research component and tests for student's research progress and the mastery of a general knowledge in chemistry and the area of research.

Schedule and Exam Format

Students will form their Ph.D. Advisory Committee before the end of their 3rd academic semester.  The examination should be scheduled by the student considering the availability of the graduate committee members.  The QuE includes: a written research report, an oral presentation, and an oral examination.  The student must pass both the written and oral components of the QuE to remain in the program.

Source of Test Material

Literature review in the area of research; course materials.

Appeals Process

The Graduate Programs Committee (GPC) and the Advisory Committee will review the appeals and may allow for a repeat examination.

Original Research Proposal

A research proposal must be presented in both an oral and written format to the student’s Advisory Committee by the end of their third year. The preparation and presentation of an original research proposal is intended to give students experience in developing an original idea and presenting it to the scientific community. All successful research scientists must be able to present and defend their ideas to sponsors, including government agencies, industrial sponsors, or employers.

The topic should not be closely related to the student’s current and previous research projects, but represent new ideas and techniques developed by the student from his/her reading, research, and coursework. The student should discuss these proposal ideas with their advisor before beginning to write. The topic of the original research proposal and the written summary must be approved by the advisor prior to scheduling of the oral presentation. Students are encouraged to follow The ACS Style Guide, 2nd Ed., which is available in the departmental office. The written proposal is to be submitted to the advisory committee at least two weeks prior to the presentation. If the student wishes to use a pre-formatted original research proposal style, a template similar to those used within the ACS’s Paragon manuscript submission system is available on the departmental graduate guidelines webpage.

The proposal should be a maximum of 15 pages (double-spaced, 12 pt type) of text (including figures). The title page, abstract, and reference section (bibliography) are not included in the page count.

In addition, the proposal should discuss the expected results, their interpretation and possible problems along with strategies on how to resolve them. Some projects may include a discussion of novel techniques to be employed, sources and use of unusual equipment or materials, timelines for long or time-sensitive work, sampling details for field studies, alternate methods of approaching problems and a budget page. Figures and diagrams are often very helpful in conveying ideas; properly cited figures from literature sources may be used.

The oral presentation (about 45 min in length) should describe the original research concept with clear objectives, documentation from the literature, a defined procedure and anticipated results as far as can reasonably be expected. Faculty and graduate students of the department may attend the oral presentation. After the presentation, the advisory committee will ask questions based on both the oral and written portions. If the committee determines that the minimum requirements were not met, they may require further work. If the committee is still not satisfied that the requirements have been met, they may recommend that the student should not continue in the PhD program or that the student transfer to the MS program.

The proposal should be presented with the clear understanding that the material is confidential and remains the intellectual property of the student. A file of selected summaries produced by earlier students will be maintained in the Chemistry Office for reference purposes.

The advisor reports the results of the exam to the department Graduate Assistant. A student who successfully completes their ORP advances to candidacy status and can enter research-only mode. 


Financial Support and Continuous Enrollment

Probation and Dismissal