PhD Milestones
PhD Milestones


Entering graduate students are given Placement Examinations to determine their academic preparation, and are interviewed to determine fields of interest. They are then advised to enroll in specific graduate-level courses to enhance their knowledge and understanding of modern chemistry and to supplement their personal interests.

Students are required to maintain at least a "B" average in their courses and to make satisfactory progress on their research projects. In addition to satisfactory performance in formal coursework and in independent research, progress towards a chemistry Ph.D. is marked by five milestones, each of which has its own targeted time allotment. 


1. During the first semester, each student learns about the ongoing research projects in the department, and chooses several faculty members with whom to discuss research in detail. At the end of the first semester, a research advisor (Major Professor) is chosen and research begins. The major professor selection is formally approved by the Graduate Faculty. The major professor has primary responsibility for advising and guiding progress toward the degree.

2. Each Ph.D. student participates in the Cumulative Examinations, generally beginning in the first semester in residence. Eight "cumes" are given during the Fall and Spring semesters in each of the five major areas (analytical, inorganic, macromolecular, organic and physical). Six cumes must be passed within the first two years of residence. The Graduate Office retains failed cumes until completion. Cumes constitute the first part of the Degree Candidacy Exam. 

3. After the cume requirement is satisfied, the student must select their Faculty Advisory Committee and submit the Program of Study form to the Graduate Office. This committee guides the student in selecting future coursework, helps ensure that adequate progress is made in research, hears both the General and Final examinations, and ultimately grants qualification for the degree. 

4. The General Examination, the second part of the Degree Candidacy Exam, must take place by the end of the 5th regular semester. Successful completion of the General Exam, reported to the Graduate School, constitutes formal entry into Ph.D. degree candidacy. It is composed of two parts:

  • Written and oral presentations of an independent research proposal not directly related to the area of research;
  • Written and oral presentations summarizing research to date and plans for future work to be included in the Ph.D. dissertation.

5. Graduate studies conclude with the Final Examination, an oral defense of the written Ph.D. dissertation before the faculty advisory committee. This should occur within 9 - 11 semesters.

The graduate student is responsible for insuring that the proper forms are filed in the Graduate Office and/or the Graduate School in a timely fashion. The advice of your Major Professor and/or the Graduate Office should be sought whenever there are questions involving proper procedures.

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