The Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry offers graduate programs leading to the master of science (MS thesis and/or non-thesis) and doctor of philosophy (PhD) in chemistry (specialties: analytical, computational, medicinal, organic, and physical chemistry); biochemistry (specialties: bioanalytical chemistry and peptide, protein, lipid and nucleic acid chemistry); and pharmacognosy (MS thesis and PhD only; specialties: analytical pharmacognosy, biotechnology and cell culture, and natural product synthesis). Pharmacognosy, i.e., natural product chemistry, is a multidisciplinary field drawing on expertise from chemistry, biology, and pharmacology in order to give students the necessary breadth of experience.
Each program is designed to prepare students for careers in academic, industrial, and governmental settings. Individualized programs of study, which take advantage of modern instrumentation, provide a solid foundation for independent research. In addition to the possibility of performing research in the traditional areas in chemistry, i.e., organic, inorganic, physical, analytical, and biochemistry, the close affiliation of chemistry faculty with faculty in pharmacology, toxicology, bioinformatics, and pharmaceutics has resulted in a particularly strong research focus on the application of chemical methods to research problems in the health sciences and drug discovery.
Students in the graduate programs offered by the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry will:
- Achieve an in-depth understanding of important concepts pertaining to all the major areas of chemistry appropriate to the research problem being addressed and be able to apply the knowledge gained.
- Be exposed to the laboratory procedures and chemical instrumentation necessary for the solution of the research problem being addressed and be able to use them effectively for that purpose.
- Become aware of critical safety issues and environmental regulations.
- Be able to use computers effectively for both scientific and nonscientific tasks.
- Be able to explore the scientific literature using a variety of resources and communicate that information effectively.
- Attain a level of problem-solving and critical-thinking skills appropriate to the graduate degree being sought and be able to learn independently.
Students also have an exciting opportunity to use computer-modeling techniques to understand and predict the structure and behavior of chemical and biochemical systems through our West Center for Computational Chemistry and Drug Design (WC3D2). The West Center faculty currently consists of a focused group of six faculty members from the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry with expertise in computational chemistry and biochemistry. A combination of several powerful, parallel-processing, Beowulf “supercomputer” clusters, running sophisticated software packages, is available for use by students.
Students entering the graduate program in chemistry, biochemistry, or pharmacognosy may have any undergraduate degree that satisfies all the prerequisites for these programs. However, in some instances the graduate program director will need to assign appropriate undergraduate courses to ensure that students are properly prepared for the graduate courses in their particular program.
The Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry also offers the option of an integrated BS/MS or BS/PhD degree program for qualified undergraduate students who wish to pursue an MS or PhD degree in biochemistry, chemistry, or pharmacognosy while completing their undergraduate degree. Students interested in this option should contact the graduate program director in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry.
MS and PhD Program Requirements
A minimum of 31–45 credit hours is required for either the MS (thesis) or PhD degree, and a total of 31 credit hours for the MS (non-thesis). Students also participate in the department’s seminar courses and, if in a MS (thesis) or PhD program, complete a laboratory rotation to assist in the selection of a thesis research advisor. Specific courses are assigned by the graduate program director and the student’s advisory committee once a thesis advisor is selected.
In order to help the program director evaluate an entering student’s background, each student takes a series of entrance examinations in specific areas of chemistry that will vary depending upon which of the three department programs is chosen.
A prospectus describing the student’s anticipated independent research project must be submitted by students in an MS (thesis) or PhD program. This research will be completed under the direction of a member of the graduate faculty, with the guidance of an advisory committee. Students who enter the PhD program must also complete a series of comprehensive examinations over a one-year period. Each MS (thesis) and PhD student must complete the research necessary to defend a thesis based on an original research project and report the results of this research at professional meetings. PhD students must publish at least two original research articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals.