Graduate Program

Fall 2013 first-year grad students with Chair Ilan Benjamin

Ph.D. Program in Chemistry

The general areas of research encompassed by the program are biochemistry, biophysical, inorganic, marine, organic and physical chemistry. Within the doctoral program, students have the flexibility to design individualized courses of study focused on personal research interests. Although individual routes to the Ph.D. may vary according to specific interests, all students are expected to maintain the high intellectual standards associated with the doctoral degree.

During Orientation, new students take examinations at an advanced undergraduate level in four areas: organic chemistry, physical chemistry, inorganic chemistry and biochemistry. The results of these "attainment" exams are used to assess each student's background and to plan the first year's course of study.

During their first two years in residence, students take five graduate lecture courses (25 units) in broad areas or special topics. The standard course load, which includes lecture courses, seminars, research courses and independent studies, is three courses per quarter (15 units). Doctoral students are required to work as teaching assistants for at least three quarters, usually in the first year.

For the majority of students who continue to work toward the doctorate, four specific requirements remain. The first is to present a literature seminar on a topic of current interest. This seminar provides students with the opportunity to develop skills that will enable them to read, analyze, organize and communicate information in a clear and logical manner.

Grad student in Holman labThe second requirement is the oral qualifying examination for advancement to Ph.D. candidacy, taken in the seventh quarter. In order to demonstrate creativity and the ability to define and plan a research project, students defend an original research proposal that is not directly related to their thesis or dissertation. Students are also required to present and discuss their research progress to determine if they have a solid understanding of the research and to determine what direction and further work will be required for a successful thesis.

The third requirement is to complete the written dissertation and have it approved by the student's dissertation reading committee.

The fourth requirement is to present the research findings in a dissertation seminar, at which the audience may ask for clarification or defense of any aspect of the research thesis.

To apply for the Ph.D. program in Chemistry & Biochemistry, click here.

M.S. Program in Chemistry

The master's program offers a graduate-level education in chemistry and biochemistry that is a shorter and less comprehensive alternative to the Ph.D. program. The M.S. is also an excellent choice for those who desire thorough preparation before seeking a Ph.D.at UCSC or elsewhere.

Students pursuing a M.S. degree in chemistry may choose the thesis path or the coursework path. Regardless of path, students take the same diagnostic examinations required of those entering the Ph.D. program. Thesis path students conduct research leading to the Capstone requirement of a publishable thesis and take five lecture courses focusing on their research area and various seminars.  Coursework path students take seven lecture courses more broadly representing the chemistry and biochemistry subdisciplines and various seminars.  They present a seminar as their Capstone requirement.

To apply for the M.S. program in Chemistry & Biochemistry, click here.

M.S. Degree - Thesis Path

Note: Applications for the Research Thesis path Master's degree are not being accepted at this time.

This is a two-year M.S. program with requirements similar to the first two years of the Ph.D. program. Students take five required courses in the first year of the program; they complete elective courses and research leading to a thesis during the second year. The master's thesis, even though based on original research, is not expected to be as comprehensive as the doctoral dissertation.

For those who may not want to pursue a research career but desire a thorough familiarity with research methods, the thesis path is ideal.

M.S. Degree - Coursework Path

In this one-year M.S. program, students enroll for three courses per quarter for three quarters. Seven lecture courses and at least two seminars must be taken to obtain the degree, once the attainment examination requirements are met. Requirements can usually be met in 3-4 quarters.

The coursework path to the M.S. degree is designed to provide up-to-date expertise in chemistry, short of actual research experience. Teachers, technicians from industry, and businesspeople are among those likely to benefit from this program.

Fall 2013 first-year grad studentsFall 2013 first-year grad students in Mechanistic, Structural & Chemical Biology track of PBSE, with Chair Ilan Benjamin

Ph.D. Program in Biomedical Sciences & Engineering

Students interested in chemical biology and biophysical chemistry are encouraged to apply to the graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences and Engineering. PBSE is an interdisciplinary and collaborative effort that brings together expertise from the departments of Chemistry & Biochemistry; Molecular, Cell & Developmental (MCD) Biology; Biomolecular Engineering (BME); and Microbiology & Environmental Toxicology (METX).  Highlights of PBSE include a broad choice of research laboratory rotations, journal clubs and a targeted seminar series--all in a collaborative environment.  Applicants to PBSE choose from three tracks:

  1. Bioinformatics and Computational Biology - Multidisciplinary bioinformatics training and research in comparative and functional genomics, non-coding RNA discovery, protein bioinformatics and structure prediction.
  2. Mechanistic, Structural and Chemical Biology - Exploration of biological systems at the molecular and mechanistic levels, using biophysical methods and the tools of synthetic organic chemistry to examine biomolecules and their functions.  Most PBSE participants with a background in chemistry will follow this track.  Also for those with an interest in environmental toxicology. 
  3. Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology - Cell biology, chromosome biology, developmental biology, genomics, microbiology, neurobiology and RNA molecular biology.

For more information, consult the PBSE website. To apply click here.

To learn more about degree requirements and the Chemistry graduate programs in general, please see the Graduate Handbook.

Questions on the graduate program? Email gradinfo@chemistry.ucsc.edu

See Also