Graduate Program

First Year Graduate Student Cohort Fall 2017

Ph.D. Program in Chemistry

Graduate Student Research

The general areas of research encompassed by the program are biochemistry, biophysical, inorganic, marine, organic and physical chemistry. Within the doctoral program, students have theflexibility 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.

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.

Graduate Student ResearchersThe 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 basesd on original research 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 UCSC or elsewhere.

Master's students take the same diagnostic examinations (attainment exams) 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, as well as various required seminars.  They present a literature seminar as their Capstone requirement.

M.S. Degree - Thesis Path

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

M.S. Degree - Coursework Path

In this non-research 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 Master's is a terminal degree.

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.  The coursework M.S. degree also does not require teaching experience.

Because this is a self-paid program, no financial aid can be expected from the department.  Although TAships may occasionally be available, they are not guaranteed, so applicants should plan on covering educational and living expenses using their own resources.

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

Fall 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. Biomedical Engineering and Bioinformatics - Multidisciplinary bioinformatics training and research in comparative and functional genomics, non-coding RNA discovery, protein bioinformatics and structure prediction.
  2. Chemical Biology, Biochemistry and Biophysics (CB3) - 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. Microbial Biology and Pathogenesis - Prepares students for careers in microbial biology research and teaching.  Approaches: biochemistry, genetics, genomics, ecology, imaging
  4. 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

See Also