Ph.D. in Chemistry

The Ph.D. program in Chemistry is designed to train students as mature scientists capable of independent activity, i.e. capable of conceiving a research problem, planning and carrying out the necessary experimental work, properly interpreting the results, and advancing their knowledge by independent study.

Traditionally, the Ph.D. degree is the mark of scholarly attainments and connotes a high degree of proficiency in a specialized field in addition to a wide breadth of knowledge of other fields. The program outlined below will assist the student in attaining the required scientific maturity, mastery of a chosen area of chemistry, and adequate proficiency in all other areas. The program also provides a means of testing the progress of the student. Capable students can complete the doctoral program in four to five years. Financial support is guaranteed for four years and is normally available to fifth-year students in good standing.

The rules and information which follow are intended to supplement those found in the Graduate School catalog. Each student is expected to become familiar with the rules found in the catalog as well as those of this program. The student may elect to major in Analytical, Inorganic, Organic, or Physical Chemistry. Students interested in interdisciplinary areas should consult a separate document governing these areas.


Students must demonstrate proficiency in the four major areas of chemistry:  analytical, inorganic, organic, and physical.  Students satisfy this requirement by taking the appropriate 900-level courses in their area of specialization.  Outside their area, students can satisfy the requirements by either passing the advanced placement exams given to entering students the week before classes or by passing the appropriate 800-level courses (Chem 862 for analytical chemistry, 874 for inorganic chemistry, 855 for organic chemistry, and 876 for physical chemistry) with a grade of at least B-

Required Courses/Course Information

Students are required to take courses in their field as required by the faculty in that area. These obligatory courses are:

  • All Graduate students who are or will be TA’s are requiredto take Chem 800 – 1 credit.

  • Analytical - Chem 930, 933, 934, 935 and Math 835.  PhD Analytical Checklist

  • Inorganic -Chem 808 (Organic), Chem 903, 904, and 947. *In addition to the divisionally required courses, further courses that may be appropriate to the student's course of study include 917(2-4cr)), 918(2-4cr), 926(3cr), 934(3cr) or other 800 and 900-level courses. PhD Inorganic Checklist

  • Organic - Chem 808, 855, 902, 911, 917, 918. An advanced proton and carbon NMR interpretation course, currently offered as either 917 or 918, is strongly recommended in addition to 808. PhD Organic Checklist
  • Physical - Chem 905, 926, 927, 995D/996D PhD Physical Checklist
  • In addition, all students must take at least two graduate chemistry courses outside their area of specialization, at least one of which must be at the 900-level.
  • Students must present one satisfactory seminar (Chem 997 or Chem 998) in the student’s 3rd year, first semester of that year.

  • Successfully defend an original research proposal which must be presented in the student’s 3rd year, second semester of that year.

  • Chem 992 – Professional Writing Portfolio – Students will sign up in their third semester (usually fall semester, second year), maintain a writing portfolio and be awarded credit at the end of their fourth semester by their research mentor with advice from he thesis committee.

  • Course requirements for interdisciplinary program students are:
    • Chemistry Education Option: Chem 971 is required and 3 courses at the 900 level in Chemistry sub-discipline. course requirements to include Grad 990, 3 courses Quant Stats and 1 course in Cognition. Advisor will provide couse options for selection. PhD Chem Education Checklist

Qualifying Examinations - Comprehensive Exams

• All students are required to take comprehensive examinations in their major field.
• Requirements for the examinations are set by each division.
• Examinations will be offered two times per year—September & May.  A pass is required before advanced (cumulative) examinations can be taken.
• A student may repeat the examination, but only once, and when it is next offered. Should a student not pass the comprehensive exams, then the student will need to revisehis/her program to a master’s degree program of study and complete the change of degree form.

Advanced Examinations (Cumulative)

The student will take a series of cumulative examinations in the major field after passing the preliminary examination.  Specific requirements of the various divisions follow:

• Analytical Chemistry. Doctoral students in analytical chemistry who have passed the preliminary examination must take eight advanced examinations. Performance in the eight examinations will be evaluated be the analytical chemistry faculty and will be a major factor in the evaluation of the student's overall performance at the end of the second year.  Advanced examinations are normally given once per month during the academic year.

• Inorganic Chemistry. Doctoral students in inorganic chemistry who have passed the preliminary examination must take the next ten advanced examinations. Performance in these examinations will be evaluated by the inorganic chemistry faculty and will be a major factor in the evaluation of the student's overall performance at the end of the second and third years.

• Organic Chemistry. Six advanced examinations are administered each academic year. These are taken consecutively until a total of six is passed.

• Physical Chemistry. Doctoral students in physical chemistry who have passed the preliminary examination must take the next six advanced examinations. Performance in the six examinations will be evaluated by the physical chemistry faculty and will be a major factor in the evaluation of the student's overall performance at the end of the second year.  Advanced examinations are normally given once per month during the academic year.

• Chemistry Education Option: Cumulative Exams are split between education and chemistry cores.

Research Progress Report

All students in the Ph.D. program will submit an outline of a Research Progress report to their research advisor by January 15th of their second year. This outline is to be comprised of 2-3 pages of double-spaced typed text. The advisor will return this report with comments to the student within seven days. The student will then prepare a final fuller version, which is to be distributed to the student's committee by February 15th.

A meeting between the student and the committee will be scheduled by Cindi Rohwer, Admin. Manager, to take place prior to the end of April. The committee will evaluate the document at this meeting. The advisor will summarize orally the consensus of the committee to the student.  Written summary of the committee recommendations will be retained in the department files.  If the Committee’s consensus is that the student’s report or research progress is inadequate, a follow-up report and meeting with the committee will be required before the end of the semester.  The Committee may advise the student to either switch to the M.S. program or possibly withdraw from the graduate program if problems associated with the first progress report have not been adequately addressed during this second meeting. The Research Report should include a review of the relevant literature.  It should summarize the student’s research progress to date, as well as the student’s plans and ideas for future work.  As a guideline, it is suggested that the report should comprise about ten pages of double-spaced typed text.  Any figures, references and tables incorporated should not be included in that total.


Each student must present a satisfactory seminar based on the literature. The seminar must be presented no later than the first semester of the student's third year. The seminar topic cannot be directly related to the student's dissertation research at UNH. "The Students' Guide to Seminars" should be studied by every student well in advance of choosing a seminar topic. Attendance at the student's divisional and at departmental seminars is MANDATORY for all graduate students while in residence.

Research Proposal

Each doctoral student must present and satisfactorily defend a research proposal before a committee of four (4) faculty members consisting of the student's guidance committee. The proposed research must be original from the student and must not be related to any research work being carried out in this department. The proposal will be judged on the basis of its intrinsic scientific merit, feasibility of execution, and the student's ability to defend it in a logical and convincing manner. It is recommended that students read "Research Proposals: how to Choose and Defend Them".

Students are allowed to develop a proposal based on their literature seminar. Students are encouraged to integrate the seminar and proposal requirements in this manner to expedite progress in the program.

Procedure for Submission and Defense of the Proposal

  1. An abstract of the proposal (1000 words or fewer) is presented to the committee. Students are encouraged to present this during their second year but must do so by February 1st of their third year or October 15th if the student entered the program in a spring semester. Within one week of receipt of the proposal abstract, the committee will evaluate it and notify the student whether or not it is acceptable.
  2. Once the proposal abstract is judged acceptable by the committee, a detailed proposal must be prepared for the committee. This should include a short abstract (less than 150 words), a statement of the problem and its significance, historical background, theoretical justification, anticipated experimental results, possible alternate outcomes, and conclusions.
  3. The student and the student's committee will set a date for an oral defense of the proposal. Each committee member will score the oral defense, assigning either a pass or a fail. At least three (3) passes are required to pass the defense. The student will be informed by the committee chairperson whether the proposal has passed or failed.
  4. In case of failure, the committee chairperson will discussion the reasons for failure with the student and prepare a written evaluation and make recommendations.

If the student fails a proposal defense, the committee will recommend one of the following:

  1. That the student successfully re-defend the proposal no later than the first month of the following semester.
  2. That the student successfully defend a new proposal, with an abstract judged acceptable no later than the first month of the following semester.

A second failure to defend a proposal satisfactorily will result in an automatic permanent denial of advancement to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. At this point, completion of a M.S. degree is an option. After advancement to candidacy, completion of the doctoral dissertation and its oral defense are the only remaining requirements.


The performance of each student will be reviewed periodically, and recommendations will be made to the student concerning the subsequent program. The initial review by the entire faculty will occur at the end of the first and second years. At these times course and teaching performance, seminar participation, research progress and performance on cumulative exams will be considered. The student will be informed whether continuing in the program is advisable, and will be apprised of any weaknesses. Students whose performance is inadequate, or who show they may not be able to successfully complete the program will be asked to withdraw at this point or possibly switch to the M.S. degree program.

Each student will be evaluated by the divisional staff at the end of each subsequent year. By the end of the third year, the proposal presentation and the results of the advanced examinations will be considered in addition to the items mentioned previously. At this time students will be informed of one of the options listed below:

  • Student will be advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D.
  • Student must complete specified requirements, for which a time limit may be set
  • Student will be awarded the M.S. degree on completion of a satisfactory thesis
  • Student will be required to withdraw from the graduate program.

Advancing to Candidacy

A student will advance to candidacy when he/she has completed all CUMES (Comprehensive Exams) and successfully completed his/her research propodal defense. The Administrative Manager will complete the Advancing to Candidacy form and submit to the Graduate School for Approval. Please email Cindi Rohwer your proposed dissertation title and your fifth committee (external) member. Your research advisor can assist you with both of those details.

Oral Defense of the Doctoral Dissertation

The culmination of the doctoral program is the presentation and defense of the doctoral dissertation before the Doctoral Committee and any other members of the University community who may wish to attend. The doctoral dissertation embodies the results of the student's doctoral research program and is prepared under the supervision of the Research Director.

Formatting & Required Copies

  • Format requirements are specified in the Thesis and Dissertation Manual available from the Graduate School at You will need to submit a copy for format review to the Academic Counselor of the Graduate School. Please note that you cannot submit a thesis for binding until review and approval of the format has been given by the Graduate School. It is recommended that you submit your thesis for review in advance of your defense.
  • Various drafts of the thesis should be proofread by several people (i.e. members of your research group or other graduate students) for content, clarity, grammar and style before giving it to the committee. The candidate should consult with his/her research advisor regarding procedures to be followed in preparing the thesis.  The role of the student’s committee is to assess the science and not to serve as proof readers. The Graduate school offers workshops throughout the year on developing your thesis/dissertation.

  • Please see the Administrative Manager to schedule your room for your defense.

  • The Administrative Manager must be notified of the time, date and title of the thesis defense at least two weeks prior to the defense date to issue a memo to the department inviting all to attend.   At this time the ADministravei Manager will neter your dissertation notice on-line to the Graduate School. Please email her an abstract of your dissertation to include in the announcement.
  • Copies of the completed dissertation (thesis) must be distributed to the committee at least TWO WEEKS prior to the date of the public presentation; otherwise the final defense will AUTOMATICALLY be rescheduled to take place at least two weeks later to comply with Graduate School regulations. The candidate must also notify the Administrative Manager at the time the dissertation (thesis) has been distributed to the committee so that the defense can be rescheduled if necessary.
  • The public presentation will be in the form of a seminar lasting 40-50 minutes followed by questions and discussion from the audience. The committee will question the candidate further in a closed session immediately afterwards.
  • Once the defense has taken place and the final version of the dissertation has been arranged, you can submit your thesis for binding through an on-line process with the Graduate School.

  • Bound Copies: We request 1 for your advisor, 1 for the Chemistry Library and then there are your personal copies.

  • The bound copies will be sent to the address you provide when submitting your thesis on-line. We request that you ask for them to be sent directly to the Chemistry Department at 23 Academic Way, Durham NH 03824. This will enable us to distribute a copy  to your advisor and to the Chemistry Library then send you your personal copies.


Leaving the Department

The Department Office requires the following criteria to be completed when exiting the department:

  1. Return all keys to either the Administrative Assistant or the Administrative Manager.
  2. It is important to note that your lab bench and office desk must be cleaned and all waste disposed of properly. The Administrative Manager will put an "Are you leaving form" in your mail slot. You will need to complete the form and have your Research Advisor sign off on it, verifying that your hazardous waste has been properly labeled and disposed. This form will also give the department your forwarding address and email, should we need to contact you.