Graduate Program in Chemistry Education Research


The graduate program in chemistry education research (CER) at Portland State University prepares students for a variety of careers focused on the teaching and learning of chemistry. In working toward this degree, students in the CER program complete graduate coursework in pedagogy and educational research methods. This coursework prepares students to make original research contributions to the field of chemistry education. Advanced chemistry content knowledge is gained through coursework and a curriculum development project in a cognate area.

Entrance and Degree Requirements

Students interested in studying chemistry education follow the same entrance and degree requirements as all doctoral students at Portland State University. A complete description of the degree requirements can be found here, specific CER program requirements are outlined in the following sections.


Per the 2018 ‘Guidelines for Ph.D. Degree – Chemistry’, all doctoral students are required
to complete a minimum of 24 credits of formal graduate coursework. Coursework is targeted to support each student’s cognate area and specific chemistry education research goals. These 24 credits are split across the categories below.

Chemistry Coursework (12 credits)

  • Students choose one discipline (analytical, biochemistry, inorganic, organic, or physical chemistry) as their cognate area and complete courses in that area
  • Students may select from any of the 500/600 level courses offered, except those specifically noted in the doctoral degree guidelines (section II B)
  • The 2 credits of CH507 (Professional Preparation) count toward the 12-credit requirement

Chemistry Education Coursework (12 credits)

  • All CER students complete courses in the following core areas:
    • Quantitative research methods
    • Qualitative research methods
  • Additional coursework is determined in consultation with the research advisor and tailored to each student’s research needs

Additional Requirements

There are a number of non-specified credit hours within the department’s Ph.D. Guidelines, usually fulfilled by the completion of additional coursework or research/dissertation credits. Students in the Chemistry Education doctoral program complete one of the following options in fulfilling these credit hours.

Option 1: Curriculum Development Project

Students complete a curriculum development project (see below) in their cognate area. This project is in
addition to the chemistry education research project. Cognate projects are expected to take no more than
two terms to complete (one for development and one for implementation/evaluation). Planning of
cognate projects may begin after a student has successfully completed their comprehensive exam but
development, implementation, and evaluation cannot occur until after they have advanced to candidacy.
Students register for a total of 4 credits of CH510 when working on their project, 2 credits during the
development term and 2 credits during the implementation/evaluation term.

Project Details

Students develop, implement, and evaluate one upper-division teaching laboratory experiment at PSU. The projects are meant to both enhance a student’s content knowledge on a Fall 2019 Version specific topic within the cognate area as well as provide them with experience in what it takes to construct effective curriculum. Cognate projects are mentored by the CER research advisor and completed in conjunction with a cognate mentor. If the cognate mentor does not teach the upper-division laboratory course for which the project is designed, then the appropriate laboratory coordinator may also be involved in the project. It is expected that cognate projects will lead to publishable work co-authored by all individuals involved.

Option 2: Supervised Teaching Practicum

Students co-teach an undergraduate chemistry lecture course and compile a teaching portfolio. Any chemistry department faculty may mentor a student during the teaching practicum. The student must arrange to observe the course prior to the term they are co-teaching. Students can observe at any time but are not allowed to co-teach until after they have advanced to candidacy. Students register for a total of 4 credits of CH510 when completing their practicum, 1 credit during the observation term and 3 credits during the co-teaching term.

Learn More

Students interested in learning more about the chemistry education research program or about the field
of chemistry education are encouraged to contact Dr. Jack Barbera (

Download a PDF copy of the material on this page here