PhD in Chemistry Program Information


Combining original research with advanced coursework in various original disciplines of chemistry, this program prepares students to pursue careers in academic, industrial, or government research.

Today, students in all areas of chemistry pursue the Ph.D. at Portland State University; recent theses have explored cutting-edge research in biological chemistry, environmental chemistry, materials science, atmospheric chemistry, molecular evolution, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and physical chemistry. Some of our students have engaged in crosscutting collaborations with faculty members from other departments. Graduate research is supported both by the University and by ongoing grants to individual faculty members.

Good Preparation for a Rewarding Career

Graduates of the Department of Chemistry’s Ph.D. program have taken advantage of the strong interdisciplinary nature of the program and report that their doctoral training prepared them well for rewarding careers. These students have benefited from interdisciplinary programs on campus, such as the Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Academy, the Center for Electron Microsocopy and Nanofabrication, the Center for Life in Extreme Environments, and with the Oregon Health & Sciences University.

Program Requirements

Formal requirements are few, with specific coursework tailored to each student’s area of specialization. All students undertake a series of entrance examinations before initial advising and registration for the first term of study. These exams evaluate undergraduate preparation and cover five areas of chemistry: organic, inorganic, analytical, physical, and biochemistry.

Research programs are organized along traditional lines, involving a combination of coursework, research, and thesis / dissertation (an experimental or theoretical research project resulting in an original contribution to chemical knowledge and defended in an oral examination). There are additional requirements for students wishing to pursue a Ph.D. in Chemistry Education Research.

Prior to initial course registration in the Ph.D. program, the student must take entrance examinations in those areas of chemistry represented in the student’s previous coursework. Any three of these examinations must be passed by the end of the first three academic terms of residence.

The candidate must complete a minimum of 45 credits in approved graduate courses. Of these, 6 credits of coursework must be outside of the major area of interest but within the Department of Chemistry. All students participate in a one-term course in seminar preparation and present a departmental seminar as well as a research seminar that forms the public part of the final oral examination. Ph.D. students must also present their research in a seminar to a multi-departmental audience.

Students select a research advisor during their first term, which is normally occupied with coursework. A Dissertation Committee is established, which reviews the student’s research prospectus, contributes to overseeing progress in the program, and serves as the committee for the final oral examination. This examination is not restricted to the thesis material alone but may cover any aspect of chemistry or related fields.

Each candidate for the Ph.D. degree in chemistry must complete comprehensive examinations, a prospectus exam, and a dissertation. The dissertation, an experimental or theoretical research project resulting in an original contribution to chemical knowledge, must be defended in an oral examination. The examination is not restricted to the thesis material alone but may cover any aspect of chemistry or related fields. The details of all requirements are outlined in the Department of Chemistry’s Graduate Student Handbook: