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Frequently Asked Questions

Part of the excellence of the graduate program at Minnesota is due to the graduate students themselves. Because Minnesota's reputation is international, the graduate student body is a healthy mix from many countries as well as from many states. This allows a stimulating interchange of perspectives on topics cultural and political, besides those scientific.

Extracurricular activities are available in proportion to interest. The graduate students field teams in intramural sports ranging from basketball to soccer and can boast of championship softball teams. Also, many parties, outings, and celebrations arranged by groups within the department reflect the wide range of interests among the students.

The Three-Member Committee and Permanent Adviser

Upon entering graduate school, each student is assigned a three-member committee selected from among the faculty. This committee consults with the student to determine his or her academic program. Normally, the student chooses a permanent research adviser during the second quarter in residence. This adviser then automatically becomes the head of the student's three-member committee, replacing, if necessary, one of the original members.

Requirements for the Ph.D

The graduate program in the Department of Chemistry includes six specialty areas: analytical, chemical biology, inorganic, materials, organic, and physical. In addition, an interdisciplinary studies area allows students with special needs or interests to plan individual programs.

Students who are interested in completing part of their formal graduate course in physics may wish to look into the requirements for the Ph.D. degree in chemical physics, which are explained fully in the University's Graduate School catalog. These requirements differ slightly from those for the Ph.D. in chemistry, but the program still provides the student with the opportunity to do research under the direction of a faculty member in physical chemistry.

In order to qualify for a Ph.D., the student must complete a series of proficiency examinations, courses, and written and oral preliminary (Ph.D. candidacy) examinations. A final oral thesis defense culminates the degree program. Each of these is discussed in some detail below.

Proficiency examinations.

Students are expected to pass four of five proficiency examinations during their first year in residence. The exams, which are at the level of an advanced undergraduate course, are in analytical chemistry, biochemistry, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry and physical chemistry. The exams are given during the chemistry first year orientation program in August. In the event that a student does not pass the first exam they are offered two more times during the academic year.


Each division offers a core group of closely related courses. Besides these, the student normally takes additional courses in a minor or supporting program.

Written preliminary examinations.

See policy.

Oral preliminary examination.

The preliminary oral examination requirement also varies among specialty areas but more often than not involves defense of a proposed research project which, in some areas, is an original topic unrelated to the student's thesis research, while in others, is the thesis project itself.

Final oral examination and the thesis.

Each Ph.D. student must perform an original piece of research, describe it in a thesis, and defend this thesis during a final oral examination.

Requirements for the M.S.

The University of Minnesota offers two types of Master's degrees. Plan A requires a thesis, while Plan B requires a heavier coursework load instead of a thesis. Courses for completing a Master's program are normally selected from the recommended courses within a given specialty area and supporting programs. An M.S. candidate must pass the proficiency examination in the field most closely related to his or her specialty area but need not do so in other fields.



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