Apr 22, 2024  
2019-2020 Graduate Catalog 
2019-2020 Graduate Catalog [Not Current Academic Year. Consult with Your Academic Advisor for Your Catalog Year]

Chemistry, PhD

College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics  > Department of Chemistry  > Chemistry, PhD

The Department of Chemistry at the University of Houston offers programs leading to Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in analytical, biological, inorganic, materials, organic, physical and theoretical chemistry. With nationally recognized faculty who pursue research which provides a rich learning environment with the use of a wide variety of instrument facilities and excellent technical staff who support the research and teaching efforts within the department, recipients will have acquired a broad and in-depth knowledge of the discipline meeting the national standards of the discipline. Our graduates successfully find employment after they graduate in academia, government labs, and industry.

For more information, please visit http://www.uh.edu/nsm/chemistry/about/.

Admission Requirements

Candidates who have completed the normal four-year program leading to the bachelor’s degree in chemistry and who present documentary evidence of the ability to pursue graduate study are eligible for consideration for admission to the graduate program.

  • A complete graduate school application (link: www.uh.edu/graduate-school/admissions/how-to-apply) must be submitted.
  • Applicants must submit scores from the General GRE examination taken in the last 5 years.
  • Letters of recommendation are also given considerable weight in the evaluation process.
  • Students who did not earn a prior degree from a U.S. institution or a country where English is the medium of instruction (see list here ) must meet minimum test scores to demonstrate English language proficiency. To learn more, visit: http://www.uh.edu/graduate-school/international-students/. International applications also require an application fee. 
  • Admission to our graduate program is based on a competitive selection process. Meeting the minimum requirements published does not guarantee admission to our program. All applicants’ credentials are evaluated by the admissions committee using a broad range of criteria, including:
    1. Content of undergraduate and graduate programs and grades earned, particularly in the areas of Chemistry, Physics, Biology, and Mathematics
    2. GRE scores (verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing; GRE advanced chemistry subject test is highly recommended by the department)
    3. A cumulative GPA of 3.00 or better in the last 60 hours
    4. Letters of recommendation from three (3) individuals (preferably faculty members), who are able to judge the candidate’s academic abilities and the potential for scholarly scientific research
    5. English proficiency test scores, when applicable
    6. Any previous scientific and technical experience, publications, and presentations

Degree Requirements

Diagnostic Examinations

Prior to the first day of class, new graduate students take four diagnostic examinations in the areas of organic, inorganic, physical and analytical chemistry. These are used by the Department to assess the student’s preparation for graduate study and to help guide the student in course selections.

Research Divisions and Programs

Immediately following the diagnostic examinations, a meeting is scheduled between the new student and the Graduate Chair to determine course enrollment for the first term. At that time, the student must elect a division with which to be associated. The divisions are:

A limited number of students may also request to participate in the Chemical Physics Program or the Chemical Biology Interdisciplinary Program. 

A student who requests to participate in either of the latter two programs must obtain permission from the Graduate Chair and is subject to special requirements for participating in the programs and graduation. Students interested in the Chemical Physics or the Chemical Biology Interdisciplinary Programs should contact the Graduate Chair before the start of the first term.

Course Requirements

A minimum total of 54.0 Credit Hours of graduate-level work, which may include lecture courses, lab courses, seminars, research, etc., is required for the PhD program.

A. Divisional Courses

Completion of 6 graduate-level courses (no less than 18.0 Credit Hours) based on the course requirements in their elected division and special program, see below.

B. Doctoral Dissertation Hours

Completion of a minimum of 6.0 credit hours but no more than 12.0 Credit hours of Doctoral Dissertation in the term of anticipated graduation. Once enrolled in Doctoral Dissertation, registration must be continuous and no grade is awarded until the degree is conferred.

  • CHEM 8X99 - Doctoral Dissertation

C. Seminar Requirements

Credit Hours: 6.0

  • Credit Hours: 1.0
  • Note: Students must complete 3.0 credit hours of CHEM 6111 by the end of their second year in residence. Although participation in the Graduate Colloquium is required each term the student is enrolled at the University, enrollment beyond the second year is not required.

  • Credit Hours: 1.0
  • Note: Students must complete 3.0 credit hours of CHEM 6112 by the end of their second year in residence. Although participation in the Graduate Seminar is required each term the student is enrolled at the University, enrollment beyond the second years is not required.

D. Other Requirements

  • Credit Hours: 1.0
  • Note: Students holding a teaching fellowship must complete 3.0 credit hours of CHEM 6115 by the end of their second year in residence.

  • A final oral defense of the PhD dissertation is required.
  • At the end of the fourth term, the Graduate Chair reviews the course work of students in the Program. Two grades of C+ or less will result in the student being terminated from the Ph.D. program and enrolled in the MS Plan 1 program. In an effort to receive a higher grade, a student may retake a course in which a grade of C+ or less was received provided this is done before the end of the fourth term. Both grades are used, however, in computing a student’s cumulative GPA.
  • After the second long term (Fall or Spring term) but prior to the end of the fifth long term, students must complete an Oral Research Progress Exam (see the next section of this document). Satisfactory completion of this exam along with the course requirements listed above results in promotion to PhD candidacy.
  • All courses must be in Chemistry or pre-approved courses in related fields at the 6000 level or above.
  • Chemistry coursework requirements must be met within the first five long terms. Graduate students cannot take coursework after the first five long terms in residence without approval from the Graduate Committee. Exceptions are granted only under extraordinary circumstances.

Divisional Course Requirements

Completion of a minimum of 6 graduate-level courses is required. Students may take additional graduate-level courses with the written approval of their research advisors and Graduate Chair. 

Inorganic Division

18.0 Credit Hours

Required Courses

3.0 Credit Hours

Elective Course Options

15.0 Credit Hours

Organic Division

18.0 Credit Hours

Required Courses

12.0 Credit Hours

Elective Course Options

6.0 Credit Hours

Physical Division

18.0 Credit Hours

Required Courses

12.0 Credit Hours

Elective Course Options

6.0 Credit Hours

  • Elective courses Credit Hours: 6.0
    Must be selected with approval of advisor

Department/Program Policies

  • All Ph.D. students must be continuously enrolled full time until the degree requirements are completed.
  • Any off-campus research that will become part of a dissertation must have prior written approval of both the external company or institution involved and the Graduate Committee.
  • Two grades of C+ or less will result in the student being placed at the bottom of the priority list for receipt of a teaching fellowship.

Scholastic Requirement

Graduate students must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.00 in all course work to be considered in good standing. Students not in good standing cannot receive a graduate degree and can be declared ineligible for support with a graduate assistantship (IA, TA, TA/TE or RA).

Oral Research Progress (ORP) Examination

After the second but prior to the end of the fifth long term, a student wishing to obtain a PhD must undergo an ORP examination administered by the student’s ORP committee. The ORP exam must be completed before the end of the student’s 5th term in residence. Failure to observe this time limitation will result in the student being placed in the MS Plan I program. The committee consists of four (4) faculty members; the student’s research advisor(s) may not serve on the ORP committee. The committee has two (2) faculty members from within the student’s division - one of whom will be designated as the “chair” of the committee, one (1) member from outside the division but within the Department, and one from outside the Department (researchers from industry with a PhD degree are eligible). The student’s research advisor and the student choose two committee members, one of whom is the member from outside the department. The Graduate Chair appoints the two other committee members. The student’s research advisor and the student may make recommendations for the other two members of the committee to the Graduate Chair and may request a particular faculty member (only one) be excluded from the committee. All four members of the ORP committee must be physically present during the entire ORP examination for it to be considered a valid exam. The ORP committee form can be found at the department web site for download and completion. Further details on the ORP exam can be found in the Graduate Study Handbook.


A Ph.D. student conducts research under the direction of his or her research advisor and dissertation committee. The results of the research form a large and necessary component of the dissertation demonstrating that the student is capable of conducting original chemistry research and of systematically planning and executing a research project. After the dissertation has been written, the candidate must pass an oral final dissertation examination administered by the dissertation committee. This examination deals extensively with that portion of the candidate’s field of specialization under which the dissertation falls. The dissertation must be successfully defended no later than two weeks before the college deadline to submit the committee approved copy to the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Office of Academic Affairs. Copies of the dissertation must be given to the committee members no less than two weeks prior to the oral final dissertation examination. The college submission deadline can be found on the NSM website each term.

  • Advisor Selection

    The selection of a research advisor to guide a student through his or her dissertation research is a critically important step. New graduate students should meet with several (at least four) members of the Chemistry faculty to discuss potential research projects and mutual interests. After meeting with faculty members and deciding which faculty member’s research provides the best fit, students should ask the faculty member for permission to join the faculty member’s research group. Students who enter in the fall term must choose and be accepted by a research advisor no later than the first day of the spring term (the earlier the better). Students are expected to begin research as soon as they have chosen an advisor. Students who cannot choose an advisor in the required time may request from the Graduate Committee an additional term to decide. Extensions are granted, however, only under extraordinary circumstances. Failure to observe the time limit for choosing a research advisor may jeopardize a student’s standing in the program.

  • Dissertation Committee

    The student’s dissertation committee is designated prior to the end of four long terms’ enrollment (counting only fall and spring terms as “long terms”). The committee consists of five members: the student’s research advisor, two faculty members in the student’s division, one chemistry faculty member outside the student’s division, and one member from outside the Department of Chemistry (this can be a faculty member from another department or another university, or a person from industry who has earned a Ph.D.). The research advisor and student choose one committee member from the department and one from outside the department. These selections, along with requests or recommendations for other committee members, are communicated in writing to the Chair of the Graduate Committee. The Graduate Chair then selects the other two members of the dissertation committee to give the prescribed distribution. The Graduate Committee must approve the final dissertation committee. A dissertation committee composition form required by the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (NSM) must be completed and submitted to the College one term prior to the graduation. Should changes in the committee composition be necessary, a new form must be submitted for re-approval prior to the Dissertation defense exam.