Skip to main content
Chemistry Grad Program

About the Graduate Program

The Department of Chemistry's graduate program boasts an educational opportunity unlike any other. We offer a doctoral degree program in which all barriers between the various areas of chemistry research (analytical, biological, environmental, inorganic, materials, organic, physical, and theoretical) have been removed, thus fostering an environment of rich collaboration. Our graduate students are strongly encouraged to excel in their graduate studies, to develop and enhance their scientific passion, and to contribute to the scientific community at large.

Note: Our graduate program is a doctoral studies program for students who are interested in pursuing a PhD. We do not have a masters  degree program. 

Graduate Studies

Students in our doctoral degree program maintain a high level of excellence in their graduate studies, within a context that promotes an individualized experience. Students are not required to follow a pre-fabricated schedule, but rather have the freedom to enhance their individual research interests through personalized program plans. All students complete five graduate-level courses within their first twelve to eighteen months in the program. Because we encourage our students to begin research as soon as they are ready, our student’s research capabilities are strengthened by the ability to select coursework pertaining to passions, interests, and current research.

Students are encouraged to choose from a variety of intermediate and advanced courses in Chemistry, including courses on special topics taught by faculty members actively engaging in research in those areas. Courses in related fields such as physics, mathematics, biochemistry, biophysics, polymer science, material science, and computer science may also be taken.

Once coursework is completed, students are required to successfully complete their Oral Comprehensive Exam. This exam consists of a description of a student’s research progress and the defense of a brief original research proposal. This component is to be completed by the end of a student’s fifth semester in residence.

Lab Association

Students rotate with 3-5 faculty members to learn more about the current research projects, future research projects, and lab culture. Should the student and faculty pair decide that officially joining the lab is in the best interest of both parties, a formal match has been made and the student officially joins the research lab.

You can view a complete list of faculty accepting graduate students here.


To learn more about the department's research, visit our research page.

We believe the most important component of the graduate program is the research experience. Only after a student formally joins a research lab can the research experience truly begin. As the required milestones of the program are met, we expect a student’s research to begin to impact the science community at large; sharing research findings at national meetings and conferences, and through consistent publication, are critical components of graduate training. All of these experiences will then lead to completion of a dissertation based on original research. Successfully completion of the dissertation is the most important aspect of the graduate career!


Students are privileged to conduct research in our many state of the art facilities, which are fully accessible to students. Penn State takes pride in training students to complete their own experiments, which further enhances the research and education experience. Our facilities are accessible 7 days a week, 24 hours a day upon completion of safety and unit-specific training that is designed both to ensure proper instrument use and enhance the student’s research training.

Take a Virtual Tour of the Chemistry Building!

social distance

Graduate Program FAQ

Do you have more questions about our graduate program? Read our FAQ for more information.