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Chemistry Graduate Program

Frequently Asked Questions

About the Graduate Program


Students are only admitted to our Ph.D. program each fall semester.

An applicant is required to have three references. However, if the applicant would like to upload additional reference letters, said applicant can email the documents directly to The Coordinator/Assistant can then upload the documents directly to the application.

No, applicants are not required to upload a personal statement or CV on their application. However, should an applicant desire to upload these documents, they may email them directly to The Coordinator/Assistant can then upload the documents directly to the application.

Yes, undergraduate applicants are encouraged to apply. A master’s degree is not required.

There is no need to contact chemistry faculty members during the application process.  If you receive an admission offer, you are welcome to reach out to faculty about potentially joining their research group. Our preceptor selection process takes place during the fall semester of the first year.

The Department of Chemistry provides full support (tuition, health insurance subsidy, and a monthly stipend) in the form of a teaching assistantship/research assistantship/fellowship to all accepted graduate students for all five years of study. Support is given regardless of citizenship or financial need and does not have to be paid back to the University.

Transcripts and Deadlines

In order to review an application, a copy of the student's official transcript must be uploaded to the application. If you are unable to upload your official transcript, please upload your unofficial or advising transcript for the committee to review. Upon acceptance, you will be instructed to have official transcripts/documents (for institutions outside the U.S. documents may include marksheets, record of courses, degree/study certificate, diploma, etc) sent from all post-secondary institutions attended and official English translation if the language of instruction is not English. You should wait until your degree has been conferred to arrange for the official transcripts/documents to be sent. Deadlines for the receipt of this documentation will be displayed on your status page.

Please send transcripts to:

Mailing Address

Graduate Enrollment Services
The Pennsylvania State University
114 Kern Graduate Building Box CHEM 9165
University Park, PA 16802

Electronic Delivery


Official scores for the TOEFL iBT or IELTS are required to be submitted to the department prior to the application deadline. In regard to your TOEFL iBT score, a minimum overall total score of 100 with a speaking score of 23 is recommended for consideration. The IELTS minimum score is a 6.5. TOEFL iBT or IELTS scores may be no more than 2 years old.

  • US citizens or permanent residents


  • Those who have a bachelor or master’s degree conferred from an institution at the following: Australia, Belize, British Caribbean, British West Indies, Canada (except Quebec), England, Guyana, Jamaica, Republic of Ireland, Liberia, New Zealand, North Ireland, Scotland, United States, Wales.

Applicants should send their GRE Scores directly to our Institution and Department.

Institution code: 2660      Department code: 0301

Submitting all GRE scores only optional. Choosing not to submit scores will not impact your admissions decision.

We encourage applicants with a TOEFL score slightly below the minimum score to still apply to our program. If the speaking score is below the recommended score, you may be required to take an additional English course during your first semester in the program. If the Admissions committee decides to move your application forward in our admissions process, we will have a Skype interview with you before the final decision is made by the committee.

Additional Questions

Yes, the Department of Chemistry has funding available to pay the application fee for a limited number of applicants

Please Note: Receipt of an application fee waiver does not guarantee admission. Decline of waiver is also not an indication of rejection of an application.

Students who have registered and attended the 2023 annual meetings of the following organizations: The National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE), Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scientists (ABRCMS), or Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) can obtain an application fee waiver from the Office of Graduate Educational Equity Programs (OGEEP) if proof of conference attendance/ registration is provided. 

In the department, we are maintaining town halls for student feedback. The Graduate Student Association (GSA) holds fun events for students like BINGO and trivia night. Individual groups have group lunches and happy hours.

Career Network and Recruitment Fair

career network fair

The Career Network and Recruitment Fair is an on-site recruiting opportunity that occurs prior to the start of the Fall semester. For more than 40 years, the Career Network and Recruitment Fair has brought industry representatives and recruiters to the Department of Chemistry in order to meet students and faculty. This two-day event enables recruiters to meet and interview our graduate students as well as discuss science and possible collaborations with our faculty.

Please visit the Career Network and Recruitment Fair homepage for further information

Penn State Career Services can offer resume review assistance as well as mock interviews.

John Dodd, Senior Graduate Advisor, joined the Chemistry Department to help graduate students in chemistry focus on the job search process. John obtained his PhD in Chemistry at Penn State in 1981 and has been working in the pharmaceutical industry in various leadership roles since then. During his career he has supervised over 100 scientists and helped them achieve their career goals.  Below are some of the ways that John assists our graduate students:

  • Mock interviews
  • Resume critique
  • Inventory of behavior and scientific skills
  • Identify areas for development
  • Discuss your real interview
  • Discuss career/family life balance

The Chemistry GSA hosts a resume and interview workshop with John Dodd before the Career Network and Recruitment Fair registration deadline. The GSA also encourages all students to meet with John if they are looking for personalized feedback on their resume and interview prep.

Business casual is encouraged for the reception, while casual is acceptable for the information session. Professional attire should be worn for both the poster session and interviews.

Business cards and extra copies of your resume are encouraged, but certainly not required. The campus recruiters have access to all participants resumes, but they do not have a business card. The Penn State Multimedia & Print Center can print the official Penn State logo on business cards.

ACS has poster guidelines that they have posted on their website for National Meetings.

Older graduate students may also be willing to share poster templates that they have used at previous poster sessions.

The Career Network and Recruitment Fair poster session is typically broken up into two sessions to accommodate all of the presenters. When this has been done in the past, each session is 1 hour and 30 minutes. The poster session is the best opportunity for interviewers to discuss your research with you, but they do typically have many posters to get to during each session. Thus, as presenters, we should be mindful of their time.

With that in mind, have two versions of your presentation prepared:

  • a short elevator pitch that is only 1 – 2 minutes and a longer pitch that does not take more than 5 or so minutes.

Always be on your A-game when giving your poster because this may get you an interview during the Career Network and Recruitment Fair! Some companies reserve a few spots in their interview schedule to invite students whom really impressed them during the poster session.

Absolutely! The Career Network and Recruitment Fair is a great opportunity to begin to build your professional network. Interviewers also like to see repeat students who have grown professionally from one year to the next (scientifically or personally), so participating early on in your graduate career is absolutely recommended. As a younger graduate student, this may mean that you will not be able to participate in many of the interviews though, because the interviewers have limited space and time. But this of course does not mean that you will not get any interviews! The poster session is also a great opportunity to meet with the campus recruiters. If the recruiters liked what they saw on your resume, they will likely stop by your poster to chat.

Some companies will explicitly ask you to prepare a short presentation for your interview. Others may not, but it is recommended that you come prepared with slides that highlight your research accomplishments.

This is dependent on the company which you are interviewing with, but the interviews are typically 20 – 45 minutes. If you were selected for interviews, a staff assistant will send you a schedule for your interviews which includes the company, the interviewers name, the location, and the length of the interview.

In 2018, over 100 on-campus interviews were completed by industry recruiters, and approximately 45% of those interviewed were chemistry graduate students.