E. Requirements for the Ph.D. degree

1. Minimum Credit Requirements

Credit requirements for the Ph.D. degree.
Course Credits
Core courses (2 Chosen from CHEM 631, 642, and 650) 6(a)
Other required courses 15(b)
Electives 22(c)
Seminar (CHEM 790) 2
Seminar (CHEM 789) 1(S/U)(d)
Dissertation (CHEM 799) 24
Teaching College Chemistry (CHEM 700) 1(S/U)
Comprehensive Exam (CHEM 795) 1(S/U)
Total required credits 72(e)

  1.  Students who demonstrate proficiency on the qualifying exam in an area of chemistry may be exempted from taking the corresponding core course; electives will be substituted.
  2.  Required courses are 600- and 700-level formal classroom or laboratory courses approved by the student’s advisory committee.
  3. Electives for Ph.D. have the following limits:  12 maximum credits of independent studies (CHEM 793), 3 maximum credits of CHEM 707, 8 maximum credits of CHEM 788, and 14 maximum credits of Dissertation (CHEM 799, in addition to the required 24 credits). Also, because the Graduate School permits a maximum of 9 S/U credits, only 5 credits of colloquium (CHEM 794) may be applied toward the Ph.D. However, we recommend that students enroll in 1 credit of colloquium each semester.
  4. For completing Program of Study second semester.
  5. The Graduate School requires a minimum of 30 credit hours (exclusive of Dissertation) at the 700 level, and permits a maximum of 9 S/U credits to be applied toward the Ph.D. degree.

2. Proficiency Exams

All Ph.D. students must pass the Basic Proficiency exams by the end of their first year, as described in section C.

3. Seminar Requirements

Students are expected to give their first seminar no later than their third semester in graduate school. The first seminar is given on a literature topic chosen from a list provided by faculty.  As a portion of the student learning objectives for the graduate program, students are expected to be able to use scientific databases and the scientific literature to research a new topic, and then critically analyze and extract information from papers in the scientific literature in order to present this new information to others by effective written communication in the form of a scientific report, and by oral communication in the form of a scientific seminar.  This is accomplished in the third semester of enrollment by successful completion of the seminar course, CHEM 790.

The second CHEM 790 seminar should be given no later than the sixth semester in graduate school. The second seminar is a midstream research progress report covering work completed and work to be done on the student’s research project(s) and background literature.  As a portion of the student learning objectives for the graduate program, students are expected to be able to interpret their experimental results in the context of any potential uncertainties and present this work by effective written communication in the form of a short report, and by oral communication in the form of a scientific seminar.  A B is the minimum acceptable grade for satisfying each seminar requirement. Students should consult with the faculty member in charge to get an idea of what is expected.

The members of the students’ Graduate Study Committee should be invited to attend the research progress seminar.

A final public presentation of the Ph.D. research often is given the same day as the Final (oral) Examination just preceding the examination. This seminar is optional. 

4. Written and oral comprehensive exams

 Doctoral students must pass written and oral comprehensive exams in order to advance to candidacy.  As part of the written comprehensive exam, each student is required to prepare a dissertation research proposal that is submitted to the members of the Advisory Committee by the close of business on the first Tuesday of February of the student’s fourth semester.  The proposal is subject to the following stipulations:

  1. The length and formatting of the proposal is to be approximately equivalent to that of ACS Petroleum Research Fund (PRF) New Investigator Grants or National Institutes of Health Exploratory/Developmental Research (R21) Grants, which are routinely submitted as “starter grants” for new academic faculty. See the department office for further guidelines, suggestions, and examples.
  2. The proposal should be based on a research problem directly related to the student’s dissertation project. The proposal should demonstrate the student’s ability to create independent ideas within the area of their focused research, formulate workable research goals, and show scientifically mature writing.  This proposal development is meant to probe the student’s deep factual and theoretical understanding of their area of specialization, including an awareness of modern research methods and technology, and problems of intense current interest as related to their research.  The proposal should demonstrate the student’s ability to identify key issues within their research area and propose new research directions and meaningful, testable hypotheses, as well as his or her ability to design experiments to investigate scientific hypotheses.  Copies of some past proposals are available in the department office.

 Following submission of the dissertation proposal, the written exam portion of the comprehensive exam will take place on the first Tuesday in March of the student’s fourth semester, beginning at 6:00 pm (until 9:00 pm).  The preparation, administration, and grading of the exam is the responsibility of the student’s committee, who will also determine the content, length, and rigor of the exam.  The exam will be submitted to the graduate program chair one week before the administration of the exam. The expectation is that the exam will cover a series of topics, selected by the student’s committee or subset thereof, reflective of the student’s graduate coursework and research. The student’s committee, or a subset thereof, will score the exam within two weeks, and the student’s full committee, after reviewing the scored exam, will determine appropriate thresholds for passing at the Ph.D. level.  The graded exams will be retained in the student’s file.  In the event that a student does not pass on his or her first attempt, the student may request to take another written comprehensive exam in the beginning of their fifth semester (first Tuesday in September).  The second exam would be new and would be prepared, administered, and graded in the same way as the first exam.  No additional attempts would be offered.

 The oral candidacy exam may be taken only after approval by the examination committee of both the written research proposal and the written comprehensive exam described above.  Within two weeks of submission, students are notified whether or not they have passed the written portion of the comprehensive exam.  If they have passed, they must schedule the oral portion of the exam to take place within 45 calendar days.  If there are deficiencies noted by the committee in the written proposal the student may be given a conditional pass with the opportunity to re-write the proposal, answer additional questions crafted by the committee, and/or follow some other course of action at the committee’s discretion.  Once these conditions are met, the student must schedule the oral portion of the exam within 45 calendar days.  If the student fails the written portion outright, he/she may attempt a retake (once) in the following semester, as outlined above.

The oral portion of the exam will include a defense of the dissertation research proposal described above, but the proposal does not in any way restrict the questions that might be asked at the Oral Comprehensive Examination.  The exam is intended to test the student’s mastery of a broad range of knowledge.  The student is subject to any question deemed appropriate by any member of the Advisory Committee.  Nevertheless, the proposal is generally the forum and focus of the examination, and usually, most questions are associated with it, along with questions probing any perceived weaknesses in areas of chemistry related to course work or research noted by the examination committee.

Failure to schedule and attempt the written and oral comprehensive examinations by the end of a student’s fourth semester, as described above, will result in the student’s transfer from the doctoral program into the master's program.

5. Admission to Candidacy

The student must initiate this procedure using forms obtained from the Graduate School. This is done after the successful completion of the Comprehensive Examination. In any event, the application for admission to candidacy must be made no later than eight calendar months before the date of graduation. Consult the University Catalog for further details, especially concerning the time limit on Candidacy.

6. Single Page Summary

In the eighth semester of enrollment, and annually thereafter (i.e., tenth, twelfth, etc.) students will submit a single-page update to his/her advisory committee outlining academic, research, and other achievements from the time of the research seminar in the previous year.  The committee must approve the update and may request a meeting with the student. 

7.  Approval of Dissertation and Final Examination 

After completion of a dissertation, the student is required to discuss it and defend it to their Advisory Committee. Consult the University Catalog for information about dissertation format, dates of submission, number of required copies, etc.

Students should also consult the departmental Graduate Secretary for the most current departmental dissertation requirements. A draft of the dissertation should be given to members of the examining committee prior to final printing so that corrections and suggestions can be incorporated before final printing; the completed, unbound dissertation must be submitted to the committee at least one week and preferably two weeks before the final examination. The meeting in which the dissertation and related topics are discussed is the Final Examination. The examination is wholly oral. Consult the University Catalog for other details.

Filing your doctoral dissertation at the Graduate Division is one of the final steps leading to the award of your graduate degree. Your manuscript is a scholarly presentation of the results of the research you conducted. The University of Nevada, Reno upholds the tradition that you have an obligation to make your research available to other scholars. This is done when the Graduate School submits your manuscript to the University Library UMI Dissertation Publishing Service. However, you may request that your dissertation is forwarded as soon as the degrees have been awarded. 

Doctoral Dissertation Filing Guidelines

Dissertation Title Form (Doctoral students only)

Doctoral Final Review Approval