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Overview

The Ph.D. program in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology (C&CB) provides broad training opportunities across the chemical sciences. The department offers in-depth programs of study in the major chemical disciplines (Organic, Physical, Inorganic, Theoretical and Analytical) as well as in high interest areas such as Nanotechnology, Chemical Biology and Materials Chemistry.

One of the nation's most distinguished chemistry departments, C&CB has been home to four Nobel Prize winners, was the founding institution for the Journal of Physical Chemistry and has been consistently ranked a Top 10 chemistry graduate program by US News and World Report. Students in our programs avail themselves of cutting-edge research facilities on the Cornell campus, which include the Cornell Nanofabrication Center (CNF), the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS), the Cornell Center for Material Research (CCMR) and the Advanced Center for Electron-spin Resonance Technologies (ACERT). 

Our students also play key roles in several multidisciplinary research teams led by C&CB faculty, such as the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future and the Energy Materials Center at Cornell (Emc2). With the opportunity to explore the scenic environment of Ithaca, our students enjoy a truly unique experience that comes from attending a world-class research institution set in a culturally rich but intimate community.

Graduate students enrolled in the field of chemistry and chemical biology select a major research concentration in one of the following subfields: analytical, chemical biology, inorganic, organic, organometallic, bioorganic, physical, biophysical, polymer, theoretical or chemical physics. Students must also choose a minor concentration from these subfields or a related graduate field, such as materials science or biochemistry. Once major and minor concentrations have been selected, students choose permanent special committees consisting of the research adviser and two additional faculty members.

To help students select a research adviser the faculty present research orientation seminars in which first-year students are introduced to the research of each professor. The research adviser and other members of the special committee are usually chosen by the end of the fall semester.

How to Apply

Students wishing to pursue graduate studies in chemistry apply through the Cornell Graduate School, which provides all the information about requirements, financial aid and international students.

Here are the details regarding Chemistry and Chemical Biology and the application form (which includes a course record form). The application deadline for Fall 2016 admission is Dec. 10, 2015. There is no spring admission.

Supplemental Materials

Any documentation you think would enhance your application, such as publications or awards, should be sent directly to the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology:

    Graduate Studies Office
    Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology
    Baker Laboratory
    Ithaca, NY 14853-1301

International Students

International students who receive an offer of admission must participate, and pass, a Language Skills Assessment interview administered by the Center of Learning and Teaching. If the assessment shows that the applicant requires more formal training in English, a course in English as a Second Language (ESL) must be completed during the first semester of matriculation. English language skills deemed insufficient to carry out Teaching Assistant duties may result in termination of the student from the graduate program. More Information

International students who are offered a Teaching Assistantship must participate in the Chemistry and Chemical Biology's three-week Teaching Assistant Training Program (TATP). Proficiency in speaking English and understanding spoken English must be proven. Financial support is contingent upon the applicant's ability to teach recitation and laboratory sections to Cornell students.

Program of Study

The Teaching Assistant Training Program 

Before the official course of study, students are encouraged to attend our Teaching Assistant Training Program (TATP). The TATP runs for five weeks beginning in July and provides incoming graduate students with a comprehensive introduction to teaching, the department and living in Ithaca. Students who participate in the TATP attend lectures about undergraduate chemistry courses and facilities, complete special educational projects, lead recitations and undergo safety and instrumentation training to prepare them for their academic careers. It also a great opportunity for students to become initiated to the Ithaca area, find housing and get to know their classmates before the first semester begins. Fun social outings and activities are also planned as part of the program. Students receive a special stipend to support their living expenses while participating in the program.

Entering the Program

The official course of study begins one week before the Cornell fall session, usually in the second or third week of August. Incoming students take a series of graduate proficiency exams in organic, physical and inorganic chemistry produced by the American Chemical Society. The purpose of these exams is to identify any deficiencies that could impact success in the first semester of courses so that an effective academic plan can be advised. Students then meet with the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) and select professors in their area of interest for advice on course selection.

Course Work

Students generally take three graduate courses during their first semester. A minimum grade of B- is required in each course for the students to remain in good standing. An additional three courses are then taken in the spring semester, for a total of six required courses. Depending on a student’s interests, one or more of these courses may be taken outside of the Chemistry Graduate Field. Additional courses are often taken by students in the later years of their dissertation work, if they are deemed useful by a student's advisor and/or special committee (see below). Chemistry graduate courses can be found here.

Teaching 

Nearly all students work as teaching assistants (TAs) in undergraduate chemistry courses during their first year of studies. The Chemistry Graduate Field views this training as an essential component of a student’s academic development. Teaching assignments vary depending on area of expertise and course demands. Satisfactory performance as a TA is a requirement for advancement in the program. Excellence in teaching is highly regarded and encouraged. Many students also TA in their second year, when they no longer have course demands; however, this is not a requirement, and students can be supported by other means. 

Finding a Mentor and Laboratory to Conduct Thesis Research

Students are expected to find a research mentor during their first academic year. Nov. 15 of the fall semester is the date that students can officially begin joining labs. Before that time students will attend a series of research orientation lectures, provided by faculty who will be taking new graduate students. In finding a group to join, students are also expected to attend lab meetings of groups of interest, talk to other students in the program and interview at least three faculty members about their research. By the end of the first semester, most students will have found a research mentor.

Special Committee

Ph.D. students in chemistry and chemical biology are required to choose three or more faculty members to serve as a special committee to represent their major and minor areas of study. The representative of the major area serves as chair of the special committee and usually has primary responsibility for directing the student’s research and studies. Degree requirements are kept to a minimum, and there are no specific course requirements. The number of formal courses required depends on students' previous preparation, their chosen concentration, and the advice of the special committee.

Every student takes an oral examination for admission to candidacy within the first two years of graduate study (A-exam). The A-exam takes place after the student’s coursework has been completed and before the commencement of full-time research. The thesis, which is the final outcome of this research, must constitute an original contribution to chemical knowledge and be defended at a final examination overseen by the special committee (B-exam). The Ph.D. degree is awarded on successful defense of the thesis. Typically students take five years to complete the Ph.D. program.

Financial Support

Complete financial support accompanies every offer of admission. Each student is guaranteed at least five years of full financial support as long as he or she makes satisfactory progress toward the Ph.D. degree. This support includes a 12-month stipend, a full tuition award and health insurance. Financial support comes in the form of teaching assistantships, graduate research assistantships, research fellowships and several NIH-funded training grant programs, such as the Chemistry Biology Interface Training Program. Eligible applicants are strongly encouraged to seek federally funded fellowships, such as those available from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other appropriate government agencies.

Ph.D. Requirements

Ph.D. students in chemistry and chemical biology are required to choose three or more faculty members to serve as a special committee to represent their major and minor areas of study. The representative of the major area serves as chair of the special committee and usually has primary responsibility for directing the student’s research and studies. Each fall, first-year graduate students attend orientation lectures in which faculty members give presentations to introduce their research. From these seminars students make an informed selection of a research advisor by the end of the first semester. Degree requirements are kept to a minimum, and there are no specific course requirements. The number of formal courses required depends on student’s previous preparation, their chosen concentration and the advice of the special committee.

Every student takes an oral examination for admission to candidacy within the first two years of graduate study. The exam takes place after the student’s coursework has been completed and before the commencement of full-time research. The thesis, which is the final outcome of this research, must constitute an original contribution to chemical knowledge and be defended at a final examination overseen by the special committee. The Ph.D. degree is awarded on successful defense of the thesis. Typically students take five years to complete the Ph.D. program.

Contact Information

Graduate Studies Office
Dept. of Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Cornell University
Baker Laboratory
Ithaca, NY 14853-1301
chemgrad@cornell.edu
607-255-4139 

Graduate Program Coordinator
Pat Hine
pah3@cornell.edu
607-255-4139

Director of Graduate Studies
H. Floyd Davis
hfd1@cornell.edu