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Assessment Plan


 

The Chemistry graduate program assesses its Learning Objectives using the following methods:


(1)  Evaluation of entering students:  New graduate students are required to take the ACS exams in Analytical, Inorganic, Organic and Physical chemistry. A student must meet proficiency requirements in three out of the four areas, including their chosen area of emphasis, by earning a score at the 40th percentile or better. Students can retake an exam after either pursuing independent study, or can meet the requirement by completing an approved upper division undergraduate course in the pertinent area with a grade of B or better, as described in the Chemistry graduate program handbook.  Graduate students may not enroll in graduate courses in an area where they haven’t demonstrated an undergraduate level of proficiency by meeting this requirement. If the undergraduate proficiency requirements are not met before the end of the student’s first year the student is not permitted to continue in the graduate program.

(2) Coursework: Examinations, homework, papers and projects and reports:  This assesses the Foundational Skills learning outcome.

The required graduate coursework depends on the emphasis area (organic, inorganic, analytical, or physical chemistry) as outlined in the Chemistry graduate program handbook.  Coursework is typically completed in the first two years, and designed to provide a sound foundation in the fundamentals of chemistry theory and practice.  Small class sizes (typically < 10) and extensive homework and testing in graduate classes give the instructor detailed information on the student's assimilation and mastery of the material.   

(3) PhD Candidacy Examinations: These assesses the Foundational Skills, Research Skills, and Communication and Professional Preparation learning outcomes.

           a. Subsequent to the first year of coursework, typically in the fall of the second year, each PhD student is assessed by a series of written examinations.  A series of nine monthly examinations are offered in analytical, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry at the same time. Students may elect to take an examination in any area, but no more than one on the same day. Students must pass a minimum of 4 examinations, at least three of which must be in their area of emphasis. Students who do not pass 4 out of 9 examinations may complete an M.S. degree. Examinations are graded Pass/Fail, based on the percent score, with score of 60% or better constituting a Pass.  This examination process assesses student performance, and provides a means for the faculty to judge the efficacy of the graduate coursework curriculum.

          b.Following completion of the written examination requirement, PhD students must take the oral portion of the qualifying   examination before the end of the seventh semester. This part of the qualifying exam requires students to conceive of an original research project unrelated to their own dissertation research; to write a research proposal in a format consistent with one of the major federal granting agencies; and defend the proposal in an oral examination by their supervisory committee.  While the examination begins with a focus on aspects of the student’s proposal, questions on topics of a more general, foundational nature are standard. Students who do not pass the oral examination may transfer to the MS program.

(4) Major Professor mentorship: This assesses all learning outcomes.

Through continuous interactions over the course of their program, the major professor is the primary mentor who assesses the progress of the student in his/her development of foundational knowledge, understanding and execution of original research, ability to contribute to the writing of manuscripts describing their findings, and, eventually, compilation of research findings in the thesis or dissertation.  The major professor is an expert in the specialization chosen by the student, and has the leadership role in determining whether the learning outcomes have been met in the context of the research specialization chosen.

(5) Student meetings with their Research Supervisory CommitteeThis assesses Research Skills and Communication and Professional Preparation learning outcomes.

Every graduate student has a supervisory committee, consisting of the student's major professor along with additional experts from the faculty: 2 for MS, 4 for PhD.  This committee advises on the suitability of the courses chosen for the student’s Program of Study; determines the suitability of the thesis/dissertation topic; and advises in the development and evaluation of the thesis/dissertation. Graduate students meet annually with their supervisory committee to report on progress in course work, research, and other areas pertinent to their degree program.  This provides a venue for the committee to provide feedback about the student’s progress on their research project, to clarify expectations for the successful completion of the degree, and for constructive criticism to be given when necessary.  After each meeting students are given a written assessment of their progress by their supervisory committee.  Specific benchmarks expected by the committee are provided in the Chemistry and Biochemistry graduate program handbooks.  In addition, this committee administers the oral examination part of the PhD candidacy examination, and evaluates the thesis/dissertation defense.

(6) Annual public seminarsThis assesses the Communication and Professional Preparation learning outcome.

Every graduate student (MS and PhD) presents an annual public seminar followed by audience questions to the faculty and students in their respective area.  Seminar series for this purpose are separately held by the combined organic and inorganic divisions, and by the combined analytical and physical divisions.  Students are evaluated on the quality of their presentation and are given feedback from the faculty.

 

The Biochemistry graduate program assesses its Learning Objectives using the following methods:


(1) Evaluation of entering students:  Entering students take the American Chemical Society standardized biochemistry examination.  The results are initially used to ascertain a student's preparation for graduate work.  Where deficiencies are indicated, students may be advised to take appropriate remedial courses.  A grade in the 60th percentile will be required for students to schedule their oral qualifying exams.  The biochemistry placement exam can be taken as many times as needed as long as the student adheres to the timetable described in the Biochemistry graduate program handbook.

(2) Coursework: Examinations, homework, papers and projects and reports:  This assesses the Foundational Skills learning outcome.

The required graduate coursework is outlined in the Biochemistry graduate program handbook.  Coursework is typically completed in the first year, and designed to provide a sound foundation in the fundamentals of chemistry theory and practice.  Small class sizes (typically < 10) and extensive homework and testing in graduate classes give the instructor detailed information on the student's assimilation/mastery of the material.   

(3) PhD Candidacy Examination: This assesses the Foundational Skills, Research Skills, and Communication and Professional Preparation learning outcomes.

Ph.D. students must pass a qualifying examination by the end of the seventh semester.  In order to schedule the examination a student must score in the 60th percentile on the ACS biochemistry placement exam.  The examination includes a written research proposal patterned after those submitted to national funding agencies.  The proposal is presented at a formal, open seminar.  The student will meet with their examination committee within 5 working days following the seminar to defend the proposal orally and demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of biochemistry.  A detailed description of the expectations for this examination is contained in the Biochemistry graduate program handbook.  Students who do not pass the examination may transfer to the MS program.

(4) Major Professor mentorship: This assesses all learning outcomes.

Through continuous interactions over the course of their program, the major professor is the primary mentor who assesses the progress of the student in his/her development of foundational knowledge, understanding and execution of original research, ability to contribute to the writing of manuscripts describing their findings, and, eventually, compilation of research findings in the thesis or dissertation.  The major professor is an expert in the specialization chosen by the student, and has the leadership role in determining whether the learning outcomes have been met in the context of the research specialization chosen.

(5) Student meetings with their Research Supervisory CommitteeThis assesses Research Skills and Communication and Professional Preparation learning outcomes.

Every graduate student has a supervisory committee, consisting of the student's major professor along with additional experts from the faculty: 2 for MS, 4 for PhD.  This committee advises on the suitability of the courses chosen for the student’s Program of Study; determines the suitability of the thesis/dissertation topic; and advises in the development and evaluation of the thesis/dissertation. Graduate students meet annually with their supervisory committee to report on progress in course work, research, and other areas pertinent to their degree program.  This provides a venue for the committee to provide feedback about the student’s progress on their research project, to clarify expectations for the successful completion of the degree, and for constructive criticism to be given when necessary.  After each meeting students are given a written assessment of their progress by their supervisory committee.  Specific benchmarks expected by the committee are provided in the Chemistry and Biochemistry graduate program handbooks.   In addition, this committee administers the oral PhD candidacy examination, and evaluates the thesis/dissertation defense.  

(6) Annual public seminarsThis assesses the Communication and Professional Preparation learning outcome.

Every graduate student (MS and PhD) presents an annual public seminar followed by audience questions to the faculty and students in their respective area.  A seminar series for this purpose is held by the Biochemistry division.  Students are evaluated on the quality of their presentation and given feedback from the faculty.