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Learning Objectives - Graduate Programs

The goal of the Chemistry and Biochemistry graduate programs is to equip students with advanced knowledge of fundamental knowledge in the field, and with research training and experience, in specific areas of chemistry and biochemistry via a combination of coursework and research activities.  These skills will prepare the successful graduate for careers in government, academia, or industry.  Chemistry and Biochemistry graduate students become proficient in scientific communication by written and oral dissemination of scientific knowledge and research throughout their degree program, particularly in their own area of specialization.

Students reach these objectives in the MS and PhD programs by completing a required set of advanced coursework, accompanied by a period of original research and study of the current literature, culminating in either an MS thesis or a PhD dissertation.

The MS degree in Chemistry or Biochemistry has two options in addition to required coursework: Plan A requires original research and the production and oral defense of a research thesis.  Plan B students produce a report on a current topic of importance in the field.  The PhD requires a substantial body of original research presented in a dissertation. 

The Biochemistry MS and PhD are general biochemistry degrees, with specialization depending on the particular research topic. In the Chemistry MS and PhD degree programs students choose an emphasis in analytical, physical, organic, or inorganic chemistry.  This choice affects particular course requirements and the makeup of their supervisory committee.  The detailed procedures and requirements for each of the degrees can be found in the Chemistry graduate program handbook and the Biochemistry graduate program handbook.

The learning objectives for the graduate program are as follows.

Foundational Skills

Each student will achieve a mastery of chemistry or biochemistry theory and current knowledge at a level required for their chosen degree program. Students build this knowledge base by completing a set of required and elective courses. These courses can be found in the respective Chemistry and Biochemistry graduate program handbooks.  One important outcome of graduate coursework is that students learn to independently build on their knowledge in their chosen area from the literature and other sources, as needed, for their continued education and professional activities.

Research Skills

Each student will pursue research in their chosen field of specialization. In so doing the student acquires professional-level knowledge and expertise in his/her chosen area of specialization. The appropriate area of research and the appropriate level of accomplishment is determined in collaboration with a faculty mentor, their major professor, who is an acknowledged expert in the student’s area of specialization.  A supervisory committee, chaired by the major professor, meets annually with each MS and PhD student to assess progress in coursework and the research project, and provide guidance and support in setting future goals.

Communication and Professional Preparation

Each student will develop professional competence in presenting scientific results and conclusions, in written and oral forms. This is accomplished via annual presentations to the faculty, and by the documentation and dissemination of the results of original research via a written thesis or dissertation.

Comparative Levels of Competency

The MS and PhD degrees both lead to professional expertise and involve a student contributing new knowledge via the thesis or dissertation, and through original scientific publications.  The distinction between MS and PhD degrees is principally the level of professional proficiency obtained, and the breadth and significance of the original research.