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Division of Natural Sciences & MathematicsDepartment of Chemistry & Biochemistry

Degree Programs

Doctor of Philosophy in Chemistry

The PhD degree is the highest degree awarded and is intended for students whose goal is a career in scientific research. The ultimate aim of this degree is to train a scientist who can independently pursue a research project. To facilitate the educational process, each student has an advisory committee that functions to both advise the student and monitor the student's progress. For complete information, see the current graduate bulletin and our general admission requirements.

Course Requirements

A total of 90 quarter credit hours are required of which a minimum of 75 hours must be earned at the University of Denver. Because a PhD degree in chemistry is primarily a degree in which competence in research is learned and demonstrated, a large percentage of these hours are earned as credit for research.

First year graduate students take three courses each quarter that comprise the graduate core curriculum in chemistry. Students must maintain a B average in the following courses.

  • Chem 3110 - Chemical Systems I - 3 quarter hours. Advanced discussion of modern concepts in organic chemistry; bonding, stereochemistry, reaction mechanisms.
  • Chem 3120 - Chemical Systems II - 3 quarter hours. Interpretation of trends in the chemistry of the elements in terms of orbital interactions. Most examples will be taken from the 3d transition metals and the boron and carbon groups. 
  • Chem 3130 - Chemical Systems III - 3 quarter hours. This is an advanced level physical biochemistry course. The course will focus on kinetic, thermodynamic and dynamic aspects of biopolymers, and will delineate the relationship of these properties to the mechanism and function of biological macromolecules. 
  • Chem 3310 - Molecular Structure and Energetics I - 3 quarter hours. Topics to be covered are fundamentals of quantum chemistry, introduction to symmetry, and molecular structure of small and large systems. 
  • Chem 3320 - Molecular Structure and Energetics II - 3 quarter hours. This is a course on computational methods in chemistry. 
  • Chem 3220Advanced Analytical Chemistry - 3 quarter hours. This course covers principles of chemical instrumentation and electronics applied to analytical measurements. Principles, instrumentation, and applications of spectrometric and chromatographic measurements are also covered. 
  • Chem 3831 - Advanced Protein Biochemistry - 3 quarter hours. Provides fundamental insights into the chemistry and physics of proteins. Topics range from protein folding to enzyme kinetics and emphasize basic principles.
  • Chem 3705Topics in Biochemistry - 3 quarter hours. This course may include physical techniques for exploring biological structure, biological catalysis, and selected fields within biochemistry taught from original literature. 
  • Chem 4995 - Independent Research - By arrangement with an individual professor.


At the end of the first academic year, a graduate student intending to pursue a PhD degree program is required to take a qualifying examination which covers the material presented in the core courses. To qualify for continuation in the PhD program, the student must pass this examination.

Cumulative examinations are taken during the student's second year in residence. These exams cover fundamental materials found in review articles and topics appearing in the current literature. The purpose of these exams is to acquaint the student with the literature and to keep the student abreast of new developments in his/her field. The student must pass three of six examinations.

Upon successful completion of the cumulative exams, the student will develop a proposal of original research in an area of his/her choice. The idea will be discussed in a preliminary meeting with the student's advisory committee. A public presentation will be given to the Department. After the public presentation, the student must defend his/her proposal before a committee of five faculty members, the advisory committee plus two additional members. At the time of this proposition oral exam, the student's committee will evaluate the student's overall performance in course work, qualifying exams, cumulative exams, and the proposition oral, and will decide if the student may continue in the Ph.D. program on the basis of this overall evaluation.


All students in the PhD program present a technical seminar to the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. The topic of the seminar is chosen in consultation with the research advisor and other members of the department.

Original Work

A dissertation of publishable quality based on the original research completed by the student under the direction of the research advisor is written. A summary of the dissertation is presented in a public seminar and later defended in an oral examination before a thesis examination committee comprised of the three members of the student's Advisory Committee, one additional member of the Chemistry and Biochemistry faculty, and a faculty member from outside the Department.