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College of Arts and Sciences Department of Chemistry

Requirements for a Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry

The requirements for a Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry include the preliminary exam, a minimum of three formal seminars (literature review/early research presentation, proposal defense, dissertation defense), and completion of all relevant course requirements.

Given below is a general outline of the requirements. There is significant flexibility in the system to accommodate the wide range of interest included in the Division of Inorganic Chemistry. Each student will prepare an individualized program appropriate to his or her interests and inorganic subject matter preparation before coming to Washington State University.

Course Requirements

Course requirements include Chem 410, Chem 501, and 503 (twice) as these special topics courses are offered. Possible special topics courses could include kinetics & mechanisms, organometallics, x-ray crystallography, solution chemistry, and lanthanide & actinide chemistry. Other courses would depend on the individual’s research interests and individualized degree program. For example, a recommended course outside chemistry would be English 545, Graduate Student Writing Workshop.

Qualifying Exam

The qualifying exam in Inorganic Chemistry consists of a one-day written exam and a subsequent oral prelim exam contingent upon successfully passing the written qualifying exam. The written qualifying exam must be passed within the first two attempts, which can be made on an annual basis adhering to the standard schedule. The written qualifying exam should be taken by the end of the fourth academic-year semester (Spring semester of year two), the oral prelim exam in the fifth semester, after the second summer in residence. The qualifying exam system is made flexible to accommodate the individualized degree programs of our students, but the written qualifying exam is only offered once annually within one month after conclusion of the Spring academic semester. The written qualifying exam covers basic core knowledge of inorganic chemistry, typically emphasizing (but not limited to) that material covered in conventional courses (including the nuclear chemistry and radiochemistry coursework, when offered). It is also likely that there will be some emphasis on the student’s area of specialization.

Preliminary Exam

The oral prelim exam is based on the defense of a short research proposal on a topic approved by the members of the student’s committee. This proposal must include preliminary results from the student’s laboratory (experimental and/or computational) studies and should conform to the format of a proposal for the Petroleum Research Fund ( This proposal is to be submitted to the committee at least two weeks before the oral prelim exam and must be officially scheduled with the graduate school. Students are expected to discuss their proposal with others, including their advisor and committee prior to submission.

Formal Seminars

Three formal seminars are required. The first would normally be given during the student’s first three academic-year semesters (earliest possible is recommended) and should focus either on an advisor-approved topic from the recent inorganic literature. The seminar should be timed to last about 45 minutes allotting 5-10 minutes for questions. The second seminar should be completed by the end of the first academic-year semester after successfully completing the written qualifying exam (representing the oral proposal defense (oral prelim exam)). The final (third) seminar precedes the final defense of a completed dissertation.

Proposal Outline

The research proposal should be limited to 4,000 words, double-spaced, in 12-point font (Times New Roman, Arial, or Courier), with 1-inch margins, for the scientific text of the proposal (Sections II-VI seen below), excluding figures and references. The word count is entered at the end of the proposal narrative. Proposals that exceed this limitation will not be considered. The abstract of the proposal should not exceed 250 words. In the proposal, the student should demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the chemistry involved, and the creativity to recognize a problem and a method of solving it. Although there is some room for deviation, in general the proposal should be divided into the following sections:

  1. Abstract: This section should summarize the importance of the proposed research and the critical results.  This section is not to exceed 250 words.
  2. Objectives and Hypotheses: This section should be a statement of the research objectives to be achieved, the hypotheses to be tested, or the questions to be answered. Cite and evaluate related work that provides useful and relevant supporting information. At least three hypotheses/big problems to be solved should be presented.
  3. Procedure: Give enough detail to indicate the logic of the suggested approach, how you would test your hypotheses, and show that your approach is adequate to achieve the objectives.
  4. Justification: Summarize why this work should be undertaken, in terms of its impact on current knowledge in chemistry and in the broader context of science in general.
  5. Preliminary Results: Describe the experimental results you have obtained up to this point and how they are relevant to the proposed research.
  6. Expected Outcomes and Timeline: Describe the key outcomes of the proposed research and the suspected times for completion. A graphic depicting the timeline can be helpful.
  7. References: References should be presented in ACS style, providing the article title and html link.
  8. Five Suggested Reviewers Outside of WSU: List five leading researchers in the field of your proposed research who could act as external reviewers, and briefly (a few words/one sentence) state their specific expertise and its relevance. FYI, the proposal will not be sent to them.
  9. Curriculum Vitae in NSF Format