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College of Arts and Sciences Department of Chemistry

The curriculum for Organic and Chemistry of Biological Systems (CBS) PhD is flexible and will vary based on each student’s previous course experience and career goals.  The Organic/CBS degree has the following recommendations in addition to the requirements of the graduate school and the department of chemistry.

  1. A research advisor must be chosen before the end of the second semester of the first year.  It is appropriate and encouraged to ask a faculty member for a chance to have a short rotation in his or her laboratory.
  2. A dissertation committee of at least four faculty members must be selected by the student in consultation with their advisor in the second year.  The committee chair will be the student’s research advisor.  Other committee members may be selected from outside of the Organic Division and Department.
  3. Passing the Preliminary Examination advances a student to the rank of “doctoral candidate” and consists of a written examination followed by an oral examination.
    1. The written qualifying examination will be scheduled to take place on a Friday in mid to late May after completing the second year of course-work.  This examination will test general Organic/CBS background as well as areas related specifically to the student’s area of specialty, including current literature.  As an aid to students preparing for their preliminary examinations, a suggested reading list may be obtained from each faculty member on the student’s committee.  The dissertation committee will write and grade the examination.  If successful, the student will move on to the oral examination described below.  If the student fails the written exam, two outcomes are possible: 1) the student may be allowed to retake the written preliminary exam, or 2) the student will end their progress towards earning a PhD.
    2. The Proposal Defense (oral examination) will consist of the defense of a written research proposal.  The scope of this proposal must be acceptable to the student’s advisor and committee and the proposal should adhere to the format described for NSF or NIH predoctoral fellowships (a limit of 10 pages).  The proposal may be related to the student’s dissertation research and if so, should contain preliminary results while extending beyond the expected scope of the dissertation.  The defense of this proposal will be conducted in the form of an open public seminar and immediately followed by a closed meeting with the dissertation committee.  During the exam, students should be prepared to answer questions concerning their proposed research.  The oral examination should be completed by the end of the sixth semester.  If the student passes the oral exam, he or she is advanced to doctoral candidacy.  If the student fails the oral exam, he or she may be permitted to retake the exam.  This decision is made by the student’s committee immediately following the oral exam.
  4. Once the preliminary exam is complete, graduate students are expected to petition the graduate school for All But Dissertation (ABD) status that will result in a tuition waiver and lessen the expense of graduate support.  An ABD request should be submitted to the graduate school as soon as possible following completion of the preliminary exam.
  5. Beginning with the second semester and each semester until graduation, all students must register for Chem 594, Organic Seminar and Chem 544, Organic Colloquium.  Students enrolled in these courses will prepare and present talks that alternate between literature-based and research-based presentations.  Once a student has mastered presenting literature and research talks, he or she will be exempted from continued enrollment in Chem 594.  Regardless of whether or not a student has enrolled in Organic Seminar, his or her regular attendance is expected.  These types of experiences offer senior students the chance to mentor less experienced graduate students.
  6. The Final Examination consists of the presentation and defense of the student’s dissertation.  This presentation will be conducted in the form of an open public seminar, which will be immediately followed by a closed meeting with the dissertation committee.

Graduate Student Curriculum in Organic Chemistry

The Graduate School at WSU requires 28 graded credits in order to award a PhD.  A typical program of study is shown below that meets or exceeds this graded credit requirement.  As an Organic/CBS student, you will find our curriculum very flexible beyond the first semester of Year 1.  You should consult with your research advisor to select electives that support your dissertation research.  Core course is noted in bold.

Year 1
1st semester; 11 graded credit hours


Chem 542 3 Advanced Organic Chemistry
Chem 546 3 Spectroscopic Identification of Organic Compounds
Chem 555 1 Teaching Chemistry
Chem 555 1 Introduction to Research
Chem 800 2 Dissertation Research




2nd semester; 10 or 11 graded credit hours


Chem 545 3 Synthetic Organic Chemistry
Elective 3 Course-related to research
Chem 594 1 Seminar in Organic Chemistry
Chem 800 3 Dissertation research (variable credit to bring total credits to 10)




Year 2
1st semester; 7 or 8 graded credit hours


Chem 572 3 Enzyme Reaction Mechanisms
Chem 544 1 Colloquium in Organic Chemistry
Chem 594 1 Seminar in Organic Chemistry
Elective 2/3 Course related to research
Chem 800 v Dissertation research (variable credit to bring total credits to 10)



2nd semester; 7 or 8 graded credit hours


Chem 543 3 Bioorganic Chemistry
Chem 544 1 Colloquium in Organic Chemistry
Chem 594 1 Seminar in Organic Chemistry
Elective 2/3 Course related to research
Chem 800 v Dissertation research (variable credit to bring total credits to 10)




Your PhD degree should be complete within 4 to 5 years of beginning graduate school.  You are considered a senior graduate student beginning in your third year.  In consultation with your advisor, you will select elective classes that strengthen your foundational knowledge while you increasingly devote the majority of your time to research.   By the end of your third year,  you will likely have finished taking courses other than seminar and colloquium and be solely committed to completing your degree.  For example, enrollment in Chem 544 (Colloquium in Organic Chemistry) will continue throughout your career; however, Chem 594 (Seminar in Organic Chemistry) is required each semester until such time as the division determines you are sufficiently prepared to present a research/literature talk.  Each semester, your total credits must add to 16.  Typical Electives Include but are not restricted to:




Chem 510 2 Introduction to Proteomics
Chem 514 2 Mass Spectrometry
Chem 532 3 Advanced Physical Chemistry II
Chem 540 3 Physical Organic Chemistry
Chem 544 3 Complex Molecular Synthesis
Mbios 513 3 General Biochemistry I
MbioS 514 3 General Biochemistry II
Phys 566 3 Biological Physics
Pharmsci 510 3 Advanced Pharmacokinetics / Toxicokinetics
English 545 3 Graduate Student Writing Workshop