StudyQA — PhD: Chemistry — Emory University



Study mode:On campus Study type:Full-time Languages: English
Foreign:$ 81.8k / Academic year(s) Deadline: Jan 3, 2022
85 place StudyQA ranking:1092 Duration:5 years

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The graduate program is the heart of our department. Our graduate student population currently includes approximately 120 students from across the US and eight foreign countries. They are evenly split by gender, 10% are minority students, and almost 50% international students. The size of our program enables highly personalized and productive experiences for students. It is large enough to have critical mass in most areas of chemistry, while still intimate enough for most of the students to know each other. Each group is small enough to support a culture of mentorship and collegiality while producing renowned research.

Emory Chemistry is built on the traditional disciplines of chemistry but has distinctive strengths in many interdisciplinary areas, including biomaterials, organometallic chemistry, medicinal and bioorganic chemistry, bioinorganic chemistry, and various collaborations of computational chemistry within each of these areas.

We take pride in the high level of students we admit, and we aim to foster their intellect, curiosity, and creativity through a rigorous program with a range of requirements and course options that provide our PhDs with a well-rounded chemistry education. Our graduates hold distinguished faculty positions at excellent colleges and universities throughout the United States and several foreign countries, and they are well represented in the chemical industry; they have postdoctoral appointments, industry positions at several Fortune 500 companies, including Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Abbott, DuPont, and Eastman, as well as jobs in law and medical practices, and government laboratories. Our graduates are in high demand because of the strength of our research and educational programs.

Our curriculum is designed to foster the intellect, curiosity, and creativity of our outstanding students. Through a rigorous program with a range of requirements and course options, we provide our PhDs with a well-rounded Chemistry education that lays the foundation for a variety of career trajectories.

Below is an overview of the major features of the Emory Chemistry doctoral program. Each provides students the experience, tools, and guidance to find successful and rewarding careers upon graduation. First year students  are immersed in the various roles and perspectives of a chemistry graduate student. They learn about and explore the research being conducted in the department through a research rotation program, begin coursework in their areas of interest, and act as a teaching assistant. After completing 3 rotations, students select a research advisor and are assigned a research group, by mid-December.

Students should also begin taking their cumulative exams in the first year of graduate school. Beginning in the 2nd year, students will participate in an annual review of their research performance and knowledge. This comes in the form of a 2nd year Report, Annual Reports, Research Proposal, Dissertation and Defense. These reviews are completed in coordination with a student's advisor and research committee.

All students entering in full standing must take 6 courses (3-units each) for a PhD degree. Four courses are taken in the first year, and the remaining courses are generally special topics courses taken during the second year. Some courses may be taken in other science departments, including biochemistry and biological sciences, physics, and mathematics. Students who hold a Master's degree may enter in advanced standing and must only take 4 courses for a PhD. To be moved from full to advanced standing, a student must earn 24 credits of a B- or better in 500+ level courses.

Each division maintains its own requirements regarding course distribution, seminar attendance, and evaluations.

  • Inorganic Requirements
  • Organic Requirements
  • Physical Requirements
  • Biomolecular Requirements


Scientists are also teachers. Whether instructing students in a formal classroom, presenting research to colleagues or informing the public, scientists must be able to communicate their knowledge to a range of audiences. 

During the first year, graduate students assist the faculty in teaching undergraduate laboratory or lecture courses after completing the 2-day workshop associated with the Laney Graduate School's Teaching Assistant Training and Teaching Opportunity Program (TATTO). As a teaching assistant, students can expect to spend 8-10 hours per week fulfilling their responsibilities, which may include: aiding in course material preparation, helping with lab sections, proctoring and grading homework, lab, quizzes, and exams, and other assignments in support of University instruction. First year students will be given their TA assignments in mid-August, prior to the fall semester.

Additional teaching and training opportunities are also available after the first year. Students who excel at teaching and are interested in academic positions after graduation are encouraged to apply for the Dean's Teaching Fellowship, PRISM, ORDER, Curriculum Development Fellowships, and IOS Program.

Formal Evaluations

Cumulative Exams
During the first few years, students are asked to take cumulative examinations, which test their knowledge of current chemical literature and general problem solving abilities in their general area of chemistry. The exams help students assimilate material from scientific literature, seminars, and other resources and to apply that knowledge, logic, and reason to solving scientific problems.

This requirement must be completed by the middle of the third year. However, most students successfully complete cumulative exams by the end of the second year. Students receive 0-2 points for each exam (0=no pass, 1=half pass, 2=full pass). The requirement is completed when students have accumulated 10 points with at least 3 full passes. 

Exams are given in both the Fall and Spring semesters. There will be 24 departmental cumulative exams given each academic year (Each division offers three per semester). The topic will be given no later than one-week prior to the exam date.

2nd Year Report (Qualifying Exam)
The 2nd Year Report is an important milestone in the early career of a graduate student to reveal basic research skills and knowledge of literature as well as work ethic and motivation. In the Fall semester of the second year, students prepare a research report that outlines their progress to date and presents it to a committee of three faculty members in the student's general research area. The presentation is followed by an oral examination. Satisfactory completion of the exam endorses the graduate student as a PhD candidate.

Original Research Proposal
In the fourth year of study, students must present and defend an original research proposal on a chemistry topic unrelated to research ongoing at Emory. Students are advised to discuss the proposal outline with their committee.

Annual Report 
From the third year on, students are expected to complete an annual report on his/her own research each year to present to their faculty committee. A student in his/her 5th year who is not graduating will also need to submit a plan for graduation to their committee for approval


The major requirement for a PhD degree at Emory is the preparation and defense of the student's dissertation, which makes an original and significant contribution to existing knowledge in chemistry. The dissertation is presented in a public seminar and a private defense with the student's committee. Most Emory chemistry graduate students complete their dissertation within 5 years of entering graduate school.

It is a formal requirement of both the Laney Graduate School and the Department of Chemistry that dissertation defenses be announced to the community. To add your defense to our departmental calendar, fill out this form.

The Laney Graduate School requires that all dissertations be submitted to the Emory Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETD) Database. Authors may select access restrictions for up to six years post-degree.

  • Statement of Purpose. The statement of purpose need not be extensive. However, you should indicate your motivation for pursuing graduate studies at Emory as well as the research area(s) and faculty members that you are most interested in.
  • Letters of Recommendaton. We require three letters of recommendation from people familiar with your academic performance or professional scientists in whose lab you have worked. Contact your recommenders well ahead of time, to make sure they are aware of and can meet your application deadline. Your application is not complete until the letters have been submitted.You request the letters as part of the online application process, and recommenders can submit them online. You can send requests for letters of recommendations before you submit the final application. If a recommender is unable to use this system, please contact the program you are applying to for instructions.
  • Transcript(s). As part of the online application, upload a scanned transcript from each post-secondary institution you have attended, present school included. The transcripts must be issued by the registrar's office, but unofficial copies issued to the student are fine. Please do not mail paper transcripts with your application. 


All students admitted to the PhD program in Chemistry receive a support package that includes

  • Stipend support (currently $26,000)
  • Tuition Scholarship (currently $19,400 per semester)
  • 100% health insurance subsidy

Students will be responsible for some university enrollment fees, generally around $300 per semester.

Unless students are exempt under Internal Revenue Code (IRS) Section 117, scholarships, fellowships, grants, stipends and awards are generally considered taxable income. Students are required to report these amounts on federal and state income tax returns and are advised to consult tax advisers or the IRS and state revenue authorities for additional information.

A number of special fellowships are available for top applicants. No separate application is required. Applicants who meet the January 3rd deadline will be eligible. Decisions about fellowships occur concurrently with admissions decisions.

Cherry L. Emerson Award

Internal (departmental) awards offered to incoming students with the highest potential for independent research. Students receive a $4000 supplement to their first paycheck in September.

George W. Woodruff Fellowship

Awarded to exceptional students who have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement and who show promise as future leaders in their fields. The fellowship covers up to five years of tuition and fees and provides a $5000 supplement to the current base stipend. Approximately fifteen fellowships are awarded each year among all academic departments with incoming graduate cohorts.

Laney Graduate School Fellowship

The Laney Graduate School Fellowship is awarded to entering doctoral students in all fields. The Department of Chemistry, Laney awards recognize outstanding academic achievements as well as a student's potential to excel as a research scientist. The fellowship covers tuition up to five years and provides a $2,500 supplement to the base stipend, for a total annual stipend of $27,500.

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