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Ph.D. Program

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the deadline for admission?
A: We have no formal deadline; however, we do begin our initial review of applications on January 15. If we are able to completely satisfy our recruitment needs during this time it is possible that your application may not be considered if received much later. For domestic applicants it is necessary for us to receive your application by this date if you wish to be considered for several prestigious fellowships.

Q: What are the minimum requirements for applicants (GPA, GRE scores etc.)?
A: We don’t have set minimum requirements. We view each applicant carefully and consider the combination of GPA (with emphasis on chemistry courses), GRE scores, letters of recommendation and the personal statement. We have in the past taken students with deficiencies in one of the above areas that have turned out to be outstanding scientists. We view the collection of materials to arrive at our decision. One requirement, set by the Graduate School, deals with the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores. If below a set level the student must take courses in English to overcome their deficiencies.

Q: How many students do you take each year?
A: The number varies from year to year but averages around 10 per year.

Q: How many applicants do you receive each year and what percentage of students that applies gets accepted?
A: Generally the number of applicants per year varies quite a bit but the average typically ranges from 75 to 100. The number of students desired by faculty varies from year to year as well. We have taken as many as 15 new students and as few as three. A very rough estimate of the percentage of applicants that apply that get accepted is around six to nine percent.

Q: Can I contact an advisor I am particularly interested in and bypass the recruitment process and directly join this laboratory?
A: No. We accept only students who receive unanimous support by all faculty members. In doing so, we ensure that each faculty member is comfortable in accepting any of our applicants into his or her laboratory. The first semester the student does not have a formal advisor and attends a series of lectures regarding the research interests of the faculty members in the department. After these seminars have concluded, the student rank ranks the faculty members he or she would most like to work with. Every effort is made to give students their first choice.

Q: Do you accept applicants who want only a master’s degree?
A: No, we only accept students for the Ph.D. track. However, upon completion of the oral and written comprehensive exams, the students are automatically granted a master’s degree. If the student is deemed unable to continue on for the Ph,D, program, he or she will have the opportunity to obtain a terminal master’s degree.

Q: What is the average time it takes your students to earn their Ph.D.?
A: From the point a student joins the department until the time they are formally awarded their Ph.D. is 5.3 years. The thesis defense may occur many months before the actual degree is conferred.

Q: Can any of my courses be waived if I took similar courses at a different university?
A: Maybe. If the university is reputable and the syllabus clearly identifies the content similarity it may be possible but requires faculty approval.

Q: What do I have to pay for if accepted into the graduate program?
A: If accepted you will be considered to be 50% supported by a graduate research assistanceship (GRA) and will be provided with the full cost of tuition, a generous stipend and basic health insurance. You will be responsible only for general living expenses.

Q: What methods of payment for the application fee are accepted?
A: You may use all major credit cards, a personal check or a money order. It is not advisable to send cash and we are not liable for lost money. The fee should be sent to the graduate school with your application and not to the department.

Q: Do I need to take the TOEFL?
A: Yes, if you come from a country that English is not the native language. The graduate school is very rigid with this requirement. However, if you originate from a non-English speaking country but have recently received a degree from an English speaking university it is likely that you will not have to take the exam; however, not all universities are recognized by the graduate school for this purpose. Please consult the graduate school catalog to see if your university is listed.

Q: Do letters of recommendation need to be formatted in a special way?
A: No. Unlike some universities, we do not require special formatting. It is important that the reference be signed and printed on institutional letterhead.


One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
—ALA
23rd nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets," Military Times
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