Ph.D. in Chemistry 2020 requirements

The department periodically makes changes to the doctoral program requirements. Students are instructed to follow the rules as they apply to their incoming class. This document is intended for the incoming class of fall 2020 and forward.

Table of contents

Ph.D. requirements

Satisfactory academic progress is defined as meeting the degree requirements on schedule. Failure to reach any milestone may result in academic probation and loss of good academic standing. The consequences of failing to make satisfactory academic progress may include the loss of salary supplements, loss of graduate assistantship or termination from the program.

Requirement keys:

  • D = Department rule
  • GS = Graduate School requirement


  1. Take five proficiency exams at the start of the program to prepare for initial academic advising. (D)

  2. Complete five graduate classes during the first academic year with a satisfactory HPA. (D)

  3. File a plan of work indicating how the 90-credit (including 18 to 21 credits of coursework, four credits of seminar, CHM 6740, CHM 7770, CHM 8850, GS 0900, 30 credits of CHM 9991 9992 9993 and 9994, and 33 to 36 credits of other work) requirement will be completed. (GS)

  4. Complete responsible conduct of research training during the first year of study. (D, GS)

  5. Written and oral qualifying examinations.

    1. Academic services officer will appoint the Doctoral Committee before the start of the student’s second year.

    2. Complete written examination requirement by attending and participating in a proposal writing workshop (CHM 7770) in their second year and subsequently completing a written proposal and research summary.

    3. Pass preliminary oral examination by the end of the winter term in their second academic year. (D, GS).

  6. Advance to candidacy.

    1. Candidacy form: At completion of the preliminary written and oral examination, complete Recommendation for Candidacy Status Form and obtain approval of all four Dissertation Committee members, including the outside committee member. (D, GS)

    2. Prospectus form: At completion of the preliminary written and oral examination, complete a Prospectus and Record of Approval Form, complete a Conflict of Interest Form and obtain Dissertation Committee approval. (D, GS)

  7. Students hold annual committee meetings with their dissertation committee. (D, GS)

  8. Successfully present one public seminar by end of year four. (D)

  9. Final committee meeting should be held within six months of defense. (D)

  10. Complete the dissertation and obtain approvals of the Dissertation Committee and Graduate School. (GS)

  11. Present public lecture on dissertation work and pass a final oral examination administered by the Dissertation Committee. (GS)

Departmental rules have been established by the Chemistry Graduate Studies Committee and approved by the Chemistry Faculty. Graduate Studies Committee monitors student compliance with program requirements. Modifications of or exception to departmental rules are allowed only with permission of the Graduate Studies Committee.

Detailed Ph.D. requirements

Since a Ph.D. degree requires several years of full-time work and the demonstration of several skills and accomplishments, a student's graduate career is most easily described in two stages: 1) preliminary requirements - a variety of early requirements leading to candidacy; and 2) final requirements – the culmination of the research, writing the dissertation, presentation of a public lecture and passing the final oral examination.

Upon admission to the Ph.D. program, a student is assigned the status of Ph.D. applicant. It is in this status that a student takes their class work, submits the plan of work, takes the preliminary (qualifying) written and oral examinations and prepares for the dissertation research project.

The status of a Ph.D. candidate is conferred on students who, through the passing of written and oral preliminary examinations and the writing of a research prospectus and a dissertation outline, have demonstrated a broad knowledge of chemistry, an in-depth knowledge of the field of specialization and a coherent plan for the research project.

All forms mentioned are available from the graduate academic services officer and most are available by the Graduate School. The Graduate School has developed an online dashboard for many of the initial Ph.D. forms. You may be required to submit these forms electronically. Questions regarding policy and procedures should be addressed to the chemistry graduate academic services officer. All completed paper forms must be returned directly to this office.

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Academic integrity

All forms of academic misbehavior are prohibited at Wayne State University and violation of the principles of academic integrity may lead directly to expulsion from the Ph.D. program regardless of the progress the student may have otherwise made. Examples of these include cheating on course exams, falsification of research data, or plagiarism. Any questions about these matters should be discussed with a faculty member or the graduate studies chair.

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Salary supplements

Students who are supported on GTA contracts may be granted supplemental salary in addition to the GTA stipend paid by the Graduate School. This supplemental salary is provided at the discretion of the Department of Chemistry. If supplementary salary is provided, the amount will be described in the letter of offer from the chair prior to the first year of study. This supplement may be renewed for up to three years based on departmental available funding.

Renewal of the salary supplement is contingent upon maintaining good academic standing and making satisfactory academic progress toward your doctoral degree as determined by both your advisor and the Chemistry Graduate Studies Committee. Failure to reach any milestone of the program on schedule will result in the termination of the salary supplement. If supplementary salary is terminated, that supplemental salary amount will not be reinstated upon regaining good academic standing such that the student will be compensated at the appropriate base GTA level henceforth.

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Proficiency exams

Exams are given prior to the start the fall term at times announced by the Graduate Studies Committee. Students are required to take all of the proficiency exams. Exams, which take approximately two hours each, are designed to cover basic undergraduate topics and are frequently of the ACS type. The exam results are posted outside the office of the graduate academic services officer as soon as they are available. Students will meet with advisors within their chosen division in their first semester to select coursework that matches their career goals and research interests. Results of proficiency exams may be used by advisors to help students select courses that address deficiencies in areas of chemistry that are important to individual student training.

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Selecting an advisor

The selection of the research advisor is one of the important choices facing new students. The department wants to ensure that before the student selects an advisor s/he gathers sufficient information about the faculty members' interests, resources and current student roster to make an informed choice. The department would like every student to be associated with a research group of his/her choice as soon as possible, but definitely before the end of the student's first term except under special circumstances. In an attempt to achieve a fair distribution of students among the faculty and to accommodate the interests of the students, the department has adopted the following procedure for matching student and faculty interests in the advisor selection process.

First-year students must participate in the rotation and advisor selection process which is the only allowed procedure for matching students with advisors.

  1. Students submit their preferences for laboratory rotation (4) prior to the first day of classes. The department will distribute a laboratory rotation schedule based on these requests. Rotations take place from September through November.

  2. During the rotation period, students should have meetings with prospective advisors in which research projects, etc. are discussed.

  3. When the student has completed his/her rotations, they must submit a Choice of Research Advisor Form by listing the faculty with whom s/he would like to work in order of preference. This form is usually distributed as an online survey that must be submitted on the appointed date. If the department chair feels that a student has a) overlooked a faculty member in his/her chosen research field, or b) has not listed at least three choices, s/he can require the student to interview one or more additional faculty.

  4. The department chair will survey the forms and notify each faculty member of those students who have listed him/her as one of their choices.

  5. From the list described in number four above, the faculty member will submit a ranked list of the students who s/he would like to have join his/her research group.

  6. The departmental chair will, based on both student and faculty preference lists and other factors (such as the faculty member's current, desired and optimum group size, his/her grant funding, the status of students currently in the group, similar factors for the student's second choice, etc.), assign each student to one of his/her preferred faculty. In the past, almost all students have been assigned to their first choice, those assigned to their second choice had listed as their first choice a faculty member whose group was full and whose laboratory could not accommodate all the students who had selected him/her.

  7. The department chair will notify the students and faculty members of group assignments by email. All questions and concerns should be politely directed to the department chair.

Students arriving on campus for the summer before the start of their first year of graduate school must go through the same laboratory selection process as everyone else. Before joining a laboratory for the summer, they must sign the Summer Research Agreement for Pre-First Year Students Form together with their summer advisor. While we recognize that many students may wish to remain in the lab in which they spent that initial summer, they are not officially members of any group until after the laboratory rotation and match process described above has occurred.

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Responsible conduct of research

Graduate students take the graduate school training (GS 0900) in the fall term of their first year. They are also required to attend and participate in departmental training for responsible conduct of research in the fall term of their first year in the last seven weeks term. Students must write an essay to complete the requirement.

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Student evaluations

The Graduate School mandates that all graduate students receive regular evaluations regarding their progress toward a degree no less than once per year. The chemistry department has its own procedures which satisfy this requirement.


Student academic progress is reviewed by the Graduate Studies Committee after every term. This evaluation takes into consideration course completion, G.P.A. and acceptance to a research laboratory.

After two semesters, The Chemistry Graduate Studies Committee judges a student to be in good academic standing if s/he:

  • Has satisfactorily completed five graduate-level courses with a grade of B or better with a GPA of 3.0 or above and;
  • Has joined a research group.

Failure to meet these criteria will result in the student being placed on a probationary status. This may cause an academic hold to be placed on their record and will affect their financial status. Students who fail to maintain good academic standing can be terminated from the Ph.D. program.

Continuing students

Each summer every doctoral student will meet with their research advisor to conduct a formal progress review. During this discussion, the student and advisor will talk about overall progress toward the degree, student development over the prior year and set research, performance and development goals for the next year. This process should be a two-way discussion resulting in the completion of the Individual Development Plan (IDP). The IDP form is an electronic form that must be signed by the student, the advisor and the director of graduate studies. This form is submitted to the Graduate School annually.

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Advancing to candidate status

Ph.D. course requirement and the plan of work

For each graduate degree, there are specific and general course requirements. Some requirements specify only a particular number of credits, others specify credits plus the area in which the courses must be taken; a few requirements are for specific courses which are listed by course number, e.g., CHM 6740, CHM 7770, CHM 8850.

The classroom work required of Ph.D. students will be completed during the first or second years of study. The intent of the coursework requirement is to ensure that as students enter the research-intensive portion of their work they have an adequate background in the fundamentals of chemistry as well as a grasp of the state-of-the-art knowledge in their chosen specialty. The Ph.D. coursework requirement clearly promotes both goals by forcing an intensive study of one subject (the major field) and a breadth requirement by taking courses outside this major.

Each student must complete at least 90 graduate credits* distributed as follows:

  • 18 credits, or more, in coursework**
  • 4 credits of divisional seminar – CHM 8800, 8810, 8820, 8830 or 8840
  • 0 credit of GS 0900: Essential Research Practices: Responsible Conduct of Research
  • 1 credit of CHM 6740: Laboratory Safety
  • 2 credits of CHM 7770: Proposals in Chemical Research
  • 1 to 3 credits of CHM 8850: Frontiers in Chemistry
  • 30 credits of CHM 9991, 9992, 9993, 9994: Dissertation Research and Direction
  • At least 90-(a+b+c+d+e+f+g) additional graduate credits – usually CHM 8700

* May include up to 30 credits transferred from other institutions (see transfer credit).

** Coursework refers to regularly scheduled classes of lecture, laboratory, or directed study that have a final examination or project and are completed in one term.

The student notifies the department and the Graduate School of the sequence of courses that s/he wishes to use to satisfy the course requirement by filing a plan of work (see Graduate School forms). It is normally filed during the student's second year of studies; it may be filed earlier, but it must be filed before the preliminary examination. Appendix A lists the courses and credits that should be listed on the plan of work.

The plan of work is a document prepared by the student in consultation with their research advisor. This form must be approved and signed by both the advisor and the departmental graduate director. The plan of work is a listing of the credits already taken as well as those that the student will take in the future to complete the degree requirement.

The plan of work has six columns. Department and number, semester and course titles are the first three columns. Courses that already have been taken are listed as they appear on the student's transcript. Courses yet to be taken follow. Credits to be taken over several terms (i.e., CHM 8700 and seminars) should be listed only once with the semester column left blank. The doctoral candidate status courses (CHM 9991, 9992, 9993 and 9994) should be listed separately for 7.5 credits apiece. The credits for each course are listed in the major, minor or other column depending upon the appropriate designation.


Normally, a student will take four courses (12 credits) in a single subject area in what may be loosely defined as a major field of study. In a few fields (divisions) a student easily can accumulate the necessary credits from courses in one specific field within one or two academic years. In some fields there may not be a sufficient number of courses offered in the student's intended major during a reasonable time period or the student's research project may make courses in other divisions/departments appropriate. In such cases, the department recommends that the student complete the course requirement with relevant courses from other divisions or other science departments. Courses from divisions outside the Department of Chemistry must be at the 5000 level or above.

The credits are to be listed in the major column on the plan of work on the same line(s) as the major course number(s) and title(s).


During winter 2011, the graduate school voted to make minors optional for Ph.D. students. In fall 2011, the department followed suit, removing the requirement that a minor be completed. The completion of a minor and the listing of a minor on the plan of work, is optional. The information described below only applies to students who elect to declare a minor on their plan of work.

The department and the Graduate School allow for a minor field of study. The credits of the student's minor courses should be listed in the minor column of the plan of work on the same line(s) as the minor course number(s) and title(s). The minor may be satisfied in one of three ways, each of which requires the completion of six graduate credits (normally, two courses) in the minor area.

Chemistry (distributed) minor (the most common option) –  completion of six credits (usually two courses) taken in two fields (divisions) of chemistry or three credits in chemistry and three credits in some other related field. The chemistry credits must be at the 7000 level while the outside credits must be at the 5000 level or above.

Completion of a distributed minor will result in a member of a division represented in the student's minor courses being selected for the committee which administers the student's preliminary examination.

Chemistry (concentrated) minor – completion of six chemistry credits (usually two courses) at the 7000 or 8000 level in a single division outside the major division.

Selection of a concentrated minor in one of the chemistry divisions results in a member of that division being appointed to the committee that administers the student's preliminary examination.

Outside minor – Six credits from a single department. The outside department is usually in a science (e.g., biology, computer science, genetics, pharmacology, physics, etc.) or a science-related area (e.g., chemical engineering, civil engineering, electrical and computer engineering, mathematics, etc.). The minor field must meet the approval of the advisor, the Chemistry Graduate Studies Committee and the Graduate School. In most departments, the requirement can be satisfied by completing two courses at the 5000 level or above.

Completion of a minor in an outside department will result in a member from that department being appointed to the doctoral committee and participating in the student's preliminary examination, pre-oral examination and final dissertation defense.


All credits which are not classroom courses and/or are not assignable as Major or Minor should be placed in the "other" column. Thus, seminars (CHM 8800-8840), Frontiers in Chemistry (CHM 8850), Laboratory Safety (CHM 6740), Essential Research Practices: Responsible Conduct of Research (GS 0900), Research in Chemistry (CHM 8700), and Dissertation Research and Direction (CHM 9991, 9992, 9993, 9994) should have their credit hour totals listed in the "other" column.

Repeat courses

The department may allow a student to petition to repeat a graduate course in which a grade of B- or lower is received. No more than two graduate courses may be repeated. Permission to repeat a course must be obtained from the Chemistry Graduate Director. (See chemistry academic services officer to secure permission.) The original grade for the course will remain on the student's transcript, but only the final grade received in retaking of the course will be used in the computation of the student's grade point average. Students will not receive tuition assistance for repeated courses.

Transfer credit

Up to nine graduate course credits (coursework) earned at other accredited and recognized institutions can be transferred provided that a minimum grade of "B" (3.0) was earned in the course(s). Courses in which a grade of "B-" was earned are not acceptable for transfer, nor are courses in which grades of satisfactory-unsatisfactory, pass-fail, or pass-no pass were awarded.

Doctoral dissertation credits will not be transferred.

A student wishing to transfer graduate credit toward the Ph.D. degree must obtain a Transfer of Credit Form from the Graduate School and discuss their plans with the departmental academic services officer. This form, along with a transcript from the former institution, is submitted at the time the plan of work is filed. You must fill out a separate form for every previous institution you wish to transfer credit from.

Wayne State University allows no more than 30 graduate credits earned elsewhere to be counted toward a Ph.D. degree. Actually, the university requires that 60 graduate credits toward the Ph.D. be earned at Wayne State. So, transferring more than 30 credits is unnecessary.

From the foregoing one can see that the plan of work serves more than one function. It indicates to the Graduate School how the student will satisfy the Ph.D. course requirement. The Graduate School closely reviews the plan of work to ensure that the student's proposed courses will meet all degree requirements. When the Graduate School agrees that the plan of work (or a revision of the plan) satisfies the requirements, the form will be signed by the dean. Electronic copies are returned to the student and the department after approval. When the student applies for a degree, the Graduate School closely compares the student's transcript with the approved plan of work. Any discrepancies between the two will require some action on the part of the student and will delay the completion of the degree.

During the student's graduate career, changes to the plan of work may be proposed and an amendment may be submitted. Such changes must be approved by the thesis advisor and the chemistry graduate director.

Finishing the plan of work is a necessary but not sufficient condition for completion of the Ph.D. degree. Submitting an approved dissertation, presenting a public lecture on the dissertation and passing the final oral examination are additional requirements. The amount of time needed to complete the research leading to the dissertation is difficult to estimate with any exactness.

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Preliminary written and oral examinations

Formation of the examination committee

The student's qualifying examination committee normally will consist of three faculty: the dissertation advisor (or advisors), one member of the major division and one member from a division other than the major. If a student has elected to complete an “outside” minor, the committee will include a fourth faculty representative from that area.

The chemistry academic services officer will assign committees on behalf of the Graduate Studies Committee in the summer between the first and second years of study.

Arranging the preliminary examinations

When a suitable and agreed-upon time has been set, the student notifies the chemistry academic services officer. After arrangements for date and time of the meeting have been agreed upon and prior to the examination, the student and/or the advisor should notify the members of the committee, in writing, of the arrangements. Reminders to often-forgetful faculty members are also advised, including a phone call on the day before and/or the day of, the exam. Please note the reservation of a room in which to hold the exam is the responsibility of the student. Please contact if you wish to reserve a room within the chemistry building.

On the day of the exam, the student and advisor should arrive several minutes ahead of the arranged time to ensure that the assigned room is not occupied, that the boards are clean, writing instruments (chalk or markers) are available, needed projectors and screens are in place and sufficient chairs or desks are on hand. The preliminary examination is a closed session. No guests, except invited and/or interested faculty, may be present.

Students will prepare two written documents: A research document (prospectus) and an original research proposal. These documents will be due to their committee one week before the oral exam. The format of the documents must be as follows: Times New Roman 12 or Arial 11 font, 1-inch margins and 1.15 spaced.

The research document (prospectus) should be 6 to 10 pages long and must not exceed 10 pages, not counting references. This document should include preliminary results in addition to clearly stated hypotheses and goals, in addition to well-developed future directions. Detailed methods or experimental sections should not be included, brief summaries are acceptable if appropriate.

It is expected that the text and most of the figures will be prepared by the student as original work. Plagiarism will result in automatic failure of the exam.

The proposal should follow either NIH or NSF guidelines.

  • For NIH-style proposals, sections will include an abstract, specific aims, research strategy (significance, innovation, approach) and conclusion.

  • NSF-style proposals should include an abstract that summarizes intellectual merit and broader impacts. The proposal should include the following sections: introduction, research plan and broader impacts.

Oral exam format

Students will present their research progress first and their original research proposal second. The exam will take place over two hours with one hour for each section.


Students will prepare two PowerPoint presentations of ~15 minutes each excluding time for questions.

During exam

During the examination, members of the committee ask questions of the student; and each member must, based on the student's responses to his/her own questions and to those of others, determine if the student is adequately prepared to proceed to the next phase of graduate work. Each committee member may ask questions for a specified period of time or the committee members may ask single questions in turn. Questioning may proceed for an hour or more at which point the moderator may poll the committee to determine if additional questioning is needed or desired. If none is requested, the committee chair likely will excuse the student. During the student's absence, the committee will discuss the student's performance, knowledge and skills. The committee then will decide whether the student should pass or fail; or, if the exam should continue before a decision is made.

After the exam

At the conclusion of the exam, each committee member should fill out a department evaluation form. This form is available from the graduate academic services officer and available on the chemistry website. Forms should be returned either through email or on paper to the ASO’s office.

When the examination has ended, the committee must decide whether the student passes or fails, no other choice is allowed. (A student may be passed if there is not more than one negative vote.) If the committee decides to fail the student, the members will explain to the student the reasons for the decision. The student may be advised to review particular topics or to emphasize certain areas in his/her preparations for a second preliminary examination. At least four months must pass before a second and last, preliminary examination can be scheduled; and, the second examination must be held within one calendar year following the first examination. The student will be on academic probation for the period between the first and second attempts of the exam. The committee will be the same for the second exam as the first. The foregoing procedures pertain to the preparation for and conduct of the second exam. The outcome of the second examination is final.

A pass allows the student to continue toward completion of the candidacy requirements. A fail on the second exam automatically terminates the student's status as a Ph.D. applicant.

Immediately after the oral exam, regardless of the result, the graduate student needs to submit a Report on Oral Examination Form (see Graduate School forms). This form requires 1) the name of the student, 2) the date of the exam and 3) the names and AccessID’s of the committee members.

The preliminary exam is a time when the student needs to bring all his/her background and knowledge to the fore. The examination will more likely probe how well the student knows basic and essential matters rather than how much or how many things the student knows. The student should realize that the interactive nature of the examination allows continued questioning on one or more topics.

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Recommendation for candidacy status

Following successful completion of the written and oral qualifying examinations, a student must file for Candidacy by filing a Recommendation for Candidacy Status Form (see Graduate School forms). This establishes the Dissertation Committee which is composed of four faculty members.

The critical step in this process (i.e., the part that has caused the most confusion/problem) is in the formation of the four-person dissertation advisory committee. By the rules of the Graduate School, the committee that administers the preliminary examination is dismissed when its final pass/fail decision has been made and a new committee, the dissertation advisory committee is formed to oversee the latter portion of the student's Ph.D. work. Since the members of the examination committee are familiar with the student, know his/her abilities and have become somewhat conversant with the student's proposed research, it is most convenient for the department (and advantageous to the student) to retain the student's preliminary examination committee as the dissertation advisory committee. The department, in fact, assumes that the preliminary examination committee will become the dissertation advisory committee.

The rules of the Graduate School, however, require that, when possible and practical, one of the members of the dissertation advisory committee must be a graduate faculty member from a department other than chemistry. This committee member may also be from outside the university if approved by the Graduate Studies Committee and the Graduate School. This rule normally produces a committee of three chemistry faculty and one outside member. When such a member is difficult or impossible to find, the student's advisor and the chair of the Chemistry Graduate Studies Committee can request that a fourth faculty member from chemistry serve instead. Such requests are rarely granted by the Graduate School.

Normally, for students with an outside minor, the minor representative becomes the non-chemistry member of the dissertation advisory committee. Such should be considered when the minor faculty member of the preliminary examination committee is selected.

This paperwork must be signed by 1) the advisor, 2) all members of the dissertation advisory committee, 3) chair of the Chemistry Graduate Studies Committee and 4) dean of the Graduate School. Approval must be secured prior to obtaining permission to register for the initial block of dissertation credits (CHM 9991 which is usually taken in the fall semester of year three).

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The Prospectus and Record of Approval Form is a simple form on which the student briefly describes some of the key aspects of his/her proposed research (see Graduate School forms). Submission also requires that the student present a prospectus, the written research document presented at the qualifying examination.

Specifically, the Prospectus and Record of Approval Form states:

The student should prepare a prospectus of the proposed dissertation research and submit it with this form.

Write a brief, typed statement for each of the following four sections:

  • Statement of the problem, its scope and rationale
  • Source of the materials, subjects, etc.
  • Method and design (statistical analysis where applicable)
  • Hypothesized results (where applicable)

The form is signed by 1) the student, 2) the advisor, 3) all members of the dissertation advisory committee, 4) the chair of the Chemistry Graduate Studies Committee and 5) the dean of the Graduate School.

The dissertation outline is more than just a formal candidacy requirement. It is an agreement between the student and his/her dissertation advisory committee. By filing this form, 1) the student informs the committee that his/her dissertation will focus on the proposed topic; 2) the committee agrees that when the student reaches the appropriate stages in his/her research that they will participate in a final committee meeting within six months of the defense; and 3) that when the student completes his/her dissertation, the committee will read it and then participate in the public lecture and final oral examination.

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Conflict of Interest Form

All doctoral candidates will be required to submit a Conflict of Interest Form in concurrence with the Prospectus and Record of Approval Form. The candidate and each member of the dissertation committee must disclose any potential conflicts and sign the form. Given the length of time required in the dissertation process, students will be required to resubmit the Conflict of Interest Form prior to the dissertation defense (see Graduate School forms). If a real or perceived conflict of interest is declared or identified, the Graduate School has procedures in place to further review the situation and may propose changes to the membership of the dissertation advisory committee.

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Seminar requirement

Students are required to complete a seminar requirement over the course of their Ph.D. work. Students will present one public seminar by the end of year four. The seminar will be 40 to 50 minutes long and will cover research with the option to emphasize literature. Students are strongly encouraged to discuss with their advisor the requirements and expectations for these seminar requirements.

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Annual committee meetings

Students should meet with their doctoral committee annually beginning in year three. If the student and advisor agree, they may opt out of meeting in years three and/or four. Students must have a final committee meeting within six months of their final defense. Students will prepare a brief presentation (15 minutes) to summarize their research progress and present it to their committee. Brief evaluation forms will be filled out by committee members to assess student progress. Students and Advisors can at any time call a committee meeting to discuss progress or resolve conflicts.

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Dissertation, public lecture and final oral defense

Dissertation and preparations for the final defense

Before writing the manuscript, students should review the WSU Theses and Dissertation Format Guidelines. This guide is updated on a regular basis.

After receiving approval from the dissertation advisory committee to write at the final annual committee meeting, the student should compose, assemble and edit the dissertation following the suggestions of his/her advisor and the guidelines published by the Graduate School. Students are urged to check with the Graduate School office (the final arbitrator if there are any questions regarding format, footnotes, reference lists, figures, figure captions, tables, table of contents, etc.).

Approximately four weeks prior to the defense, the student should secure a form entitled Final Report: Dissertation Public Lecture Presentation-Defense (see Graduate School forms) and should enter the requested information at the top of the form. Once the dissertation is complete, a copy should be delivered to each member of the dissertation advisory committee for evaluation. At this time, an electronic copy should be provided to the chemistry academic services officer as a pdf file. This electronic copy will be assessed for plagiarism using plagiarism detection software.

The student and his/her advisor should arrange with the dissertation advisory committee for a suitable time for the final public lecture defense. In part one of the form, the student should be careful to type committee names and their corresponding email addresses. The student must then obtain the signatures of all members of the dissertation advisory committee (indicating approval of the content of the dissertation) and of the chair of the Chemistry Graduate Studies Committee on the form.

The Final Report: Dissertation Public Lecture Presentation-Defense Form completed through part one must be delivered at least two weeks prior to the final defense to the Graduate School for approval. The Conflict of Interest Form must also be signed by the committee and submitted to the Graduate School along with the Final Report Form. The format check must also be completed at this time electronically through the Graduate School website.

Any committee member, as well as the student, may request that an external graduate examiner be present at the final oral defense. To request an external graduate examiner, two weeks prior to the defense the student must submit the Final Defense form to the Ph.D. Office and request a graduate examiner.

Public lecture defense and approval of the dissertation

The final oral examination is conducted by the dissertation advisory committee and presided over by the graduate examiner. The role of the graduate examiner is usually filled by the faculty advisor. In the Ph.D. program, the final defense actually consists of three parts: 1) a public lecture on the dissertation, 2) a final dissertation defense and 3) an evaluation of the student's performance. A fourth part, the signing of the dissertation, may take place at the same time but can be handled later, if necessary.

The academic community is invited (an announcement of the public lecture, including time, place, topic and speaker, must be posted in the Chemistry building and be circulated via email and campus mail, throughout the university at least one week prior to the lecture date) and encouraged both to attend and to ask questions about the lecture topic and the dissertation research.

The public lecture is an approximately 45-minute presentation during which the student formally presents the methodology, research and results of the investigation. When the lecture is completed and the questions asked and answered, the public lecture ends. The audience members who are not part of the dissertation advisory committee are excused and the final oral examination is begun. The dissertation advisory committee may further examine the student on the dissertation.

When the examination is completed, the dissertation advisory committee evaluates the student's performance and decides whether the student passed or failed the public lecture defense. If the student has passed, the committee members and the graduate examiner sign the Final Report Form. The graduate examiner must also fill out Examiner’s Report Form which details the events that took place during the public lecture and final defense. Both of these forms need to be returned to the Graduate School within 48 hours of the defense. If the student fails, another final public lecture defense must be scheduled for a later date.

If the dissertation is acceptable or needs only minor corrections, the committee signs several copies of the dissertation. The student then has up to two weeks to perfect the dissertation. If the dissertation is unsatisfactory, the student must revise it to the satisfaction of the committee. At least three members of the dissertation advisory committee, one of which must be the advisor, must sign the dissertation for it to be accepted by the Graduate School. The final copy must be submitted electronically through the online submission process followed for the format check, to the graduate school. The original signed title page must be delivered separately.

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Time limitation

Students have a seven-year time limit to complete all requirements for the Ph.D. degree. The seven-year period begins at the end of the semester during which the student was admitted to the doctoral program. Students must be registered during each academic semester they are working toward the degree. Specific documentation is required to extend beyond seven years, up to a maximum of twelve years, but requires annual meetings of the dissertation advisory committee to ensure ongoing progress. Chemistry students typically should not require such extensions.

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Leaves of absence

Students requiring a formal leave of absence for medical or other emergencies should request in writing such a leave to the Graduate Studies Committee, which will review the situation. Before requesting such leave, foreign students should consult with OISS regarding consequences and procedures associated with reinstatement of student status.

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Fellowship competitions

Several types of internal and external fellowship opportunities are available annually. Announcements for these competitions typically occur by email and students are advised to pay attention to these notices. Examples of these include meeting/travel awards, Rumble fellowships, Schaap fellowships, training grant appointments and others. Selection criteria vary from program to program but typically include classroom performance, research productivity (as evidenced by publications and conference presentations) and as well as letters of recommendation.

Fellowships for senior students from the Graduate School regularly require the submission of the prospectus as a pre-requisite. Additionally, fellowships from major granting agencies (NIH, NSF, etc.), have regular deadlines and eligible students are encouraged to speak with their advisor and the director of Graduate Studies to explore such opportunities.

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Exit procedures

Students who have completed their degree programs and others who leave the department for various reasons, must settle their accounts with the university and return items borrowed from various offices, libraries and storerooms. Failure to do so may delay the issuance of the diploma and/or the date on which the degree is awarded. The department ensures this account clearance and loaned item return by requiring each departing student to complete a Final Check-Out Sheet (see chemistry graduate forms).

The Final Check-Out Sheet has a list of locations where accounts must be cleared, items returned, or forms submitted. The exiting student must have a staff member at each location sign the check-out form indicating that, as far as that office is concerned, the account has been settled, all items returned or necessary forms submitted.

Please note: A final copy of the dissertation must be given to the graduate academic services officer for the departmental library. The student is required to pay the binding fee to the departmental business office.

For purposes of employment, a student who has completed all the degree requirements may request a document from the Graduate School certifying completion of degree requirements and the date of formal awarding of the degree.

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Contract – Usually in the form of, or a document accompanied by, a letter which is signed by several university officials (e.g., department chair, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) and which offers a position having specific duties for a definite period of time. The offer becomes a contract when the student signs and returns the letter before a clearly specified deadline.

Degree applicant – A student who has been admitted to the degree program but has not yet advanced to candidate status.

Degree candidate – a student who has completed certain requirements and who has, largely, a research project and thesis to finish to earn a degree.

Directed study – An individualized course of study for one student under the guidance of one faculty member. The study is to be completed during a single term and a research paper, project report, or special examination is required. The directing faculty member must notify the Chemistry Graduate Studies Committee that s/he is willing to supervise the directed study. Further, a form describing the nature of the project and the format of the directed study must be approved by the chair of the Chemistry Graduate Studies Committee before the student can register. The Graduate School prohibits directed study coursework from being used toward the major requirements. Directed study, therefore, can be used only toward a minor, or as other credits toward the degree.

Final oral – After the public lecture but before the approval and signing of the dissertation, the committee questions the student about the research and the dissertation.

Full-time student – a legal definition that specifies the number of credits a student must be taking to satisfy the "full-time" student status required by SSS (Selective Service System), INS (Immigration & Naturalization Service) and student loan providers. At WSU full-time is eight credits/term at the graduate level. Students who have completed all of the credits specified on their plan of work will be considered full-time if they enroll for 7.5 credits of Dissertation credit [CHM 9991, 9992, 9993, 9994], during each academic term. If the Dissertation credits have been completed as well, a student enrolled in 0 credits of Maintenance [CHM 9995], will also be considered full-time by exception.

Graduate assistant – These positions are designed primarily to provide some economic support to graduate students.

Graduate research or teaching assistants are considered half-time employees and are appointed for a specific time period, usually for one term or an entire academic year (9-months). In addition to the salary, these assistants are eligible to participate in the University's health insurance program. Stipends are exempt from Social Security (F.I.C.A.) taxes but are subject to withholding for federal, state and city income taxes. GRAs and GTAs must be enrolled for a minimum of six graduate credits (which contribute toward the completion of the plan of work) and be in good academic standing (an HPA of 3.00 or higher).

Graduate research assistant – A graduate assistant who is paid to participate in a research project directly relevant to their own academic program of study. Such positions are usually funded from research grants or contracts and are arranged by individual faculty members for their own student advisees.

Graduate teaching assistant – A graduate student who is paid to assist in teaching. In the chemistry department, a teaching assistant's duties may involve leading a quiz/discussion class, directing a laboratory, grading, preparing classroom or laboratory materials, directly assisting students, keeping records, etc. They provide no more than 20 hours of service per week.

Graduate credit – A course is said to carry graduate credit if it is applicable to the coursework requirement for a graduate degree. In the chemistry Ph.D., M.A. and M.S. programs the following categories of courses carry graduate credit: chemistry courses numbered 6000 or higher; courses numbered 5000 or higher from all other departments and colleges within the university.

Graduate teaching assistant – See graduate assistant.

HPA or honor point average – The term used at Wayne State to summarize a student's academic record. HPA is calculated from the total number of honor points divided by the number of graded (A, B, C, or F) course credits. Each course carries a certain number of credits, usually the number of hours of lecture per week or the number of lecture hours plus a portion of the quiz hours and/or laboratory meetings per week. Honor points are associated with grades:

Grade Honor points per credit hour
A 4
A– 3.67
B+ 3.33
B 3
B– 2.67 (below graduate standards)
C+ 2.33 (below graduate standards)
C 2 (below graduate standards)
F 0
I Incomplete is given to a student who has not completed all the course work and when there is, in the judgment of the instructor, a reasonable probability that the student can complete the course successfully without attending regular class sessions. The coursework must be completed within one calendar year.
Y Deferred, course planned to continue beyond the semester (i.e., essay, thesis, dissertation, research and certain courses taken in sequence).

Example: A student takes three courses:

  • A 3-credit hour course in which s/he receives an "A"
  • A 3-credit hour course in which s/he receives a "B+"
  • A 1-credit hour course in which s/he receives a "B"

The grade point average would be calculated as (3 x 4 + 3 x 3.33 + 1 x 3)/(3 + 3 + 1) = 3.47.


In-state tuition – The amount charged per course, or per credit hour, to Michigan residents (see Resident).

Moderator (graduate examiner) – Faculty member selected to be the Graduate School representative at the Final Oral Examinations. This role is usually fulfilled by the advisor.

Non-resident tuition – The tuition rate charged to those who do not satisfy the residency criteria.

Part-time positions – No benefits, non-represented.

Instructional assistant (IA) – A person employed on a part-time basis to assist with classroom and laboratory instruction. One term, no benefits. A student who is supported through teaching in the Spring/Summer term is supported as an IA.

Part-time faculty – A person employed on a part-time basis to teach a class Student Assistant - a student employed part-time by the university.

Pre-dissertation research – Formally, the research done by a degree applicant. In reality, since CHM 9991 - 9995 is Dissertation Research, any other research, usually CHM 8700, is termed pre-dissertation research. The usual source of the additional credits, since coursework and dissertation research provide only 63 to 65 credits, to satisfy the Ph.D. credit hour requirement.

Preliminary Examination Committee – An ad-hoc group composed of the student's advisor, one faculty member from the major field, one other chemistry faculty from a field outside the student’s major. Administers preliminary examination.

Pre-master – A status assigned to students who are admitted to the Graduate School or to the graduate program of a college but have not been accepted into a specific degree program. Students may apply only 9 credits earned in the Pre-Master's status toward a degree; and thus, the university limits students to only one full-time term in this status. Pre-masters students are not eligible for GTA or GRA positions.

Public lecture – A 40 to 60-minute lecture on the thesis work presented by the student just prior to the final oral examination. The time, place and title of the lecture are publicized throughout the university community. The lecture (but not the subsequent examination) is open to the public.

Registration requirement – Students who are actively pursuing their research in the department are required to register for each academic term that they are present (fall and winter term). Students are to be registered during the term in which they defend the dissertation. If all doctoral research candidate credits are completed (CHM 9991 – CHM 9994), registration for candidate maintenance credit (CHM 9995) is required.

Research advisor – A faculty member who agrees, when selected by a student, to supervise that student's thesis/dissertation research. Provides laboratory, project, resources, advising and assistance in all aspects of degree work. May provide financial support from grant funds.

Research assistant – A person employed to assist with a research project generally for a specified period of time.

Residence/Residency/Resident – Terms that are used in several of the university's rules and which probably need to be defined for each case and/or context.

Resident (as regards tuition) – To be considered a resident, a student must have had his/her principal and permanent home in Michigan for at least six months prior to his/her first term as a full-time student. Time spent attending a Michigan school, college or university (such as Wayne State) cannot be used to establish residence. (See Graduate Bulletin under "Tuition and Fees": Residency.)

Ph.D. residence requirement – Successful completion of the Ph.D. program requires lengthy periods in which the student can devote all of his/her time to study and/or research. To ensure this, the university requires that the student 1) be registered in no fewer than six credits of coursework for at least two consecutive terms, or 2) hold an assistantship for two academic terms while enrolled as a full-time student, or 3) actually spend full time in graduate work for one calendar year with certification of the same by the dissertation advisor.

Satisfactory academic progress – This terminology is on assistantship contracts. A student is making satisfactory academic progress when they are meeting all of the requirements of the program on the defined time schedule. Students must be in an assigned research group and making satisfactory progress toward their doctoral degree as determined by both the advisor and the Chemistry Graduate Studies Committee to maintain satisfactory academic progress.

Seminar – A class that meets regularly and whose agenda involves presentations, usually by several speakers, on recent research. In Chemistry, each division holds a weekly seminar where presentations are made by students, faculty and/or invited guests.

Student – One who is currently enrolled or, if not enrolled, has been enrolled and can register without applying for admission.

Teaching assistant – See graduate assistant.

Tuition – The amount of money the university charges on a per course, or per credit hour, basis for (e.g., registering for, attending and/or receiving a grade in) a course.

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Committees and administrative personnel

Administrative staff

  • Mishad Ahmed, accounting assistant
  • Erin Bachert, undergraduate student records, course scheduling, registration
  • Jackie Baldyga, facilities coordinator
  • Kellie Lauder, purchasing, accounting
  • Nawana Lawson, solutions room manager
  • Bernie Miesik, accounting assistant
  • Kim Miller, human resources and personnel issues
  • Melissa Rochon, graduate student records and admissions, teaching assistant information
  • Lisa Smith, grant accounting
  • Tenecia Smith, textbooks, copying, projector and room checkout

Chemistry faculty

The group composed of all assistant, associate and full professors. Meets regularly to conduct the department's business, hear reports, set policies. Each faculty member attending the meeting has one vote. Collectively with the department chair responsible for the programs, facilities and resources of the department.

Curriculum Committee

A committee of faculty, one from each division appointed by the chair, which sets policies and regulations regarding undergraduate courses and degree programs.

Department chair

Chief administrative officer of the department. Appointed by the dean of the college and provost at the recommendation of the department faculty. Represents the department in college and university matters, allocates resources, sets policies and procedures, selects committee chairs and members.

Dissertation Committee

Normally the same as the Preliminary Examination Committee with the addition of an outside member. Read, approve and sign the prospectus, participate in annual committee meeting, read dissertation, attend public lecture and administer final oral examination.


Group of faculty from a single discipline. Oversee and staff courses in the discipline, administer proficiency examinations in the area and organize a seminar for graduate students majoring in that field.

Division head

Administrative head of division, selected by the department chair.

General Chemistry Committee

Composed of all of the faculty directly responsible for and/or interested in general chemistry. The General Chemistry Coordinator chairs the committee. Decides general chemistry policies, involved in teaching assistant workload matters, assignments, etc.

Graduate Studies Committee

A committee of five faculty, one member from each division selected by the department chair, who also selects the committee chair. Establishes, reviews, revises and administers the graduate degree programs, mechanisms. Appoints examination and dissertation committees, adapts or defines rules and regulations, advises, keeps records, sets criteria for acceptable performance and renewals.

Personnel Committee

One faculty member from each division elected by the department faculty. Deals with faculty matters but does select some fellowship winners.

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Appendix A

The plan of work form

There are often questions about the plan of work form for the Ph.D. program. The major and minor titles should be filled out as shown below:

  • Major: Chemistry (division)
  • Minor: None elected (or)
    • 1) Chemistry concentrated (division)
    • 2) Chemistry distributed
    • 3) Outside (department)

When listing courses, please note that your Major must consist of at least 4 courses for at least 12 credits. If a Minor is elected, it must consist of at least 2 courses for at least 6 credits. If a student has less than the requisite number of credits, an additional course is necessary to complete the major or minor.

All other credits fall under the “other” category on the plan of work. These should include:

  • 1 credit of CHM 8850: Frontiers
  • 1 credit of CHM 6740: Laboratory Safety
  • 0 credits of GS 0900: Responsible Conduct of Research
  • 2 credits of CHM 7770: Proposals in Chemical Research
  • 4 credits of CHM 8800, 8810, 8820, 8830 or 8840: Dept. seminar according to major
  • 7.5 credits of CHM 9991: Doctoral Candidate Status 1
  • 7.5 credits of CHM 9992: Doctoral Candidate Status 2
  • 7.5 credits of CHM 9993: Doctoral Candidate Status 3
  • 7.5 credits of CHM 9994: Doctoral Candidate Status 4
  • # credits of CHM 8700: Research: Chemistry (number of credits for CHM 8700 will vary. Students should elect the appropriate number ensure their total credits on the plan of work equal 90 credits)

The plan of work defines the student's degree program. Completion of the plan of work means that the student has finished the number of credits required for the Ph.D. degree but not necessarily all of the requirements.

Those who hold assistantship contracts receive a tuition scholarship which will pay for up to 10 credits of graduate coursework for each term of the appointment during the academic year.

Teaching/research assistants must enroll for a minimum of 6 graduate credits during each term of the appointment. They may enroll for no more than 16 credits; however, if they enroll for 16 credits, they are responsible for payment for the six credits not covered by the assistantship. Teaching assistants who are on the payroll during the winter term frequently receive two or three additional graduate credits during the subsequent spring/summer term. Thus, a full-time student would normally accumulate from 16 to 22 (2 x 8 = 16; 2 x 10 + 2 = 22) credits per calendar year.

Appendix B


Registration is the process of officially enrolling in classes for a particular term. The Office of the Registrar provides a listing of classes ( available in advance of each term, lists the days, times and locations for registration and explains the registration process.

Each chemistry graduate student is to consult with his/her advisor prior to registering.

Wayne State uses an online registration and payment system, through By using this system, a student can register/add/drop classes and review their course schedule. To make credit card payments for tuition and fees, or review tuition account balance and registration holds (if applicable), students must log into their account in Academica.

Once a student registers for courses, they can view their tuition bill and print their schedule online.

Priority registration

The academic calendar can be found at the Office of the Registrar. The academic calendar defines the dates for priority registration, as well as open and late registration. Students who do not register before the end of Priority Registration will be responsible for paying the additional fees.

Open registration

Open registration is conducted during the week preceding the first day of classes for the term. Specific dates and times are listed on the registration calendar available on the registrar’s website. A $35.00 late registration fee is accessed during this time frame. Payment of this fee is the responsibility of the student.

Late registration

Late Registration occurs during the first two weeks of classes. Anyone registering at this time will be assessed a $70 late fee. Payment of this fee is the responsibility of the student.

Drop/add – Changing the course schedule

Students may drop and/or add classes on the date(s) published in the academic calendar.

Students who officially drop courses before the conclusion of the second week of classes (for the fall and winter terms) are entitled to 100% tuition cancellation. The courses do not appear on the student's academic record.

Students who do not officially drop a course within the first two weeks of classes (for the fall and winter terms) are not entitled to any tuition cancellation and are obligated to pay for the course -- even if they have not attended any class sessions. Also, the Graduate School will not pay for any course from which a student withdraws (i.e., if a graduate research/teaching assistant drops a course after the second week, s/he is responsible for the tuition payment for that particular course.)

First-year chemistry graduate students may not withdraw from any course without permission of the Chemistry Graduate Studies Committee.

Full-time status requires that a graduate student be enrolled for a minimum of eight credits. Students who have graduate teaching or research assistantship appointments must register for between 6 and 16 credits each academic semester. However, the assistantship will only pay for up to 10 credits.

Students are not permitted to add courses after the first week of the term. Students are not permitted to drop courses after the date posted on the registrar’s website.

Payment of tuition

Grad assistants and fellows do not pay the registration fee.

The Graduate School is responsible for the payment of tuition for GTAs and Rumble Graduate Fellows. The chemistry department is responsible for the payment of tuition for GRAs. It is important that students notify the graduate academic services officer if any course schedule changes are made after classes begin.


Students whose tuition is paid through graduate teaching assistantships, research assistantships or fellowships are responsible for paying the SEVIS fee (if international students) of $50.

It is important to pay this fee either online or at the cashier’s office as soon as possible after registering for every semester. This will prevent a student from being responsible for paying late or partial payment penalties.

SEVIS fee reimbursement application

International students on GTA or GRA support who have already paid their SEVIS fee for the semester may apply to be reimbursed by the Graduate School.


Frequently when a graduate student attempts to register s/he will be informed that s/he has an accounts receivable hold. This is most often the result of a student not paying their SEVIS fee for the previous term. However, this also results when the:

  • Graduate teaching assistant or fellow did not give notification of their drop/add transaction to the Graduate School or;
  • Graduate research assistant did not give notification of their drop/add transaction to the departmental administrative assistant in charge of tuition payments

Please contact the chemistry academic services officer by email to notify of any problems. If a student has an academic hold, s/he should contact the chemistry academic services officer.

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