PhD Requirements

Research at the University of Oregon is designed to keep student researchers at the forefront of chemical science. Our programs in the traditional areas of biochemistry, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry lay the foundation for new discoveries in materials science, molecular biology, optics, and theoretical chemistry. Though our department is medium in size, we are a leading innovator in chemistry.

At the University of Oregon, we recognize the importance of diversity and breadth in graduate education and continue to respond to the shifts and changes in career opportunities available to our graduates. In pursuit of this goal, we take a cross-disciplinary, interdepartmental approach to research and graduate training. Institutes and centers facilitate scientific investigation at the boundaries of traditional fields and foster collaboration and cooperation between researchers in different departments. Faculty members and students are actively involved in collaborative research efforts in the department and in the interdepartmental research institutes, providing unique opportunities for defining and solving scientific problems. Students pursuing a PhD in chemistry may choose to complete thesis projects under the guidance of faculty in other departments, such as biology or physics.

Oregon’s science complex includes state-of-the-art buildings and facilities that continually evolve and expand to provide a stimulating environment for scientific discovery. Students have direct access to a diverse array of modern research instrumentation. Highly skilled full-time instrumentation specialists are available to assist with training and in the optimization of experiments. We have an excellent science library, nationally recognized computer resources, and professionally staffed technical support shops. Close proximity of research laboratories and facilities encourages spontaneous day-to-day interactions among students and faculty members, providing a rich chemical education.

While we de-emphasize the boundaries of traditional disciplines, the classic areas of chemistry do provide a convenient and familiar way to describe the department’s educational activities and research. They include biochemistry, molecular biology and biophysical chemistry; organic-inorganic chemistry; and physical chemistry.

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About the PhD Program

The friendly, collaborative nature of our department provides a supportive environment for students and faculty members to concentrate on learning and research. The graduate program emphasizes one-on-one faculty-student interactions, provides mechanisms for obtaining critical feedback and support, and offers students many opportunities to present their research findings to a general audience.

The first year of graduate study prepares students for their thesis research project through coursework, teaching and laboratory research rotations. Students can choose from a wide variety of courses covering traditional core topics and recent developments in chemistry – as well as courses covering such topics as presentation skills or scientific ethics. Teaching helps cement basic knowledge in chemistry and builds important communication skills and teaching experience.

Research rotations form an important part of our graduate program. During the first year, students rotate through three research groups before committing to their thesis research project. Students have over forty research groups in chemistry, biology, physics, and other departments to choose from. Laboratory rotations give students a first-hand look at possible dissertation projects. In addition, rotations provide breadth of experience and a network of colleagues to draw on throughout one’s graduate career. Ultimately, students complete the rotation experience well prepared to choose a thesis project.

After the first year, students focus on research and professional development. Their research is aided by the network of resources built during their rotation experience, the state-of-the-art instrumentation at their disposal, an extensive seminar series featuring scientists from around the world, and an environment that fosters the transfer of information between students and faculty.

To aid in professional development, our program offers students many options to explore and prepare for varied careers in teaching, academic research, government, or industry. Internships with regional companies and national labs are available for students to gain another perspective into their thesis research. These experiences help students learn more about the industrial or government lab research environment and they build vital connections with people in the nonacademic sector. Specialized courses are available to prepare students for internships in various industries.

Opportunities are also available for students interested in teaching careers, such as teaching internships with small regional colleges or in-depth curriculum development within the department. For example, students have completed teaching internships serving as sabbatical replacements at regional colleges, including Cal State Chico, the University of Portland, Linfield College, and Willamette University. Other students had an opportunity to develop curriculum for our new organic green chemistry laboratory course.

The quality of our educational program has been recognized by training grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Education. These grants recognize and support our efforts to provide a comprehensive educational program that can be tailored to the varied career goals of our students.

While the main criterion for choosing a Ph.D. program should be the standard of education and research, we would be remiss not to mention the quality of life in Oregon and Eugene. Quite simply, Oregon is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and Eugene’s location in the Pacific Northwest makes it one of the best places anywhere to live. The mountain and coastal scenery of Oregon, the vibrant cultural and recreational atmosphere of Eugene, and the burgeoning high-technology economy in the Northwest contribute to an appealing way of life.

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Required Milestones

The Graduate School and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry require that students complete required milestones in a timely manner to make satisfactory academic progress, in addition to maintaining a sufficient GPA and satisfying other departmental requirements. The table below summarizes these milestones and the expected term by the end of which they will be completed. In exceptional cases, the student’s committee may grant an extension for one or more of these milestones.

Table of Required Milestones for Chemistry and Biochemistry PhD Program

Division Required Milestone Expected Term of Completion
All Identify and join a research group End of Spring term of 1st year
Biochemistry Advance to Candidacy Late Fall or Early Winter of 2nd year
Organic/Inorganic/Materials Chemistry Pass Advancement to Candidacy Exam Spring of 2nd year 
Physical Chemistry Pass Advancement to Candidacy Exam Winter of 2nd year
All Maintain overall 3.0 GPA Every term

Please view the university-wide UO class schedule for our current course offerings. Want to learn more about program requirements? See details in our Graduate Student  Handbook.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How many people are in the UO Chemistry Department?

In Fall 2021, we have approximately 124 Ph.D. students. In addition, there are many undergraduates working in labs. We have 30 research-active faculty and six faculty instructors who teach undergraduate curriculum.

How long will it take to get a PhD in Chemistry?

Typically it takes five years.

How much time is spent teaching?

Teaching for at least one year is required and usually done during the first year. The time actually spent – including all aspects of teaching such as preparation, class time, office hours and grading – is approximately 10 to 20 hours a week.

How do I choose a lab to work in?

Students rotate through three research labs during their first year. Rotations provide an opportunity to experience several different research groups before choosing the graduate advisor and lab you will stay with for the remainder of your graduate student career. Chemistry students may choose to rotate in labs outside the chemistry department, including biology and physics, and may even complete their theses in these labs.

What are the coursework requirements?

Formal course work requirements consist of at least six graded graduate courses (four credits each) at the 500 OR 600 level. At least four of these courses must be in chemistry; two may be in an obviously related field. An advising committee will help you decide what courses to take. You will meet with faculty advisors during orientation before classes start fall term.

How much time is spent in the lab?

During the first year, students must balance lab time with classes and teaching. After the first year, students spend the majority of their time in lab. How many hours you spend depends in part on the expectations of your advisor, but it also depends on the efficiency and productivity of the student. Research time should be considered at least a full-time job if you expect to complete your graduate work in a reasonable amount of time.

What if I don’t get along with my advisor?

Rotations help you get to know faculty before you make a decision about what lab to work in. While it gives you the time to experience the research in the lab, it also gives you a chance to see how you work with others in the lab, including the advisor.

How much is the stipend – and will it allow me to support myself during graduate school?

Based on information we’ve gathered from our undergraduates going on to graduate school elsewhere, our stipend level is right in the ballpark with what other schools are offering PhD students. Current levels are more than adequate to support a student in graduate school. Read more about housing costs below. In addition to a stipend, Ph.D. students receive a tuition waiver and health insurance during the academic year. If you want more information about the specifics of what we offer, including the current stipend, please call our Graduate Program Manager at (541)346-4789 or email She is happy to answer any questions you have about support.

Is it difficult to find affordable housing in Eugene?

While the standard of living in Eugene is probably typical of many college towns, we have had a huge increase in the number of rental properties in recent years. As a result, rental properties are relatively easy to find and the competition among rental property managers is great. The University also offers off-campus student housing, which graduate students are eligible for. You can go to the UO Housing website to learn more about these units and the cost: You might also check the department’s housing page for links to other resources for housing in Eugene. By perusing the links to the local classifieds, you can get a good idea of what is available for what price range.

Generally, it is easy to find affordable housing close to campus in the summer and early fall (before most students arrive for classes). After that, it is still easy to find affordable housing; it just might be farther out from campus. Keep in mind, however, that Eugene is a relatively small town. Two to three miles out is considered a good distance from campus, even though it’s still within walking or biking distance.

Is it easy to get around town without a car?

All UO students have access to the city-wide bus system free of charge. You just show your student ID when you board. Buses can drop you right on campus from all over town. Eugene is also one of the most bike-friendly cities in the U.S. There are bike paths all over town, many of which are separate from automobile traffic. Many students do not own cars.

Are there opportunities available to work in the summer?

Doctoral students can begin working in a lab the summer before they begin classes. You can contact us if you’re interested in working with someone ( – (541)346-4789). For some students, this provides a way to get settled into graduate life before classes are added to the mix.

How is the weather in Eugene?

Summers in Eugene are worth waiting for. With temperatures in the 70s, 80s and 90s and very low humidity, the summers in Oregon are some of the most beautiful you will find anywhere in the world. Winters are mild and wet, with sunbreaks in between. Average winter temperatures are 53 degrees. Rain in the winter provides for the lush green of summer and a chance to get work done in the lab.

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Apply to our Graduate Program

Interested in Applying? Contact our Graduate Program Manager, Helen Durany, by email or at 541-346-4416.

Ready to apply? Start your application on GradWeb, the centralized application portal for graduate admissions at the University of Oregon.

Apply Now

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