PhD in Chemical Physics

The PhD in Chemical Physics is offered jointly by the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Physics & Astronomy. This combined program is ideal for mathematically inclined chemistry graduate students or atomic-molecularly focused physics graduate students. Our students prepare for careers at this recognized interdisciplinary boundary in areas such as designing materials for energy production and utilization, basic issues in surface interactions and catalysis, and complex issues in biochemistry.

The curriculum requirements for the PhD in Chemical Physics meld those of Chemistry with those of Physics. The curriculum has more emphasis on chemical synthesis than the core program in Physics and more electricity and magnetism than the core program in Chemistry. These greater core requirements are balanced with a greater flexibility in the elective courses. The core program consists of seven graduate-level classroom courses at least three of which must be Chemistry courses and three must be Physics courses. The core courses should be completed by the fourth semester in residence. 

Course Requirements

Core courses

  • Two semesters of quantum/structure consisting of either Chemistry 133: Quantum Mechanics or Physics 163: Quantum Theory I and either Chemistry 136: Spectroscopy and Molecular Structure or Physics 164: Quantum Physics II.
  • One semester of electricity and magnetism consisting of Physics 145: Classical Electromagnetic Theory I.
  • One semester of statistical-thermodynamics consisting of either Chemistry 131: Statistical Thermodynamics or Physics 153: Statistical Mechanics.
  • One course on structure/bonding, to be chosen from among Chemistry 150: Intermediate Organic Chemistry, Chemistry 151: Physical Organic Chemistry, Chemistry 152: Advanced Organic Synthesis, Chemistry 161: Advanced Inorganic Chemistry, and Chemistry 162: Chemistry of Transition Elements.

Elective courses

Two additional courses from among the following:

  • Chemistry 132: Chemical Kinetics and Dynamics
  • Chemistry 151: Physical Organic Chemistry
  • Chemistry 162: Chemistry of Transition Elements
  • Physics 131: Advanced Classical Mechanics
  • Physics 146: Electromagnetic Theory II
  • Physics 173: Introduction to Solid-State Physics I
  • Physics 174: Introduction to Solid-State Physics II 
  • Other appropriate courses may be substituted with the approval of the student’s advisory committee.
  • Two oral presentations are required:
    • A public seminar by the end of the fourth semester. The seminar is based on current literature, can be presented in either department and is evaluated by the research committee.
    • A presentation to the student’s research committee in the fifth semester. The topic for the presentation to the committee is chosen by the student in consultation with the research committee. This presentation may be waived for students having at least a 3.3 average in the core courses.
  • In addition, the student must prepare a written, original research proposal by the end of the eighth semester. This proposal shall be somewhat distinct from the thesis work and defended orally before the advisory committee.