Description of the Ph.D. Program
I. Formal Course Work
Graduate students accumulate 72 credits from a combination of classroom courses and research in order to fulfill the requirements for the Ph.D. In order to maintain full- time status in the graduate program students must register for 12 credits each semester until they achieve these 72 credits.
Each student must complete 20 credits worth of graduate-level course work and maintain good standing, which requires a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or greater and having no single class grade below a B-. The specific courses and the balance of required and elective courses may vary by area of specialization, which include Biomedical and Biomolecular Chemistry; Materials and Nanoscience; Synthesis; and Theoretical Chemistry). Eligible courses can be found on the department’s Web site at http://www.nyu.edu/pages/chemistry/graduate.html. Students are expected to complete a set of courses based on their intended area of research specialization. In their second fall semester of residence, students also must enroll in the Graduate Seminar course (see below). A student may customize a course sequence suitable for an interdisciplinary curriculum with approvals from the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) and a faculty member in one of the chosen areas of specialization.
II. Language Requirement
Students who are not native English speakers must demonstrate proficiency in both spoken and written English. This is required by New York University. Foreign language students will be required to take English courses at the American Language Institute during their first year, although this requirement can be waived for students with moderate proficiency upon request. These courses are non-credit, but a load of eight (8) credits plus one English course in a given semester fulfills the requirement for full-time status. Effective communication in English, which includes comprehension, writing and speaking abilities, is a critical component of the graduate program, and a student will not be granted Ph.D. candidacy status (obtained by passing the Ph.D. qualifying exam) if English proficiency is inadequate.
III. Colloquium Attendance
Departmental colloquia are held each Friday during the academic year. Graduate students are expected to attend these on a regular basis throughout their graduate school career. Note that departmental colloquia are distinct from seminar courses. Students must attend a minimum of ten (10) colloquia prior to scheduling their Ph.D. qualifying examination by February 15th of their second year (see below). Students not fulfilling this requirement will not be permitted to take the qualifying exam, thereby risking having their candidacy withheld. Colloquium attendance will be recorded at each colloquium using a sign-in sheet that must be signed by all graduate students in attendance. In addition, students must attend a minimum of ten (10) additional colloquia prior to the Dissertation Evaluation Exam (see below). Students who have not attended the requisite number of colloquia will not be permitted to take the Dissertation Evaluation Exam and, therefore, risk having their dissertation defense delayed.
IV. Year 1 Semester 1 (Fall)
Orientation. During orientation week, which is held prior to the beginning of the Fall Semester, students meet with an assigned faculty advisor for guidance on course selection and research rotation choices. Every effort is made to pair each student with a faculty advisor in the student’s stated area of interest.
Coursework. During Semester 1 (Fall), students must register for, attempt and finish 12 credits worth of academic courses (a W is not acceptable under these guidelines). Exceptions to this rule must be approved by the DGS. Students who do not pass the English proficiency test offered by ALI and are therefore required to enroll in the English course have the option of substituting one of their academic courses for their mandatory English course. Furthermore, first year students are required to take the zero-credit course “Professional Development in the Sciences” (Chem-GA 2673).
Research Rotations. Students are required to perform two research rotations during the first Semester (Semester 1). Rotations are intended to introduce students to ongoing research projects within the Department. A rotation typically consists of a set of training exercises and/or a small independent project related to the research activities of the selected group(s). Rotation assignments are group dependent and will vary among the research groups. Individual research faculty will provide the student with their expectations for a given rotation cycle. In preparation for choosing their rotations, students are required to meet with six faculty members during the first three weeks of the semester. All students are required to bring the completed Research Interest and Rotation Form to these meetings and will have the faculty member sign the form after the meeting has taken place. Students must submit this form to the Graduate Program Administrative Aide -- Jennifer Hackleman, indicating their three rotation choices ranked in order of preference, by Wednesday, September 19, 2018. The three choices must correspond to faculty members who have signed the form. Students will be notified about rotation assignments soon after this deadline. The rotation schedule is below:
Rotation #1: Monday, September 24, 2018 to Friday, October 26, 2018
Rotation #2: Monday, October 29, 2018 to Tuesday, December 4, 2018
Students are expected to spend at least 10 hours per week on their rotation projects. At the end of the second rotation, students must turn in the Dissertation Adviser Selection Form by Thursday, December 6, 2018. Faculty supervisors will submit a performance evaluation to the DGS for each rotation student. These evaluations become part of the permanent student record. These choices will be reviewed by the Departmental Executive Committee, after which the DGS will inform each student of the Committee’s recommendation, typically by the middle of December. The Committee will make every effort to approve the first or second choice of dissertation advisor, but these choices cannot be guaranteed. If a particular research group is full, or if it is deemed that a student is not suited to the research of a particular group, the Committee may not immediately approve a student’s first or second choice. Students who are assigned in December should initiate their research activities toward their dissertation projects on or about the first business day in January (January 2, 2019). In certain circumstances, the Departmental Executive Committee may defer their decision until January. In addition, the Committee may request that students carry out a third or potentially fourth rotation during the spring semester, in which case the student would need to submit another choice of faculty advisor to the DGS by May 15, 2019. Students are encouraged to communicate with the DGS during this time.
Semester 2 (Spring)
Coursework. Students must enroll and complete eight credits worth of class work and enroll for a section of “Research” (Chem-GA 2931). The Research section replaces a formal academic course, allowing the student to pursue research in greater depth. Research is a credit-bearing academic course and as such, students will receive a grade for Research from their dissertation advisors based on their research performance during the semester.
Year 1 Evaluation. Shortly after the end of the spring semester, each student will receive a letter from the DGS containing an evaluation of his/her performance during the first academic year. The evaluation will be based on grades received in academic courses and Research, rotation evaluations, and for students taking English, evaluations from the instructors at the American Language Institute. The year-end evaluation from the DGS will, as needed, present suggestions for areas of improvement and, for students taking English, recommendations for continued language instruction, which usually entails the course in Accent Correction. Any concerns regarding academic standing will be communicated to the student at this time. In some cases, poor academic progress may result in termination.
Year 2 Semester 3 (Fall)
Core Dissertation Committee. By the third Friday of September in Semester 3 (Fall), each student submits to the Department Graduate Office the names of the members of his/her Dissertation Committee, using the Departmental Dissertation Committee Form. At this stage, the Dissertation Committee must include four tenure- track/tenured faculty members (herein denoted the “Core”) from the Department, including the student’s dissertation advisor. (Note: the Dissertation Committee for the final defense requires five members; see below.) The Core Dissertation Committee is responsible for evaluating the student’s Ph.D. qualifying examination and monitoring the student’s progress throughout his/her years in the Ph.D. program. Three of the committee members must be full time members of the FAS faculty. One of the four Core Dissertation Committee members must be from outside of the student’s area of specialization as defined by the department (biomedical chemistry and chemical biology, biomolecular and biophysical chemistry, nanoscience and materials, synthetic chemistry, and theory and computation). With the permission of the DGS and the student’s dissertation advisor, a student can select one expert who is not a member of the Department’s tenure-track/tenured faculty to serve as a member of the Core Dissertation Committee. Before choosing outside members, however, students should bear in mind that serving on a Dissertation Committee is a substantial commitment, and the student should ensure that all their selected Committee members will be able to attend the required examinations, seminars, and periodic meetings, as described below. Students are encouraged to discuss Dissertation Committee choices with their dissertation advisor prior to selection.
Coursework. During Semester 3, students should complete any remaining required academic course work. Non-native English speakers for whom accent correction was recommended by ALI might, in consultation with their dissertation advisor, want to attend the Accent Correction course offered by ALI as well. In addition, students must register for Graduate Seminar, a course designed to give students the opportunity to present a 45-minute seminar in front of the department and to attend seminars presented by their peers (CHEM-GA 3010). Graduate Seminar should not be confused with the weekly Departmental Colloquia. Students also must register for a number of Research credits sufficient to maintain full-time status. As in Year 1, Research is regarded as an academic course, and students receive a grade for Research from their dissertation advisor.
Semester 4 (Spring)
Coursework. During Semester 4, students should complete any remaining required academic courses and register for a number of Research credits sufficient to maintain full-time status. As in Year 1, Research is regarded as an academic course, and students receive a grade for Research from their dissertation advisor.
Ph.D. Qualifying Examination. Students must schedule and take their Ph.D. qualifying examination during Semester 4. The student must arrange the date and time for the examination with the members of his/her Dissertation Committee by February 15 and to inform the Department Graduate Office of the date and time. The exam should be held between April 15 and June 15. The Ph.D. qualifying examination consists of both written and oral components, as described below.
Written Report. The written report is submitted to the Exam Committee at least two weeks before the scheduled exam date. The report should consist of: (i) a 250-word abstract understandable to a technically-trained individual outside of the student’s field; (ii) a 1-page discussion of the background, motivation, and significance of their research project; (iii) a 5-page description of specific research accomplishments; (iv) a two-page description of future research plans; and (v) an appendix containing experimental or computational details (all sections single spaced, 12-point font). This report should be submitted in a format that stringently corresponds to that of a high- impact journal in the student’s area of specialization, which may include, but is not limited to, the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Physical Review, or Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Formatting includes font sizes, margins and figures, among others. If available for a given journal, the use of a template is encouraged. In contrast to most journal requirements, ‘single space’ must be used for the written report.
Oral Presentation. The oral portion of the exam consists of a 30-minute presentation by the student to the Core Dissertation Committee followed by a question-and-answer session of up to two hours in length. The oral presentation should include the background, motivation and significance of the research project, specific methods and techniques used, results obtained to date, and future research plans. The Committee will then question the student about the research, concepts related to courses completed by the student, and general fundamental concepts that every chemistry student at this stage is expected to have mastered.
Both the written and oral portions of the exam are evaluated based on the following criteria:
Depth of technical knowledge about the research project
Breadth of knowledge in the general research field
Understanding of the methodology/techniques employed
Understanding of specific results obtained in the course of the research project
Ability to communicate effectively
Ability to understand and answer questions accurately
Examinations are awarded one of the following grades:
Pass with Distinction
In order to be granted Ph.D. candidacy status, students must earn at least a “Pass”, which will be awarded only if all of the above criteria are met at a satisfactory level. “Pass with Distinction” is reserved for students who perform exceptionally well in all of the above categories. Failure to satisfy some of the above criteria will result in a “Conditional Pass”, which requires that some part(s) of the exam, to be determined by the Core Dissertation Committee, be repeated prior to August 20 of that year. In certain marginal cases, a student might be given a grade of “Pass” but be asked to submit certain materials, within four weeks, to the Core Dissertation Committee for reevaluation and final approval of a passing grade, without requiring another examination. Failure to satisfy a majority or all of the above criteria will result either in a “Conditional Fail” or “Fail”. A grade of “Conditional Fail” requires that the exam be repeated in its entirety between July 1 and August 20 of that year. A grade of “Fail” will result in the student’s dismissal from the program by the end of the summer semester (August 31) of that year.
VI. Year 3
Research/Coursework. During Year 3, students should focus on dissertation research and prepare for the Original Research Proposal Exam (see below). Students may take additional courses beyond the number required for the degree. MacCracken supported students are eligible for a tuition scholarship only for the courses needed to meet the 72 points toward the degree requirements. The tuition scholarship is reduced by the number of advanced credits accepted by the department. Any student wishing to take additional courses must obtain the approval of their dissertation advisor before enrolling in or choosing to audit additional courses.
Original Research Proposal (ORP) Exam: The original proposal exam provides an opportunity for the student to demonstrate proficiency in the design, planning and communication of an original research problem. Students are asked to propose a series of experiments to a specific problem or system or the application of an existing technique to a specific problem or application. The proposal must be original, meaning that there should be no overlap with the student’s dissertation topic and the proposed technique and/or application should not have appeared in the scientific literature. The original proposal consists of written and oral components.
Written component: The written part of the exam, which must be submitted to the Dissertation Committee members at least two weeks prior to the scheduled exam date, consists of a seven-page, single-spaced document following NSF Guidelines (From the NSF Grant Proposal Guide: “The proposal must be clear, readily legible, and conform to the following requirements: a. Use one of the following typefaces – Arial, Courier New, or Palatino Linotype at a font size of 10 points or larger; Times New Roman at a font size of 11 points or larger; Computer Modern Family of fonts at a font size of 11 points or large; b. No more than 6 lines of text within a vertical space of 1 inch; and c. Margins, in all directions, must be at least an inch.”). The student has to submit only the basic proposal following the NSF guidelines. All other forms and requirements described in the NSF grant proposal guidelines (such as biosketches, budget pages, equipment, etc.) should be neglected.
In the written proposal, students should (i) identify a research topic in chemistry not related to their dissertation research, (ii) explain its importance and broader context, (iii) describe a project that falls within the scope of the topic, (iv) describe how the project would be performed and how its feasibility would be demonstrated, and (v) describe the overall aims of the project and the results anticipated upon its completion. Experimental proposals should include details of the experiments needed for project completion whereas theoretical proposals should describe specific calculations as well as methodological and theoretical developments.
Oral component: The oral component consists of a 30-minute presentation summarizing the written proposal, followed by questions from the Examination Committee (see below). This question and answer session will be based primarily on the written proposal and short presentation, but it may expand into the broader context of the proposed project.
Exam scheduling and mechanics: This exam will take place in mid-January of the third year. Students will be notified of the exact date by the DGS early in the fall semester so that they can plan accordingly. Unlike the Ph.D. qualifying examination, students do not schedule this exam on their own. Rather, a schedule will be created by the DGS such that each student is assigned to a particular time window. Students must show up for their assigned examination time – change requests will only be entertained under extreme circumstances. In addition, this examination is not evaluated by the student’s thesis committee but rather by a set of departmental ORP subcommittees determined by the Chair and the DGS in consultation with the Executive Committee.
Students who fail either the written or the oral portions of the Dissertation Evaluation Exam will be ineligible for departmental fellowships and awards until the exam is successfully completed. Successful completion of the exam is also a requirement for scheduling the Dissertation Evaluation Examination (see below). Students who fail the ORP will not be able to retake the examination until the next time their assigned ORP subcommittee meets again the following year.
VII. Year 4
During Year 4, students should focus entirely on dissertation research. Students who need to retake the ORP will be scheduled to do so in January of Year 4.
VIII. Year 5
Dissertation Evaluation Exam. Prior to taking the Dissertation Evaluation Exam, students must choose an additional Outside Reader to serve on their final Dissertation Committee. With the permission of the DGS and the student’s dissertation advisor, a student can select one expert who is not a member of the Department’s tenure-track/tenured faculty to serve as a member of the Core Dissertation Committee. The student is responsible for informing the Department Graduate Office of the choice using the ‘Dissertation Committee Reader Selection Form.’
The Dissertation Evaluation Exam is held with all five members of the Dissertation Committee. Prior to scheduling this exam, all experimental research should be complete. This exam consists of a rigorous evaluation of the student’s dissertation research. The entire exam must be completed within 3-6 months prior to the anticipated date of the dissertation defense. Students may not schedule their dissertation defense until they have successfully completed both parts of this requirement and have successfully passed the ORP. The Dissertation Evaluation Exam consists of both written and oral components.
Written component: To allow the Dissertation Committee to evaluate a student’s progress completely as well as the thesis, the following written components must be provided to the committee two weeks prior to the scheduled exam: The complete introductory chapter(s) of the student’s thesis and detailed outlines of every thesis chapter. Failure to provide all or part of the written component will result in cancelling of the exam.
Oral component: The student must give a 30-minute presentation on their research to their Dissertation Committee, to be followed by questions from the Committee members on the research. If the Committee identifies problems with the student’s research, deems that additional work is needed, feels that some aspect of the work presented should be completely or partially repeated, or detects serious weaknesses in knowledge of chemical principles, this will be communicated to the student at this time.
Students who fail either the written or the oral portions of the Dissertation Evaluation Exam will be asked to repeat all or some portion of this part of the exam with specific instructions on what needs to be improved or modified. Students who fail all parts of the exam are responsible for scheduling their make-up exam at a time that is convenient for the members of their Dissertation Committee. Students who pass this exam can schedule their Dissertation Defense.
Dissertation. The submission and defense of your dissertation is the final chapter of your graduate career. The dissertation defense consists of two parts: a) a written Ph.D. dissertation and b) an oral defense of the dissertation work.
Submitting the Dissertation Draft: At least six weeks prior to the anticipated dissertation defense date, students must submit a complete draft of their dissertation to their Dissertation Committee members for comments and recommendations of changes. At this time, the Committee will recommend changes to the dissertation. The student must incorporate these changes and obtain the signatures of their Committee members on the ‘Departmental Dissertation Approval Form’ no less than two weeks prior to the date of the defense. The defense cannot proceed without the form having been signed and filed with the Department.
The Dissertation Defense: The final step in receiving the Ph.D. is the dissertation defense. The dissertation defense consists of an oral presentation by the student, approximately 45-50 minutes in length, which is open to the public. During this time questions from the public audience and the committee are encouraged. The presentation is followed by a question-and-answer section, which is open to the public. Afterwards, the general audience and the student are excused and the Dissertation Committee discusses the student’s performance in a closed-door session. If any concerns remain, the student might be called back for a closed-door question-and-answer session with the Dissertation Committee.
Submission of Forms. Students are responsible for the submission of all required forms at the above outlined deadlines to the graduate office of the chemistry department. These forms include (but are not limited to):
Research interest and rotation form
Dissertation advisor selection form
Core dissertation committee selection form
Ph.D. qualifying exam form
Research progress meeting scheduling form
Research progress meeting form
Dissertation committee ‘reader’ selection form
Dissertation evaluation exam form
Departmental Dissertation approval form
Dissertation defense form
These forms can be downloaded as pdf files from the departmental website.
Cheating and Scientific Fraud. It is expected that all students will maintain the highest standards of scientific integrity. Cheating and fraud, including any form of plagiarism, copying, collusion on exams, or data falsification, will not be tolerated at any point in your graduate career. Students found guilty of any of the aforementioned infractions can expect to be placed on departmental probation at the very least and/or dismissed from the program.
Obeying the Rules and Departmental Citizenship. The department, as a whole, functions only as well as its individual members. Students are expected to behave as good departmental citizens. This means showing up on time for all meetings, attending as many Friday colloquia as possible (even those outside your field of study – you might just learn something!), being on time for all exams, and obeying the instructions of faculty and staff.
Petitions. In selected cases of hardship (medical etc.), a student can petition the graduate committee to delay an exam or waive a deadline. These petitions have to be approved PRIOR the deadline of the exam/deadline in question. Petitions should be submitted in writing to the graduate office of the department. Petitions will be reviewed twice annually by the graduate committee and have to be submitted by March 15th for the spring graduate committee meeting and September 15th for the fall meeting.