This is the preliminary (or launch) version of the 2020-21 VCU Bulletin. This edition includes all programs and courses approved by the publication deadline; however we may receive notification of additional program approvals after the launch. The final edition and full PDF version will include these updates and will be available in August prior to the beginning of the fall semester.

Program goal

The Department of Chemistry is committed to the dual mission of teaching and research at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral level. In teaching, the purpose is to provide high quality education in chemistry to students in preparation for professional careers at all levels. In research, the goals are to advance the science of chemistry, to keep faculty on the forefront of the field and to maintain an educational program consistent with the latest technology and development of the discipline. Service to the chemical profession is also an important aspect of the department’s activities.

Student learning outcomes

  1. Demonstrate expertise (breadth and depth) in chemistry
  2. Demonstrate effective oral and written communication skills
  3. Demonstrate ability to analyze data critically
  4. Demonstrate ability to conduct independent research correctly while abiding to ethical and safety standards

VCU Graduate Bulletin, VCU Graduate School and general academic policies and regulations for all graduate students in all graduate programs

The VCU Graduate Bulletin website documents the official admission and academic rules and regulations that govern graduate education for all graduate programs at the university. These policies are established by the graduate faculty of the university through their elected representatives to the University Graduate Council.

It is the responsibility of all graduate students, both on- and off-campus, to be familiar with the VCU Graduate Bulletin as well as the Graduate School website and academic regulations in individual school and department publications and on program websites. However, in all cases, the official policies and procedures of the University Graduate Council, as published on the VCU Graduate Bulletin and Graduate School websites, take precedence over individual program policies and guidelines.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on academic regulations for graduate students.

Degree candidacy requirements

A graduate student admitted to a program or concentration requiring a final research project, work of art, thesis or dissertation, must qualify for continuing master’s or doctoral status according to the degree candidacy requirements of the student’s graduate program. Admission to degree candidacy, if applicable, is a formal statement by the graduate student’s faculty regarding the student’s academic achievements and the student’s readiness to proceed to the final research phase of the degree program.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following degree candidacy policy as published in the VCU Graduate Bulletin for complete information and instructions.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on degree candidacy requirements.

Graduation requirements

As graduate students approach the end of their academic programs and the final semester of matriculation, they must make formal application to graduate. No degrees will be conferred until the application to graduate has been finalized.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following graduation requirements as published in the Graduate Bulletin for a complete list of instructions and a graduation checklist.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on graduation requirements.

Other information

The Department of Chemistry graduate handbook is available online.


Apply online at

Admission requirements

Admission requirements
Degree:Semester(s) of entry:Deadline dates:Test requirements:
Ph.D.FallMar 15GRE-General
SpringNov 15

In addition to the general admission requirements of the VCU Graduate School, the following requirements represent the minimum acceptable standards for admission:

  1. Have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with 30 credit hours in chemistry.
  2. Admission on a provisional basis is possible for a student temporarily lacking this expected chemistry background.

Degree requirements

In addition to general VCU Graduate School graduation requirements, students are required to complete core and elective courses and to conduct original research under the supervision of an adviser.

  1. Credit hour requirements: Students in the Ph.D. in Chemistry program are required to earn a minimum of 60 graduate-level credit hours beyond the baccalaureate. At least one-half of the credit hours presented for graduation must be at the 600 level or higher.
  2. Proficiency exams: Students must demonstrate competency in analytical, inorganic, organic and physical chemistry by satisfactory performance on the proficiency exams. These examinations are standardized tests at the level of undergraduate courses and are offered during orientation week. These tests are used to inform students of their strengths and weaknesses, so that they can plan their course work accordingly.
  3. Doctoral candidacy: The student is required to complete written and oral examinations in his/her major field to become a doctoral candidate. The written examinations consist of a series of cumulative exams based on the chemistry literature. The oral examination includes the presentation and defense of the proposed dissertation research.
  4. Dissertation: Students must conduct a substantial original investigation under the supervision of their adviser. Students who wish to have a chemical education focus in their Ph.D. must include chemical education research and work on an “atoms and molecules” project encompassing a traditional area of chemistry (physical, analytical, organic, inorganic, chemical physics). Students must prepare dissertations reporting the results of the research and analyzing its significance in relation to existing scientific knowledge. An oral defense of the dissertation will be held. Full-time students should complete the degree requirements in four to five years.

Curriculum requirements

Required didactic courses 1
Select three core courses of the following four areas: analytical, inorganic, organic and physical 29
Advanced Organic Chemistry I
Atomic and Molecular Structure 4
Chemical Thermodynamics and Kinetics
Advanced Inorganic Chemistry I
CHEM 63x or ENGR 691 (courses in analytical area) 3
CHEM 698Investigations in Current Chemistry Literature (0.5 credit hour) 51
Select eight credit hours of the following recommended electives, in consultation with adviser:8
BIOC 500-level (except BIOC 505, BIOC 506 and BIOC 507)
Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology Module 1: Protein Structure and Function
Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology Module 2: Basic Metabolism
Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology Module 3: Central Dogma of Molecular Biology
Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology Module 4: Lipids/Membranes and Bioenergetics
Physical Properties of Macromolecules
Graduate Research Methods I
Statistical Methods I
Graduate Research Methods II
Statistical Methods II
Chemical Biology I
Chemical Biology II
CHEM 500-level
CHEM 600-level
Applied Quantum Chemistry
Molecular Spectroscopy
Modern Statistical Mechanics: Fundamentals and Applications
Chemical Thermodynamics
Chemical Kinetics
Advanced Inorganic Chemistry I
Advanced Inorganic Chemistry II
Electroanalytical Chemistry
Separation Science
Mass Spectrometry
Surface Science
Spectrochemical Analysis
Topics in Chemistry
Investigations in Current Chemistry Literature 5
Special Topics in Engineering
Special Topics in Engineering
Survey of Molecular Modeling Methods
Advanced Organic Synthesis: A Target-oriented Approach
Advanced Molecular Modeling Theory and Practice
Nanoscale Physics
Nanoscale Chemistry
Experimental Techniques in Nanoscience I
Experimental Techniques in Nanoscience II
Theoretical Studies of Nanostructures
Computational Nanoscience
Techniques in Material Research
Analytical Methods in Physics
Electromagnetic Theory
Quantum Mechanics
Topics in Physics
Surface and Materials Physics
Special Topics
Other required courses
CHEM 690Research Seminar in Chemistry 61-5
CHEM 692Chemistry Seminar Presentation 61
CHEM 693Chemistry Perspectives and Ethics 71
CHEM 697Directed Research 830
or HUMS 701 Post-candidacy Doctoral Research

Students must earn a minimum of 18 credit hours in didactic graduate courses, not including credit for CHEM 690, CHEM 692, CHEM 693CHEM 697 or HUMS 701.


One of these courses may be waived upon satisfactory proficiency exam scores. The number of required credit hours for the degree does not change. 


The ENGR 691 topics course must be materials characterization. 


In some cases, students may be required to enroll in both CHEM 510 and CHEM 511 because of proficiency exam scores. 


Students are expected to enroll in CHEM 698 (one credit hour) once during their graduate studies, prior to the semester of their literature seminar presentation (CHEM 692). 


Students are required to present two seminars, one in the second year (literature seminar) and the other one in the semester of graduation (research seminar). However, attendance throughout the Ph.D. is expected. During pre-candidacy students can register for CHEM 690 (one credit) to satisfy attendance and CHEM 692 (one credit) when presenting the literature seminar. After candidacy, either HUMS 701 or one credit of CHEM 697 can satisfy attendance and the research seminar presentation.


Students are expected to enroll in CHEM 693 within the first year of study. 


Students must register at least 1 credit of dissertation every spring and fall semester for a minimum of 30 credits. Additional dissertation credits may be taken if the total minimum of 60 that includes the required didactic courses is not fulfilled. Dissertation credits can be satisfied by registering CHEM 697 or HUMS 701, but the latter course is restricted to PhD candidates and only a maximum of 54 credits are allowed to count for the degree.

The minimum total of graduate credit hours required for this degree is 60.

Sarah C. Rutan, Ph.D.
Professor and graduate coordinator
(804) 828-7517

Additional contact
Maryanne M. Collinson, Ph.D.
Professor and chair of graduate recruiting and admissions committee
(804) 828-7509

Program website: