2020-2021 Graduate Catalog 
    May 10, 2021  
2020-2021 Graduate Catalog

Chemistry (Ph.D.)

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Program Coordinator/Contact

Douglas Raynie, Department Head
Jihong Cole-Dai, Graduate Program Coordinator
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Avera Health and Science Center 131, Box 2202

Program Information

The Department’s chemistry faculty research programs fall into the thematic focus areas of environmental chemistry, green chemistry, chemical sensor development, organic synthesis, materials chemistry, natural products chemistry, and chemical education. Within these multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary focus areas, students can select research projects that involve the traditional subdisciplines of chemistry; analytical, biochemistry, inorganic, organic, and physical. Currently active research projects in the Department focus on various aspects of analytical chemistry, drug discover and delivery, synthesis or photoactive materials including polymers, materials chemistry and self assembly, chromatography, the chemistry of cell membranes, environmental analysis, green chemistry, chemistry of climate change, photophysical chemistry, natural products synthesis, biophysical chemistry, computational chemistry, and solid-state NMR. For additional information about these options, review the descriptions of current faculty research interests on the Department website.

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Graduate degree recipients will possess comprehensive disciplinary knowledge with high competence.
    • Ph.D. degree recipients will be able to demonstrate knowledge of the chemistry discipline, appropriate sub-discipline and related scientific disciplines (e.g., biochemistry, biology, mathematics, physics, environmental science) and be cognizant of the disciplinary development frontier.
    • Ph.D. degree recipients will be able to define scientifically meaningful research issues, develop competitive proposals, and contribute to knowledge creation through research.
    • Graduate degree recipients will be prepared to demonstrate knowledge and technical skills in a large variety of professional fields, careers and endeavors.
    • Graduate degree recipients will communicate effectively in an oral, written and visual manner to technical audiences and stakeholders.
    • Graduate degree recipients will possess and practice high standards of scientific integrity and professional ethics. (Communication Skills)
  • Graduate degree recipients will possess trans-disciplinary professional skills.
    • Graduate degree recipients will apply creativity to innovation.
    • Graduate degree recipients will recognize the importance of workplace diversity in culture, gender, perspective, and experience.
    • Graduate degree recipients will work effectively with peers and develop mentoring skills.
    • Graduate degree recipients will develop an understanding of the intellectual property process and the business needs of their workplace. (Transferable Skill: Mentoring; Diversity Awareness; Entrepreneurship)
  • Students will be familiar with the research literature of their chemistry subdiscipline and have the ability to keep abreast of major developments to acquire a working background in any area. (Communication Skills)
  • Students will be able to demonstrate skill in the recognition of meaningful problems and questions for research.
  • Students will possess technical skill in laboratory manipulation.
  • Students will be able to demonstrate skill in designing experimental protocols and in conducting productive self-directed research.

Research Instrumentation

The Department is equipped with modern instrumentation core facilities to support its research program. These facilities are readily available to graduate students for “hands-on” experience after successfully completing a short training course.

  • NMR core facility includes 600, 400, and 200 MHz solution FT-NMR spectrometers and 400, 300, 100 MHz wide-bore solid-state NMR spectrometers
  • Core campus mass spectrometry facility consists of a high-resolution magnetic sector mass spectrometer with EI and CI sources and GC, HPLC, pyrolysis and fast-atom bombardment capabilities, a MALDI-TOF mass spectrometer; a Eksigent/Thermo LTQ ESI LC-MS/SM dedicated to “bottom-up” proteomics studies; and an Applied Biosystems SCIEX QTRAP ESI LC-MS/MS dedicated to small molecule and metablomics characterizations.
  • Core campus proteomics facility has all the necessary equipment to prepare samples for mass-spectrometry-based proteomics characterizations.
  • Optical Spectroscopy lab containing 2 FT-IR spectrometer with far-IR capabilities; time-resolved spectrofluorometer; atomic absorption; and diode-array UV-Vis spectrophotometers.
  • The Department is home to multiple state of the art fluorescence microscopes for the analysis of biochemical reactions involving purified molecules and within living cells.  These instruments including spinning disk confocal microscopy, total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy, targeted photo-bleaching, instrumentation of for ensemble and single-molecule fluorescence-resonance energy transfer (FRET) experiments and fluorescence-correlation spectroscopy, and optogenetics capabilities.  The department also houses cell/tissue culture facilities, large- and small-scale protein-purification equipment and biophysical characterization capabilities including isothermal titration calorimetry. Campus computer facilities (including a Beowulf supercomputer cluster) are readily available.  Individual groups maintain their own systems for molecular modeling, word processing or data manipulation.  Direct, on-line computer access to chemical and biochemical literature databases such as Chemical Abstracts and Web of Science are provided by the Department.
  • In addition to these departmental resources, individual research groups also maintained instrumentation including supercritical fluid chromatography and extraction, thermal analysis, and laser light scattering. Campus super-computer facilities and on-line computer access to other on-line information sources are readily available.

Course Delivery Format

Courses offered in the Ph.D. Chemistry curriculum are taught in a variety of formats which address student learning outcomes. Didactic (lecture) methods ensure the development of advanced knowledge of chemistry. Practical (laboratory) methods ensure the development and maturation of laboratory skills and training and these opportunities are developed in the research laboratory. A combination of didactic and practical methods ensures the successful completion of the graduate dissertation research project.

Facilities and Services

The Department is housed in the Avera Health and Science Center, which provides 100,000 sq. ft. of research and instructional space.

Available Options for Graduate Degrees

Doctor of Philosophy 60 Credit Plan
  90 Credit Plan

Core Requirements

60 Credit Plan

90 Credit Plan

Students are required to complete 21 credits of course work that includes 12 credits of core coursework and 9 credits specific to the research project.  Additionally, students must complete 3 credit hours of seminar. The remaining credits in the 90 credit plan of study are dissertation research. Students must develop their program of study in consultation with their graduate research advisor and graduate advisory committee during the first semester in residence.

Candidacy Examinations

The Department uses a cumulative examination process as its written candidacy (comprehensive) examination for the doctorate in Chemistry. Exams will be scored on a scale of 0-1-2 where 0 represents inadequate knowledge of the material (corresponding to a failing grade), 1 represents adequate knowledge (corresponding to a grade of B or C), and 2 represents superior knowledge (corresponding to a grade of A or B). Successful completion of the cumulative examination process will require that the student accumulate 10 points, with at least three scores of 2 within the sub-discipline of their graduate research and accumulation of points in at least two additional chemistry subdisciplines. These exams must be passed over a period of two calendar years (24 possible tests). The oral candidacy (comprehensive) exam takes place within a year of completion of the cumulative exams. For the oral examination, students are required to develop and write an original research proposal and defend it orally. In order to successfully defend such a proposal, the student must be able to integrate their coursework into the proposed research, and the oral defense reflects that expectation. 

Additional Admission Requirements

GRE: General and subject score are recommended but not required
TOEFL: Score of 580 paper-based, 92-93 Internet-based
IELTS: 5.5

Applications are accepted for admission to the Ph.D. program in fall only.  Students are strongly encouraged to submit their applications for admission no later than January 15.  Initial offers of admission will be made no later than the first week of February.

In addition to the materials required by the Graduate School, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry requires the following application materials:

  • A one- to two-page personal statement which includes a description of undergraduate research, work experience, or other factors demonstrating a propensity toward graduate studies. The personal statement should also include a statement of the applicant’s career goals. The applicant may upload this statement while completing the Graduate School’s online application.
  • Three letters of recommendation, preferably at least one from faculty at the applicant’s undergraduate institution. Letters should come from faculty who are directly familiar with the applicant’s academic work. They must address the applicant’s scholarly potential and may also speak to the applicant’s potential for graduate studies in the discipline. Letters should come directly from the recommenders, who may submit their letters electronically along with the personal recommendation form provided by the Graduate School. The Graduate School will email recommenders detailed instructions for submitting their recommendations using the contact information provided by the applicant.

General Requirements

Graduate students must consult with their advisor before registering for graduate coursework.

For additional information refer to the Doctor of Philosophy Degree Requirements .

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