Skip to main content

Chemistry PhD

Solana Beach2015 Commencement

The goal of the Chemistry PhD is to prepare students for careers in science as researchers and educators by expanding their knowledge of chemistry while developing their ability for critical analysis, creativity, and independent study. A high graduation rate in an average of just over five years can be attributed to the quality of applicants admitted, the flexibility of our program of study, the opportunity for students to begin research in the first year, and the affordability of education made possible by our generous financial support policies.

Program Overview

Programs of study are tailored to the needs of individual students, based on their prior training and research interests. However, progress to a degree is generally similar for all students. During the first year, students take courses, begin their teaching apprenticeships, choose research advisors, and embark on their thesis research; students whose native language is not English must pass an English proficiency examination. Beginning the first summer, the emphasis is on research, although courses of special interest may be taken throughout a student's residency. In the second year, there is a departmental examination which includes a written research proposal and an oral defense of the research proposal. In the third year, students advance to candidacy for the doctorate by defending the topic, preliminary findings, and future research plans for their dissertation. Subsequent years focus on thesis research and writing the dissertation. Most students graduate during their fifth year.

Research Opportunities

Research opportunities for graduate students are comprehensive and interdisciplinary, spanning inorganic, organic, physical, analytical, computational, and theoretical chemistry; surface and materials chemistry; and atmospheric and environmental chemistry. Please refer to the faculty pages for full descriptions of the ongoing research in our department. State-of-the-art facilities and laboratories support these research programs.

At UCSD, chemists and biochemists are part of a thriving community that stretches across campus and out into research institutions throughout the La Jolla and San Diego area, uniting researchers in substantive interactions and collaborations.

Special Training Programs

Interdisciplinary research and collaboration at UCSD is enhanced through a variety of training grants. These programs provide financial support for exceptional graduate and postdoctoral scholars and also unite researchers from across campus and throughout the La Jolla research community in special seminars, retreats, and courses. Doctoral students are usually placed on training grants in their second year or later.


Teaching apprenticeships are a vital and integral part of graduate student training, and four quarters of teaching are required. See the Teaching Assistants page to apply. Students can gain experience teaching both discussion and laboratory sections. Excellence in teaching is stressed, and the department provides a thorough training program covering both fundamentals and special techniques for effective instruction. Further training is provided by the Teaching and Learning Commons on campus. Performance is evaluated every quarter, and awards are bestowed quarterly for outstanding teaching performance.

Financial Support

Students in good academic standing receive a 12-month stipend; fees and tuition are also provided. Support packages come from a variety of sources, including teaching and research assistantships, training grants, fellowships, and awards. Special fellowships are awarded to outstanding students based on their admission files. See Ph.D. Program Support Policy for more information.

Health and Dental Plan

A primary health care program, major medical plan, and dental plan are among the benefits provided by the University's registration fee (see Graduate Student Health Insurance Program, GSHIP). Minor illnesses and injuries can usually be treated at the Student Health Center. Counseling is provided free of charge through Counseling and Psychological Services.


Creative, bright, and motivated students from diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply. We admit for the Fall quarter entrance only. See UCSD Ph.D. Admissions FAQ page for full information.

PostGraduate Placement

Graduates typically obtain jobs in academia or in the chemical industry. Many take postdoctoral research positions in academic institutions and national laboratories that lead to future academic or industrial careers at other prestigious institutions. Our faculty and Student Affairs staff provide career advising and job placement services. The department's Industrial Relations program assists students with placement in industrial positions. UCSD's Career Services Center provides many resources for students, including the chance to videotape yourself in a mock interview!