The Department of Chemistry at Case Western Reserve University strives to provide a world-class program of research and coursework for pursuit of graduate degrees in Chemistry. The PhD program is designed to equip students with a strong foundation for a career in chemistry, areas allied with chemistry, and chemical management. To accomplish this mission the Department offers courses, colloquia, and, most importantly, research programs guided by a faculty mentor in the fields of organic, biological, analytical, physical, and inorganic chemistry. Mentorship of PhD students during their maturation from apprentice to independent researcher is a major responsibility of faculty. During their training, students acquire technical proficiency in a focused area of expertise as well as a broad base of problem-solving skills and exposure to interdisciplinary science. This prepares them to enter the job market with the flexibility demanded by industry and academia. Another role of faculty is to convey to graduate students the proper ethics of scientific conduct. Furthermore, chemistry research is very equipment and instrument intensive, and often involves use of hazardous materials. Safety training thus receives careful attention and monitoring in our experimental programs.

PhD research at CWRU has two main foci: chemical biology and energy and materials. Chemical biology broadly defined includes programs in biochemistry, structural biology, biophysical chemistry, medicinal chemistry, the chemical basis of disease, and genetically-derived natural products. Energy and materials includes programs in photochemistry, ultrafast spectroscopy, theoretical and experimental electrochemistry, energy storage, solar energy, nanomaterials, and small molecule and polymer synthesis.


Admission Standards

A bachelor’s degree in chemistry, biochemistry, or related field is required for admission to the PhD program, with a GPA of 3.0/4.0 or class ranking in the upper third. Completed applications include transcripts of the student’s total record in higher education and at least three letters of recommendation from science teachers or supervisors. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is not required for admission into our program.

International applicants must also submit proof of English language proficiency. The TOEFL, IELTS, and PTE-Academic tests are approved by the School of Graduate Studies. Duolingo is not accepted.

Minimum scores:

  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL): 90
  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS): 7.0
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE-Academic): 61

The language test requirement can be waived if you have completed a bachelors or masters degree from an institution where English is the primary language of instruction. Please contact for more details.

Apply for your PhD in Chemistry now!

Application requirements can be found on our graduate programs admission page.


Program Details

Course Work

Students choose a curriculum of course work from among a large array of offerings in chemistry and related science departments. There is a six-course requirement, which can be satisfied completely during the student’s first year if desired, and includes a one-course requirement in each of the three major chemistry disciplines (organic, inorganic, and physical). Placement examinations in each of these three areas are given to all entering students in order to assess undergraduate competency and help the department advise the student as to the most prudent selection of first-year work.


All PhD students participate in the departmental teaching program, an important component of the student’s professional training. The two semester requirement as teaching assistant is usually satisfied during the first year.

Research Advisors

Graduate students become affiliated with a research advisor normally at the end of their first semester. An orientation program helps students select their advisors by acquainting them with the department faculty and their current and projected research activities. Students will then participate in lab rotations in at least two selected research groups indicated by the student. Every effort is made to match students with their first choice for advisor, although balance among research groups and funding circumstances are also taken into account. The research advisor becomes the student’s principal mentor regarding course selection, preparation for examinations, conduct of research, composition of the thesis, and professional placement. The student’s major activity toward the PhD degree is his or her original research under the supervision of the research advisor, culminating in the presentation and defense of the doctoral dissertation (thesis).

Thesis Committees

The progress of each PhD student toward the fulfillment of degree requirements is followed by a review committee, as well as by the student’s research advisor. A review committee of three faculty members is first appointed, in consultation with the research advisor, to conduct the oral examination leading to candidacy. The research advisor is not a member of this committee but is normally present at the oral examination. The review committee maintains informal contact with the student during the course of the thesis research in order to help the student ensure that satisfactory progress is being made. Upon successful completion of the thesis and other graduate requirements, the student presents and defends the thesis research before a final examination committee made up of the review committee plus the research advisor and a faculty member from outside the Department of Chemistry.

Other Academic Activities

Students in their first and second year are required to enroll in CHEM 605: Colloquium. Students attend our department seminar series to be exposed to a variety of specialties and projects in the field of Chemistry.


Financial Support

The Department of Chemistry financially supports PhD students through a combination of teaching and research assistantships at a competitive stipend level. This support continues on an annual basis, provided the student makes satisfactory progress toward the PhD degree. Financial support includes a full tuition waiver, health insurance coverage, and a stipend for living expenses.

Research fellowships are funded by research grants and contracts awarded to faculty. PhD students are encouraged to apply for additional fellowships.


Ohio Board of Regents Review Information

Date of last program review: Spring 2013
Date of next scheduled program review: Spring 2021
Date program goals and objectives were revised: Fall 2013

The manner in which the program addresses the needs of the state or region

Educational institutions and the biotechnology, polymer, and energy-related industries are major employers in Ohio and the Cleveland area. The PhD program in chemistry provides graduates with a solid, broadly based education which enables them to teach in the >130 institutions of higher education in the state of Ohio. Research in the department covers a wide range of chemical fields, such as biomedical research, chemical biology, energy research, chemical synthesis, spectroscopy, catalysis, and electrochemistry. Graduates trained in these areas are prepared for employment in many existing and emerging fields, such as the health and energy industries.

Placement Objectives for Graduates

The doctoral program in chemistry prepares students for faculty and research positions at colleges and universities and for employment in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, polymer, and energy-related industries. Among recent graduates, about 11% have tenure-track faculty positions, 26% have postdoctoral research positions, and 36% work in industry.