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Forms, Policies, and Path to the Ph.D.

The Chemistry and Biochemistry policies and procedures are here.

The Chemistry & Biochemistry PhD course roadmap is here.

Graduate division policies and necessary forms can be found on the Graduate Division website.

The annual meeting Individual Development Plan (IDP) form is here and the Excel template is here.

The mentoring survey grad students should fill out before their annual meeting is here.

Journal-based proficiency exams: (Formerly the preliminary exam) A series of journal-based exams will be given throughout the academic year to assess student readiness to read the scientific literature at an in-depth level and pursue Ph.D. level research. Exams will be based on journal articles, with each exam session having at least two journals from different sub-disciplines of chemistry. Students will choose one exam to take.  Each exam will be graded as worth 0, 1, 2, or 3 points. A score of 3 points demonstrates a knowledge level sufficient to proceed in the Ph.D. program, a score of 2 points demonstrates that the student has deficiencies that need to be addressed and that the current knowledge level is more appropriate for a masters level, and a score of 1 point demonstrates substantial deficiencies that need to be addressed. To satisfy the proficiency requirement, students must acquire 6 points total and have one score of 3 points on a given exam.  Exams are typically administered in mid-August, in mid-January, and in late May, with the journal articles provided two weeks before the exam to allow for collaborative, in-depth studying.

Graduate coursework: Students are required to: complete the required courses for one of the emphasis tracks, with a letter grade of at least “B” in each course ("S" in seminar courses graded S/U); earn a passing grade in a course addressing scientific ethics; serve as a teaching assistant for at least one semester; and present an open technical seminar or research poster at least once each academic year in residence.

Rotations and research: The core of the Chemistry and Biochemistry graduate program is the completion of a piece of original scientific research leading to a Ph.D. dissertation. To this end, each student should discuss research interests and possible research projects with faculty as early as possible, with a rotation in 2 or 3 research groups recommended to broaden research exposure and determine research interest alignment. Students should select and then must be accepted into the group of a faculty research advisor (major professor) no later than the end of the second semester of study. Summer funding decisions are usually due in February, so determining an advisor by then allows for the consideration of summer funding. Selection of a major professor must occur before the student’s faculty committee can be constituted. The student and the major professor together will develop a research topic and research will normally occupy a majority of the student’s time after the first year of residence.

MS and Ph.D. Committee: Students should discuss with their advisor who to ask to be on their committee toward the end of their first academic year in preparation for scheduling their first annual meeting. Advanced degree committees  consist of at least four members. One is the studnt’s major professor (advisor), two are other UC Merced faculty members in the grad group (one of whom is appointed as Chair who helps run the meetings and fills out the annual meeting paperwork), and one is from outside the grad group (external member). This external member may be a regular or adjunct faculty member from any university or an individual who has special expertise and qualifications. Note that the external member of the committee does not need to be determined until scheduling the qualifying exam. Although all members of the committee are not required to attend each annual meeting (see below), all members of the committee must be in attendance for Ph.D. qualifying and defense examinations or Master's comprehensive oral examination. All members of the committee must approve the Master's thesis or Ph.D. dissertation.

Annual Committee Meeting: Each year graduate students should meet with their committee to discuss progress towards the Ph.D. and get feedback, advice, and mentoring on their Ph.D. progress. Before the meeting, students should fill out this mentoring survey, and students and their advisor should fill out the Excel_template and the Individual Development Plan (IDP), and the student should prepare a two-page written research report (with background and context of the work, along with future plans); these documents should be emailed to the rest of the committee at least 1 day before the meeting. During the meeting (usually about an hour), students should present some slides on: classes taken, conferences attended, talks/posters presented, papers published, and then to give a short research update as well as an outline of future plans.  After the meeting, the chair of the committee fills out their section and sends it back to the student. The student should email the grad chair, the grad coordinator, and with both the Excel document and the IDP with the email subject Student_ID_Name and have the files also titled the same to be 1234000_John_Doe.xlsx and 1234000_John_Doe_IDP.  The Excel form helps with Grad Div assessment and the IDP is to help the student, advisor, and committee set goals and focus progress towards achieving those goals. There is considerable evidence that IDPs with concrete goal setting help students in their research training and facilitate communication between mentees and mentors. The qualifying exam can serve as the annual meeting.

Ph.D. Qualifying Exam:  All students in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Ph.D. program are required to pass an oral qualifying examination before advancement to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. This is usually taken at the end of the student's 2nd or 3rd year in the program. The intent of this examination is to ascertain the breadth of a student’s comprehension of fundamental facts and principles that apply in his or her major field of study. It will also determine the student’s ability to think critically about the theoretical and practical aspects of the field. Accordingly, the examination should be focused on the student’s field of research but may and should venture into other areas of scholarship that underlie or impinge on the thesis topic. Graduate division information about the qualifying exam can be found here.

The steps for the qualifying exam and advancement to candidacy are:

1. Determine exam date with the committee

2. Apply for qualifying exam one month prior to exam date by submitting this form to grad div

3. One week before the exam submit the written research report to the committee and the Individual Development Plan

4. Day of exam have the qualifying exam report ready, the committee fills in the report after the exam and the chair submits it to grad div

5. After the form is processed by grad div, the graduate coordinator will provide a link for advancement to candidacy

The written research report  (typically five to ten pages, but check with the committee about their expectations) describes the research topic, summarizes progress to date, and outlines the proposed work, why it is relevant, and what will be learned. The committee members should include in their deliberations such factors as relevant portions of the previous academic record, performance on the examination, and an overall evaluation of the student’s performance and potential for scholarly research as indicated during the examination.

Ph.D. Dissertation, Defense, and Degree: The Doctor of Philosophy degree is not granted by the University of California merely for the fulfillment of technical requirements, such as residence or the completion of fundamental courses. The recipient of a Ph.D. degree is understood to possess thorough knowledge of a broad field of learning and to have given evidence of distinguished accomplishment in that field; the degree is a warrant of critical ability and powers of imaginative synthesis. The degree also signifies that the recipient has presented a doctoral dissertation containing an original contribution to knowledge in his or her chosen field of study. Visit the Graduate Division site for requirements for submitting the dissertation. Once the defense date has been scheduled, the student can Request for a Defense Announcement to be posted. This must be done at least one week prior to defense date.