Organic Chemistry PhD program requirements


Updated – May 2019

Program Overview

The doctoral program in chemistry is designed to provide the students with a background in advanced course work and chemical laboratory techniques that will prepare them to carry out, under the guidance of experienced scientists, an original, independent investigation that will lead to an acceptable contribution to the body of contemporary knowledge.

The doctoral degree in chemistry normally requires four years of study beyond the bachelor’s degree or a minimum of two to three years beyond the master’s degree. The plan of study pursued by each student is dependent on individual requirements and is developed together with the supervisor as well as through discussions with his/her dissertation committee. To successfully complete the PhD program, the student needs to complete a minimum of 45 course credits, pass the cumulative exam, deliver a literature seminar, prepare a research proposal, and finally defend the dissertation. The student should begin research as early as possible in the program of study.

Credit Requirements

Of the 45 minimum credit requirements, a minimum of 27 credits in course work, exclusive of thesis and seminar, is required with at least 21 graduate credits to be taken in chemistry from the two sections that follow below. The remaining course credits may be taken in chemistry or in a related field such as biology, physics, mathematics or engineering. Credit is not normally allowed for undergraduate subjects in chemistry except for those so designated in the catalog. Research credits and seminars would then make up the remainder of the 45 credit requirements.

Course Requirements

Students must take the following required advanced courses in Organic Chemistry:

CHEM 5230         Organic Reaction Mechanism

CHEM 5240         Organic Synthesis

CHEM 5680         Organic Structural Analysis

CHEM 5850         Modern Organic Chemistry

CHEM 5950         Supramolecular Chemistry

CHEM 5660         Nanomaterials and Nanostructures

CHEM 5430         Modern Inorganic Chemistry

The remaining course requirements may be fulfilled by selecting courses from the list below or from graduate courses offered by other departments at UMass Lowell. Discuss with your research advisor prior to making the course selection.

POLY 5030          Advanced Polymer Science I

POLY 5040          Advanced Polymer Science II

POLY 5110          Biopolymers

POLY 5530          Organic Chemistry of Macromolecules

CHEM 5320         Advanced Physical Chemistry

CHEM 5340         Quantum Chemistry

CHEM 5140         Advanced Analytical Chemistry

CHEM 5260         Chromatography

CHEM 5430         Modern Inorganic Chemistry

CHEM 5500         Biochemistry I

CHEM 5510         Biochemistry II

CHEM 5620         Pharmaceutical Biochemistry

CHEM 5700         Protein Chemistry

CHEM 6310         Principles of Medicinal Chemistry

CHEM 6720         Surface and Colloid Chemistry

Descriptions of CHEM 5230, CHEM 5240, CHEM 5680, CHEM 5850, CHEM 5950, and CHEM 5660 are given below:

CHEM 5230 Organic Reaction Mechanism. Prerequisites: One year each of organic chemistry, physical chemistry, physics, and calculus or permission of the instructor. The course covers modern theories and methods used for investigating organic reaction mechanisms. The topics include molecular conformation and molecular mechanics; stereochemistry; acid-base chemistry; concepts in electronic structure theory; aromaticity and antiaromaticity; intermolecular interactions; pericyclic reactions; kinetic isotope effects; linear free energy relationships; benzynes and carbenes; photochemistry; molecular recognition.

CHEM 5240   Organic Synthesis. Prerequisite: One year of undergraduate organic chemistry or permission of the instructor. The course covers modern approaches to the selective synthesis of complex organic compounds, including design of synthetic sequences using retroanalysis. Emphasis is placed on reduction, oxidation, hydroboration, silylation, methods of carbon–carbon bond formation, catalytic chemistry, enzymatic reaction, asymmetric synthesis, and the corresponding reaction mechanism of each synthetic method.

CHEM 5680 Organic Structural Analysis. Prerequisite: One year of undergraduate organic chemistry and analytical chemistry or permission of the instructor. The course covers comprehensive spectroscopic techniques for the structural analyses of organic and complex polymeric molecules are discussed. It includes the subjects of 1D and 2D 1H NMR and 13C NMR spectroscopy with short-range and long-range coupling techniques, various mass spectroscopic methods, UV-Vis and FTIR/Raman spectroscopy, and circular dichroism spectroscopy.

CHEM 5850 Modern Organic Chemistry. Prerequisites: Basic organic chemistry courses (equivalent to CHEM 2210/CHEM 2220 Organic chemistry I & II). This course aims to provide deepened and widened knowledge of concepts, reactivity, and synthesis in organic chemistry. It covers carbonyl/enol/enolate chemistry, frontier molecular orbital theory, pericyclic reactions, rearrangements, fragmentations, reactive intermediates, main group elements (boron, silicon, phosphorous, sulfur, etc.), heterocyclic compounds, organometallic chemistry, stereochemistry, selectivity, catalysis, asymmetric synthesis, modern reactions, and multi-step synthesis. 

CHEM 5950 Supramolecular Chemistry. Prerequisites: Basic courses in organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, physical chemistry, analytical chemistry, biochemistry, or permission from the instructor. The course aims to provide a general overview of the vast field of supramolecular chemistry. It covers general concepts and principles, supramolecular interactions, dynamic covalent chemistry, solvation effects, molecular recognition, supramolecular systems in biology, biomimetic systems, artificial receptors, molecular imprinting, self-assembly and self-organization processes, supramolecular synthesis and catalysis, supramolecular polymers and gels, coordination networks and MOFs, molecular switches and machines, and supramolecular functional devices.

CHEM 5660   Nanomaterials and Nanostructures. Prerequisite: Basic courses in organic chemistry, analytical chemistry, physical chemistry, or permission of the instructor. The course covers nanomaterial characterization techniques including electron microscopy and scanning probe microscopy, fabrication techniques including photolithography and soft lithography, molecular self-assembly including Langmuir-Blodgett films and self-assembled monolayer, surface phenomena and surface energy, synthesis of nanomaterials and methods to stabilize them.

CHEM 5430 Modern Inorganic Chemistry. Prerequisite: CHEM 5430 Physical Chemistry II, or permission of the instructor. The course covers the chemical behavior, structure and methods of preparation and nomenclature of the more common elements and their compounds, the theoretical treatment of atomic structure and chemical bonds, included are such topics as Russell Saunders’ coupling, molecular orbital theory, ligand field theory, and descriptive coordination chemistry.

Selection of Research Advisor

By the end of the first semester of graduate study, the student must select a research advisor in the Chemistry Department. A non-chemistry faculty member may serve as a co-advisor, but in such a case, the co-advisor is responsible for the financial support of the student.

Formation of Dissertation Committee

By the end of the first academic year (second semester), the student must form his/her dissertation committee. The dissertation committee consists of a Chair (the student’s research advisor), and a minimum of three other faculty members as voting members. Two of the voting members must be from the Chemistry Department.

Cumulative Examinations (Advance to Candidacy Exam)

The cumulative examination will consist of a written and an oral component, taken at the beginning of the second academic year of study (third semester). The exam will focus on the student’s own research. The written document should include the following sections:  abstract, comprehensive literature review, experimental design and methods, results to date, future plans, and references, following the style and format of ACS publications. The written exam must be submitted to the committee members a minimum of three weeks prior to the oral exam. The oral exam will consist of a presentation by the student, followed by examination by the committee members. The questions raised by the committee members can be related to the student’s research, and can also be general chemistry and organic chemistry knowledge that are expected from the student. The oral exam is closed to the public. The student must pass both the written and the oral parts of the cumulative examinations in order to advance to the PhD candidacy.


After advancing to PhD candidacy, the student must present one 30-45 min public seminar by the end of the 3rd year of his/her Ph.D. program. The seminar topic should come from literature and should be different from the student’s own research topic.

Research Proposal

The candidate must defend a research proposal at the end of the third academic year. The research proposal will focus on the candidate’s own research, consisting of a written and an oral component. The written document should include the following: abstract, comprehensive literature review, experimental design and methods, results to date, future plans, and references, following the style and format of ACS publications. The written part of the exam must be submitted to the committee members a minimum of 3 weeks prior to the oral defense. The oral exam will consist of a public presentation by the student, followed by questions from the general public and the committee members.


At the end of the PhD program, the candidate will defend his/her dissertation which consists of a written thesis and an oral presentation. The written thesis should include the following: table of contents, curriculum vitae, abstract, list of figures/tables/schemes, list of abbreviations (if applicable), introduction and background, experimental section, results and discussions, conclusions, future directions, and references, following the style and format of ACS publications. The written thesis must be submitted to the committee members a minimum of 3 weeks prior to the oral defense. The oral presentation is open to the public and consists of a ~45 min public presentation by the candidate, followed by questions from the committee members and the audience.