Ph.D. Requirements, Typical Timeline
For a complete list and detailed explanations of all requirements for the Ph.D., M.S., and M.A. degrees, please refer to the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry Graduate Student Handbook and the General Catalog. Applicable forms and petitions for Department requirements and for Graduate Division requirements are also available online.
Before the start of the first fall quarter there is an orientation period. You will receive information about the department, UCSB, and Santa Barbara; advising will take place, helping you to choose your first classes; extensive training is provided for teaching; faculty each give brief presentations about their research. The incoming class has its own room (1005F on the first floor) with desks, computers and lockers for use during the first quarter(s). Once you join a research group you will have your desk with that group.
(A) 18 units of coursework
Plan schedule with assigned advisers during orientation period. This requirement must be met before the candidacy exam (see D below). Most students take all courses in the first year, typically two 3 unit courses per quarter. A grade of B or better in each course is required and a cumulative grade point average 3.0 must be maintained.
(B) 1st quarter: EXPLORE research groups
Upon arrival, you are strongly encouraged to keep an open mind about what type of research you would like to carry out and with whom until you have had a chance to check out different research groups during your first fall quarter. Graduate school will form an important part of your life, but many if not most of you do not know in advance exactly what type of research will suit you the best (and excite you the most)---this is absolutely okay. We encourage you to take your time and make an informed decision about research groups after meeting several potential advisers, future lab-mates and groups. You are expected to survey at least three groups by attending a minimum of three of their group meetings. Missed group meetings due to scheduling conflicts can be replaced with other forms of active exploration, such as some specific involvement in lab, specific research involvement with an older graduate student/postdoc, or discussion with faculty. The advisers will sign off on your active explorations and this will be the basis for passing a two-unit course, CHEM 595. No group can be officially joined before December 1st.
Note that if you come to UCSB with a specific group in mind, you may join this group after 12/1, and after having explored other groups. Also note that many of our students have joint advisers in other departments. UCSB provides a unique atmosphere where interdisciplinary research is truly lived. Our and other departments (e.g. Physics, Materials/MRL, Chemical Engineering, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Biomolecular Science and Engineering, Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology) strongly support cross-departmental collaborations.
2nd quarter: JOIN a research group
The expectation is that you join a group in the second quarter and start with active research or be in a rotation. While in a group you must sign up for units of CHEM 596, Directed Research. (You need to be signed up for 12 class units each quarter to be registered as a full time student). The summer, without classes or teaching, is a time to make progress in research. Summer funding has to come from faculty, and the student therefore must make sure to have secured a research position well before the summer.
The choice of research group is important but not an absolute commitment. If for whatever reason your choice turns out later not to be the perfect match you can switch groups. You may lose some time, depending on how much of your research carries over or can be used as part of your thesis. So to not unnecessarily disrupt your research, it is preferable if this situation can be avoided. This is another reason we prefer that you take your time in the first quarter to shop around and find a good match, both in terms of the science and in terms of the group’s culture.
Students teach a minimum of 3 quarters, but no more than 9 quarters total during their stay in the graduate program. Most students teach all of the first year and on average 4-6 quarters total. Teaching is one of the valuable skills you learn in graduate school. Satisfactory evaluation of your teaching performance is required to remain in good standing as a graduate student.
By the end of the first year you choose your thesis committee. You select three faculty members and ask them to serve on your committee. The Committee must consist of at least two faculty members from within the general area of your research and at least one from outside the subject area (any of these may include faculty from outside the Department). The research adviser (or joint advisers) may serve on the committee, but her/his presence is not counted in the required numbers of faculty members described above. The graduate advisor must sign off your committee composition.
The student will meet with all committee members (collectively if possible) at least once a year to discuss progress, receive input and feedback, and discuss any concerns the student may have.
(C) PASS the original research proposal exam
The topic must be original research demonstrating your creativity. It may be inspired by your research rotations or thesis lab. A topic and proposal title must be approved by your Primary Research Advisor. Your complete proposal must be reviewed by the area advisor or a designee well before final submission as revisions may be required.
(D) Pass CHEM 290, which requires delivery of a seminar, related to your group’s research. The class starts with teaching presentation skills and presentations are critiqued and discussed. This is a first practice talk for the orals as well as an opportunity to start learning to present. It is also an opportunity for you to see what research your colleagues are starting to do. The presentations will be advertised as departmental seminars and open to all, with three 20 minute presentations per seminar.
(E) Advance to candidacy by passing oral candidacy examination.
You are expected to concentrate on research in the 2nd year and achieve some visible success. To pass the candidacy exam you should be able to defend your research and show visible success in research, or at least make a convincing case about your positive trajectory and future potential of your project. Typically a specific project and effort are in progress that will lead to a first author publication. The exam is administered by your thesis committee. The adviser cannot serve as chair of the Committee in this exam but does serve as chair at the occasion of the thesis defense.
NB 1: Students must fulfill all requirements (A), (B), and (D) before the oral exam. Failing to do so will at best lead to a conditional pass.
NB 2: The oral must be taken before the end of the second year.
NB 3: Students must contact the Staff Graduate Program Adviser at least several weeks prior to their planned candidacy exam. She/he will ascertain that all prerequisites are fulfilled.
Recommendation for publications and presentations
The third year is a time where typically your research has led or is leading to a publication. Having publications is important for a future career. Quality is more important than quantity but it is common to graduate with a number of publications, including first author ones.
You should also expect to attend conferences during your graduate career. You learn from presenting your work (as posters or talks) and it is a great opportunity to network and lay contacts in your scientific community. A one-time campus fellowship is available for this purpose once you advanced to candidacy.
TRACK research progress with thesis committee
Meet with all members of your thesis committee at least once during the year to discuss progress. These meetings provide guidance and feed-back about your research and academic progress. They are also an opportunity to discuss concerns you may have. Part of the meeting takes place with, and part without the adviser. If logistically it is not possible to convene the entire committee at the same time, meetings with individual members are an option.
FOCUS on research output and progress
You are doing full power research. Check and make sure whether research progress is good and high quality publications are on the way and plans for successful graduation on track. High quality and first author research publications will convert quickly to thesis chapters.
Meet with all members of your thesis committee at least once during the year to discuss progress.
FOCUS on wrapping up research and planning the next step
Now is the time to think about how to wrap up research, set goals with your adviser for graduation, plan the outstanding publications, make a timeline for graduation and make plan for thesis writing. If 3-4 first author publications are written, thesis writing can be a relatively quick (1-2 months) and painless process. Early 5th year is also the time to think about future employment. If seeking a postdoc position, now is the time to contact potential advisers, 1 year in advance, as well as to look for fellowship opportunities.
(F) Complete an approved written Ph.D. dissertation
(G) Thesis defense: Successful delivery of the Final Oral Presentation in which the Ph.D. dissertation is presented in a seminar format (after fulfilling (A)-(F))