Graduate Handbooks

Note: You are to refer to the handbook of your graduate matriculation year, not the current year

The Chemistry Department has compiled the following information to aid applicants and students in understanding the policy of the graduate program for the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees.

Students are responsible for reviewing graduate-only academic regulations described in the Graduate Bulletin. Questions should be addressed to the Chair and or Graduate Director, Department of Chemistry, P.O. Box 842006, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia 23284-2006, (804) 828-1298.

Degrees, Programs and Concentrations

Virginia Commonwealth University offers programs leading to the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and Master of Science (MS) degrees in Chemistry (CHEM; both thesis-based and non-thesis based), as well as PhD in Chemical Biology (CHEB) and Nanoscience (NANO). In cooperation with the Physics Department, VCU also offers a Ph.D. degree in Chemical Physics (CHEM PHYS). The option of a part-time MS in Chemistry is also available for special cases. Students interested in the MS degree are encouraged to contact potential research advisors and secure funding before enrolling in the program. Requirements and general policy Information for each graduate degree offered including concentrations

Financial Assistance

Students on the PhD track are eligible for financial assistance from VCU through teaching or research assistantships (TA or RA, respectively), however funding from self or fellowships outside VCU is also acceptable. To qualify for financial support from VCU, students may not hold employment outside VCU and must maintain a graduate GPA ≥ 3.0 (B) as well as make timely progress towards their degree. 

Students who are TAs are required to teach in recitation and laboratory sections as assigned by the Associate Chair. These assignments are carried out under the supervision of faculty who are in charge of those courses.

Research assistants perform research for faculty members who are Principal Investigators (PI) pursuing funded research programs. Typically, TAs become RAs after attaining PhD candidacy (in the 6th semester) at discretion of the PI.

The Department also offers a number of fellowships, which are awarded on a yearly basis and are listed in the departmental webpage along with the application requirements at.

Financial assistance is awarded on a 9-month basis, with assistantship contract (TA or RA) starting generally on August 10th or January 10th (students entering in spring). Official Academic calendars including important landmarks for every academic semester.

Summer support may be available through RA (from advisor’s grant) or TA when teaching during summer. 

Providing good standing and progress in the program, the rules for awarding financial support in the form of TA are as follows:

·         A student who enters the PhD program with a bachelor's degree may anticipate support up to FIVE CALENDAR YEARS.

·         A student who enters the PhD program with a master's degree may anticipate support up to FOUR CALENDAR YEARS.

Proficiency Examinations for CHEM and CHEM PHYS Students

Students entering the CHEM graduate program shall take proficiency examinations to gauge undergraduate knowledge in the four traditional areas of chemistry: analytical, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry. These standardized tests by the American Chemical Society take place during orientation week and the results should be used to select the graduate courses that alleviate limitations disclosed during the exams. No record of the performance in the proficiency exams will appear in the graduate students’ transcripts.

Students entering the PhD CHEM PHYS program must pass proficiency examinations in two areas of chemistry and two areas of physics (mechanics; electricity and magnetism). Students entering with a bachelor's or master's degree in chemistry who have not taken the physics courses previously can satisfy the physics requirement with "A"s or "B"s in PHYS 301, 302 (classical mechanics), and 376 (electromagnetism). Students entering with a bachelor's or master's degree in physics who have not taken chemistry courses previously may satisfy the chemistry requirement with "A"s or "B"s in two of four courses, CHEM 301-302 (organic chemistry; the two-semester sequence counts as one course only), CHEM 320 (inorganic chemistry), CHEM 409 (instrumental analysis) or CHEM 510 (atomic and molecular structure).

Students entering the PhD programs in CHEB and NANO are not required to take proficiency exams.

Limits on Course Load and Continuous Enrollment

To be eligible for assistantship students must be full time and register at least 9 graduate credits per semester during pre-candidacy. After earning PhD candidacy, the number of credits per semester may decrease depending on the program and the source of funding. However, under assistantship support, the credits per semester must never exceed 15 or charges may apply. Financial aid in the form of TA may not be available when reaching 150 % of the credits required for a degree. Likewise, during candidacy and after completing coursework, students are required to register at least one credit per semester until graduation. VCU allows a maximum of 8 years to complete a PhD degree and 5 years for a MS degree.

Graduate Registration Policies

Satisfactory Academic Progress for Financial Aid Purposes

Time Limit for Completion

Satisfactory Graduate GPA and Course Grades Allowed

Students on assistantship support (TA or RA) and whose graduate GPA falls below B (3.0) are given one semester to bring it back to B. If recovery does not occur within one semester, the assistantship will be rescinded and continuation in the program will rely on student self-support. Regardless of the financial source, VCU will not approve graduation in a graduate degree with a GPA below 3.0 or presenting courses that fulfill degree requirements with grades below C. Likewise, students who receive 3 unsatisfactory grades “U” in a dissertation course (CHEM 697) will be automatically dismissed.

Satisfactory Academic Progress

Theses and Dissertations

Seminar Program

This is a diverse forum where graduate students are exposed to visiting and local speakers from different disciplines in chemical sciences, including department’s own professors and students. The program is primarily managed by the Graduate Administrative Assistant and the professor in charge of the seminar courses CHEM 690/692. The schedule is posted online on Blackboard and is maintained by the Graduate Administrative Assistant. The program also includes special seminar series that are scheduled annually in honor of past department professors, like the Mary Kapp Lecture (Spring), John Fenn Lecture (Fall) and the Smith Winter series (Fall), in collaboration with the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at VCU. Regardless of registration to CHEM 690/692, graduate students are expected to attend seminar, which runs once or twice a week on Tuesdays and/or Thursdays from 4:00 to 5:00 pm in Oliver Hall 1024. During pre-candidacy students are required to register CHEM 690 when merely attending or CHEM 692 when presenting the Literature Seminar. Additionally, in the semester of graduation students should register CHEM 692 in order to present their Research Seminar. For specifics on grading, scheduling and registration policy, students should contact the professor in charge of CHEM 690/692 as well as consult the syllabus for those courses.

Withdrawal from Graduate Program

Students withdrawing from any Graduate Program should notify immediately (email statement will suffice) the corresponding Graduate Director so that the College and the Graduate School can be informed promptly to close files timely. Students are also expected to follow the checkout procedure, which is handled by the Graduate Administrative Assistant and the Building Manager.