people working in labDuring their first year of study, students complete four to five courses. The coursework program is tailored to the individual student's research interests and needs. Although course offerings vary each year, approximately forty graduate level courses are offered annually covering topics of important and contemporary interest in all areas of chemistry and biochemistry. 

During this first year of study, students are also given the chance to familiarize themselves with faculty research by attending seminars by faculty on their research and research group meetings, and by individual meetings with faculty members. Students are encouraged to start research as soon as they have selected a faculty advisor as the Ph.D. degree is awarded largely for a demonstrated ability in creative research. 

Before the end of their second year in the Ph.D. program students complete a number of other requirements, including a comprehensive examination, which consists of written cumulative examinations (or a single written exam in the case of Chemical Physics), and an oral examination. At some point later in the program (typically in the 3rd or 4th year) students complete an original research proposal (not required in Chemical Physics), and give a seminar to the Department on a topic outside their own research. The final examination for the Ph.D. degree is primarily a defense of the candidate's thesis, and most students graduate with their Ph.D. in about 5 years.


A very significant aspect of graduate study is the informal contact students enjoy with faculty, fellow students, and visiting scientists. Many types of seminars are conducted to facilitate this contact. Students are encouraged to expand the breadth of their knowledge by attending and participating in the many interdisciplinary seminars hosted by the Department. The weekly Departmental seminars brings many outstanding scientists from around the world to Boulder to discuss their work. Various subdisciplines in the Department have regular seminars in which visitors, faculty, and students discuss recent developments in their respective research programs. In addition, most individual research groups have informal seminars to discuss a wide range of topics of interest. It is usually in these seminars that students first gain experience in presenting their own ideas and current research to their colleagues.

In addition, there are named lectures in various divisions and the Department as a whole including the Keller Lecture in inorganic chemistry, the Roche Lectureships, the Roche Symposium for synthetic organic chemistry, the Array-Biopharma Symposium for synthetic organic and medicinal chemistry, the Cristol Lecture in physical organic chemistry, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Company Lectureship in biochemistry and the Condon Lecture in chemical physics. All of these diverse seminar programs play an important part in development of scientific maturity in graduate students.

Opportunities for Underrepresented Students

The Colorado Advantage Program is intended to introduce college seniors interested in graduate school (PhD) to the outstanding Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) doctoral programs at CU-Boulder.

The Colorado Advantage Program will be having a Graduate Preview Weekend November 6-8, 2014.  This is an opportunity to preview the Chemistry and Biochemistry PhD Programs at CU-Boulder.  Click here for Colorado Advantage Program application and details about this weekend.

Certificate Program in IQ Biology

Interdisciplinary Quantitative Biology  - Bioscience with an Altitude

We also participate in the Biofrontiers Institute’s Interdisciplinary Quantitative Biology (IQ Biology) program, which offers a two-year fellowship, a diverse interdisciplinary experience, and a certificate upon completion of your PhD. Visit IQ for more information.