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Graduate study in Chemistry at Stanford stresses the unique needs of the students; basic course and examination requirements are deliberately kept to a minimum to allow each candidate flexibility in fulfilling individual research interests. Graduate students are usually engaged in research by the second quarter of their first year. Many first-year students do two, five-week optional rotations during autumn quarter.  All students join labs by the end of February of their first year and only after meeting with at least six faculty members. Generally, University and Department requirements for the Ph.D. degree can be met in less than six years of residence.

Research Groups and Seminars

The research groups in Chemistry range from small (only two to three students) to large (twenty or more), including postdoctoral research fellows. Much of the advanced instruction, little of which is formally listed in the course catalog, occurs in group seminars organized within the individual research groups. Distinguished visiting scientists often participate in such special seminars, while research seminars of broader interest are arranged through weekly Departmental seminar programs in all areas of chemistry.


Due to the confidence the Department has in its selection of candidates for admission to graduate study, no departmental or comprehensive examinations are required for the Ph.D. degree. Alternatively, scientific development in the second and third years is normally monitored through individual student discussions with the faculty advisor. The only formal test requirement comprises a set of entrance examinations, taken by the incoming class of graduate students before the autumn quarter to display proficiency and breadth in chemistry at the level of a traditional advanced undergraduate curriculum. Any deficiencies are identified and corrected by the student in conjunction with the appropriate faculty. Once the examinations are taken, possible research problems are discussed with individual faculty members. Subsequent coursework and other requirements are largely determined by the student and research advisor(s).

Courses and Degree Requirements

More detailed information concerning degree requirements and course offerings can be found in the Stanford University general catalog, Stanford Bulletin, under these headings:

See also the Graduate Academic Policies and Procedures for specifics on Stanford University admissions, doctoral program requirements, funding, student records, and more.

PhD Timeline

PhD Timeline
Visual representation of Ph.D. timeline for completion