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Dissertation Defense

Things to Consider Before You Defend


Have you completed your coursework and do you have at least a 3.0 GPA? Additional requirements met (RP's), if applicable? You may consider requesting N grades be changed to letter grades. This can be done with the Student Services Manager.

Find a Chair for your Oral Defense Committee

Find a Chair for your Oral Defense Committee. The Chair is a non-reader. This must be a faculty member outside of the Chemistry Department and outside your advisor's department if you work for a non-chemistry professor.  It can be a Professor Emeritus outside of chemistry or a Courtesy Professor as long as they don't have a joint appointment (e.g., like Chaitan Khosla). If you need help with this, ask your advisor for assistance. The Chair is doing you a favor, be sure to extend courtesy to him/her (e.g., a thank you note). You also need a second non-reader -- the fifth member of your oral exam committee. This could be a faculty member inside or outside of the chemistry department. Please have this person be outside your immediate field (e.g., an organic chemist should get physical or inorganic chemist).

Set up a time

You will need to set-up a time for your defense and reserve a room with the chemistry receptionist 3-2501, e.g., the Gazebo or Sapp Center. You must be registered the quarter you defend.

Complete the Oral Examination form

Complete the Oral Examination form. This form must be signed by the Chair of the Graduate Study Committee, Professor Cegelski. Roger will obtain her signature for you. Along with the orals form, submit a one or two-page abstract at least a week prior to your defense date. Let the External Relations group (chemistry-events [at] (chemistry-events[at]stanford[dot]edu)) know about your defense early so they can publicize it in This Week in Chemistry. Roger will distribute copies of your oral form and abstract to members of your oral committee. The original will be sent to the chair of your orals committee in a special folder. However, it is your responsibility to let your committee know when and where your defense will be held.

Apply to graduate

Apply to graduate. Go into Axess and indicate the quarter you want your degree conferred (i.e., the quarter you submit your dissertation). Keep in mind, you must have valid candidacy through your conferral date. See Axess or Directions for Preparing Doctoral Dissertations for specific deadline dates.

Petition for Graduation Quarter form

If you use the Graduation Quarter to submit your thesis/dissertation, then you must complete the Petition for Graduation Quarter form by the first day of the term designated to be your Graduation Quarter. You may defend and submit your dissertation during a Graduation Quarter or you may defend and use the Graduation Quarter in a future quarter. You get only one Graduation Quarter with a lower tuition rate, $150. Among the pre-requisites for submitting the Graduation Quarter form, are enrolling in chem 802 and applying to graduate in Axess. Students on Graduation Quarter are registered at Stanford and, therefore, have the rights and privileges of registered students. Students will be assessed University health insurance (unless waived), campus health services fee, and ASSU fees (except during summer).

Give a draft to your reading committee

Please give a draft of your dissertation to your reading committee at least two weeks prior to your defense. Be mindful of faculty travel schedules, especially when looking for your readers to sign off on your dissertation! Make sure your reading committee is accurately reflected in Axess. If a member has been replaced, you must submit a Change of Reader form to Roger. 

Check academic calendar

The Academic Calendar has many useful deadlines including the quarterly deadline to apply to graduate and the dissertation submission deadline.

Check on your healthcare situation

If you have CardinalCare, it is for the entire academic year regardless of the quarters you are enrolled. If you leave before the end of the academic year, you will be charged for CardinalCare unless you waive it. Contact Vaden Health Center if you have other arrangements for health insurance (e.g., from your new employer).

Update your information in Axess

Keep your address up-to-date in Axess because diplomas may be mailed to the last address given. Also, indicate in Axess whether or not you will participate in the department commencement exercises. You will receive a degree in chemistry; no subspecialty will appear on your diploma. If you want to assure that your name is in the University commencement program, then the Axess deadline is usually the third week of February.

Reach out to Roger

Let Roger know your forwarding address, include job information. Please send this information via e-mail to roger.kuhn [at] (roger[dot]kuhn[at]stanford[dot]edu) and complete the Alumni Update Form.

Letter of completion

Letter of completion: Students will receive email confirmation once the dissertation submission is approved by the Registrar's Office.  This email confirmation will provide instructions for obtaining the letter by essentially logging on to Axess, and going to the eDissertation/eThesis Center, where it should be ready and available as a link to the student.

Submit your dissertation to the Registrar's Office

Submit your dissertation electronically to the Registrar's Office. (See steps below.) There are two critical issues you need to be aware of:


  1. The electronic version is put on the internet soon after submission. This can be a huge problem for time-sensitive material and future publications. To protect your science and to permit future work to be published in a journal, you and your advisor must agree on an appropriate embargo period, up to two years. As part of the submission process, you declare via Axess your embargo period.
  2. Your advisor will not get a hard copy of your dissertation. Ask if she/he would like a copy. If yes, then you need to get one bound at a private printer.

Submitting Your Dissertation

See the Registrar’s Office website for all dissertation information.

The following steps are required, in order, to complete the dissertation submission process:

  1. Go to the e-dissertation/thesis center in Axess (see the Registrar’s website for instructions).

  2. Select your final reader.  They will need to log in to Axess and approve your dissertation before the deadline once you’ve uploaded your dissertation.

  3. In lieu of actual paper signatures approving your dissertation from your reading committee, the process changed because of the pandemic. Now your readers must send you an e-mail from their email address stating that they approve your dissertation. Those e-mails can be saved as PDFs and uploaded as part of the submission process. 
    **Only your reading committee should be included on your signature page. Do NOT include your defense chair or any committee members only present for the defense.

  4. Upload/Submit dissertation.