Students admitted to the program take four core courses in the first two terms of their first year in residence (fall and spring terms). The “preliminary examination” in the Department of Chemistry is based on the student's record of performance in these four core courses. The four core courses are selected from at least three of the formal disciplines of Chemistry: Analytical, Biological, Inorganic, Organic and Physical. Two core courses must be taken in an area of concentration selected by the student. The following core courses are offered; all are 3-credit courses, the schedule of courses is published each year:
- Analytical: Chem 2210 Electrochemistry, Chem 2220 Chemical Separations, Chem 2230 Analytical Spectroscopy
- Biological: Chem 2810 Biological Chemistry 1: Biomacromolecule Structure and Function, Chem 2820 Biological Chemistry 2: Chemical Biology and Bioanalytical Chemistry
- Inorganic: Chem 2110 Chemical Symmetry: Applications in Spectroscopy and Bonding, Chem 2120 Inorganic Chemistry
- Organic: Chem 2310 Mechanistic Organic Chemistry, Chem 2320 Advanced Organic Synthesis
- Physical: Chem 2430 Quantum Mechanics and Kinetics, Chem 2440 Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics
The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences defines a grade of B as adequate performance for graduate students (see Appendix III in the handbook for guidelines regarding core course grading). Therefore, students are expected to earn grades of B or higher in the first four core courses taken, which comprise the Preliminary Examination. More details can be found on the Graduate Regulations Page.
Students with Advanced Standing
Students who enter the graduate program with advanced standing (e.g., MD/PhD students and others who have already taken graduate-level courses in chemistry) may request permission from the Graduate Student Advising Committee to earn credit for a core course by taking an examination. Normally, this “credit by examination” option is available only to students who have previously taken a graduate-level course similar to one of this department’s core courses, as determined by the course instructor. Earning credit by examination involves the assignment of a letter grade based on an oral or written examination, at the discretion of the core course instructor. A course passed by examination counts towards the requirements for the Preliminary Exam.
There are no cumulative exams in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh.
All PhD students are required to complete their comprehensive examination by the end of the first term of their third year in Chemistry. After completing the Comprehensive Examination, students may submit the Application for Admission to Candidacy form. A full description of the Comprehensive examination is described elsewhere in the handbook.