Degree Requirements

Joseph Sirianni in the Lab

DCB Graduate Handbook

Ph.D. Requirements, Typical Timeline

For a complete list and detailed explanations of all requirements for the Ph.D., M.S., and M.A. degrees, please refer to the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry Graduate Handbook and the General Catalog. Applicable forms and petitions for Department requirements and for Graduate Division requirements are also available online. 

Before the start of the first fall quarter there is an orientation period. You will receive information about the department, UCSB, and Santa Barbara; advising will take place, helping you to choose your first classes; extensive training is provided for teaching; faculty each give brief presentations about their research. The incoming class has lockers and its own room (1005C on the first floor) with desks, computers and printers for use during the first quarter(s). Once you join a research group you will have your desk with that group. 

YEAR 1                                                                                                      

(A)    18 units of coursework                                                                                                                  

Plan schedule with assigned advisers during orientation period. This requirement must be met before the candidacy exam (see E below). Most students take all courses in the first year, typically two 3 unit courses per quarter. A grade of B or better in each course is required and a cumulative grade point average 3.0 must be maintained.
(B)    1st quarter: EXPLORE research groups

Upon arrival, you are strongly encouraged to keep an open mind about what type of research you would like to carry out and with whom until you have had a chance to check out different research groups during your first quarter. Graduate school will form an important part of your life, but many if not most of you do not know in advance exactly what type of research will suit you the best (and excite you the most)---this is absolutely okay. We encourage you to take your time and make an informed decision about research groups after meeting several potential advisers, future lab-mates and groups. You are expected to survey at least three groups.  The advisers will sign off on your active explorations and this will be the basis for passing a two-unit course, CHEM 595. No group can be officially joined before December 1st.

In order to officially join a research group, you will fill out an Advisor Selection Form. This requires:
  • 2-3 sentences of detail regarding the content of each rotation
  • Signatures from your Primary Advisor, Co-Advisor (if applicable), and Graduate Faculty Advisor

If you come to UCSB with a specific group in mind, you may join this group after December 1st, and after having explored at least two other groups. UCSB provides a unique atmosphere where interdisciplinary research is truly lived. Cross-departmental collaborations is strongly supported among our department and many others; Physics, Materials/MRL, Chemical Engineering, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Biomolecular Science and Engineering, Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology.

2nd quarter: JOIN a research group

The expectation is that you join a group in the second quarter and start with active research or be in a rotation. While in a group you must sign up for units of CHEM 596, Directed Research. During summer, without classes or teaching, is a time to make progress in research. Summer funding has to come from faculty, and the student therefore must make sure to have secured a research position well before the summer.

The choice of research group is important but not an absolute commitment. If your choice turns out later to not be the perfect match, you can switch groups. You may lose some time, depending on how much of your research carries over or can be used as part of your thesis. To not unnecessarily disrupt your research, it is preferable if this situation be avoided. This is another reason we prefer that you take your time, in the first quarter, to shop around and find a good match in terms of the science and the group’s culture. 

Students teach a minimum of 3 quarters, most students teach all of the first year. Teaching is one of the valuable skills you learn in graduate school. Satisfactory evaluation of your teaching performance is required to remain in good standing as a graduate student.

Thesis Committee

By the end of the first year, you choose your thesis committee. Ph.D. committees require a minimum of 3 UC ladder faculty. 2 of these faculty members (including your Chair) must be in your home department, while at least 1 faculty member must be independent of the thesis project. The Faculty Graduate Advisor must sign off on your committee composition. Please consult the Staff Graduate Advisor for any paperwork that needs to be completed.

The student will meet with all committee members at least once a year to discuss progress, receive input and feedback, and discuss any concerns the student may have.


(C)    Original Research Proposal

The topic must be original research demonstrating your creativity. It may be inspired by your research rotations or thesis lab. A topic and proposal title must be approved by your Primary Research Advisor. Your complete proposal must be reviewed by the area advisor or a designee well before final submission as revisions may be required. The written proposal and NSF application are due in fall of Year 2.

(D)    Pass CHEM 290, which requires delivery of a seminar, related to your group’s research. The class starts with teaching presentation skills and presentations are critiqued and discussed. This is a first practice talk for the orals as well as an opportunity to start learning to present. It is also an opportunity for you to see what research your colleagues are starting to do. The presentations will be advertised as departmental seminars and open to all, with three 20 minute presentations per seminar.

(E)    Advance to candidacy by passing oral candidacy examination.

You are expected to concentrate on research in the 2nd year and achieve some visible success. To pass the candidacy exam you should be able to defend your research and show visible success in research, or at least make a convincing case about your positive trajectory and future potential of your project. Typically a specific project and effort are in progress that will lead to a first author publication. The exam is administered by your thesis committee. The adviser cannot serve as chair of the Committee in this exam but does serve as chair at the occasion of the thesis defense.

           NB 1:   Students must fulfill all requirements (A), (B), and (D) before the oral exam. Failing to do so will at best lead to a conditional pass.
           NB 2:   The candidacy exam must be taken before the end of the second year.
           NB 3:   Students must contact the Staff Graduate Program Adviser at least two weeks prior to their planned candidacy exam, to determine if all the prerequisites have been met.


Recommendation for publications and presentations

The third year is a time where typically your research has led or is leading to a publication. Having publications is important for a future career. Quality is more important than quantity but it is common to graduate with a number of publications, including first author ones.

You should also expect to attend conferences during your graduate career. You learn from presenting your work (as posters or talks) and it is a great opportunity to network and lay contacts in your scientific community. A one-time campus fellowship is available for this purpose once you advanced to candidacy.

TRACK research progress with thesis committee

Meet with all members of your thesis committee at least once during the year to discuss progress. These meetings provide guidance and feed-back about your research and academic progress. They are also an opportunity to discuss concerns you may have. Part of the meeting takes place with, and part without the adviser. If logistically it is not possible to convene the entire committee at the same time, meetings with individual members are an option.


FOCUS on research output and progress

You are doing full power research. Check and make sure whether research progress is good and high quality publications are on the way and plans for successful graduation on track. High quality and first author research publications will convert quickly to thesis chapters.

Meet with all members of your thesis committee at least once during the year to discuss progress.


FOCUS on wrapping up research and planning the next step

Now is the time to think about how to wrap up research, set goals with your adviser for graduation, plan the outstanding publications, make a timeline for graduation and make plan for thesis writing. If 3-4 first author publications are written, thesis writing can be a relatively quick (1-2 months) and painless process. Early 5th year is also the time to think about future employment. If seeking a postdoc position, now is the time to contact potential advisers, 1 year in advance, as well as to look for fellowship opportunities.
(F)   Complete an approved written Ph.D. dissertation

(G)  Thesis defense

 Successful delivery of the Final Oral Presentation in which the Ph.D. dissertation is presented in a seminar format; after fulfilling (A) -  (F).