Chemistry PhD

Major: Chemistry
Degree Awarded: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Calendar Type: Quarter
Minimum Required Credits: 90.0 
Co-op OptionNone
Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code: 40.0501
Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code: 19-2031

About the Program

The Department of Chemistry offers graduate programs in analytical chemistry, atmospheric chemistry, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, materials chemistry, physical chemistry, educational chemistry, and polymer chemistry. The curriculum is designed to prepare students for the research and practical application of chemistry to challenges facing mankind. The department also encourages interdisciplinary activities. Faculty members are active participants in the environmental engineering and science and biomedical science and engineering programs; others work with physicists and biologists in areas such as atmospheric science, biochemistry, and biophysical chemistry.

The chemistry faculty wants graduate students to understand the purpose of, and need for, fundamental research while working on problems of practical interest and application to the challenges facing mankind in the modern world. Areas of research include the use of digital electronic methods to analyze trace constituents of air and water, a study of the molecules of living systems, the effects of toxic chemicals and carcinogens, synthesis and characterization of compounds of medicinal and industrial interest, methods for studying macromolecules, and characterization of transient species using lasers.

The Department of Chemistry strives to maintain a community of research scholars (faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate and undergraduate students) that is large enough to provide a variety of experiences within chemistry, yet small enough to give each student individual attention. Both full- and part-time study are available.

Admission Requirements

Requirements for Admission

For admission to graduate study, the department requires a BS in chemistry or the equivalent. This requirement applies to full-time and part-time students working toward either the MS or PhD. Generally, in order to be considered for admission, a successful applicant should have taken two semester courses of organic, analytical and physical chemistry with corresponding laboratory courses. In addition, they should have taken an upper-level inorganic chemistry course. All entering MS and PhD students are required to take a series of two-hour exams in analytical, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry to help assess their preparation for graduate work in chemistry. The scores obtained on these exams are used as a basis for course selection.

GRE scores are helpful to the Chemistry Department and the Office of Admissions, and are required to be considered for a Dean's Scholarship or a Provost's Fellowship. 

Financial Assistance

Graduate students at Drexel can obtain two main types of financial support: teaching assistantships and research assistantships. Teaching assistantships are available on a competitive basis to incoming students and are normally renewable for several years. 

Forms, details about requirements, and information about application deadlines are all available on the Chemistry page of Drexel's Graduate Admissions website.

Degree Requirements

The PhD degree is awarded in any of eight main areas of chemistry: analytical, atmospheric, inorganic, organic, materials, physical, educational, or polymer chemistry. The degree recipient must demonstrate scholastic breadth in chemistry and contribute significantly to scientific advancement in a chosen major area. Requirements of the program include coursework, candidacy examinations, a chemical information retrieval or technical writing course, and successful completion of a publishable PhD thesis.

Course Requirements

Ninety credits of graduate-level work must be completed for the PhD degree. The Chemistry Department requires 30.0 credits of coursework in chemistry (outlined in the Course Requirements section of the MS program). The balance can be made up of advanced special topics courses and research credits.

Candidacy Requirements

To become a candidate for the PhD in chemistry at Drexel, a student must pass a prescribed set of cumulative examinations.

Cumulative Examinations

Written examinations designed to test a student’s background in their major area are given monthly during the academic year and occasionally during the summer at the discretion of the faculty. Students should begin taking these examinations after having completed three courses in the major area (usually the main sequence courses), though beginning these exams earlier is possible for well-prepared students. Students normally begin taking these examinations in the fall term of their second year.

Thesis Proposal and Seminar

All PhD students are required to write a Thesis Proposal related to their research. After final acceptance of the written proposal, the student will give a 30-45 minute Thesis Proposal Seminar presentation related to their research. The student’s presentation will be followed by a question and answer session during which the student should demonstrate proficiency with regard to the broader context of his research project. This will help the student become more knowledgeable about their research project by (i) promoting a greater fundamental understanding about the student's own specific research project and (ii) providing context and perspective about previous accomplishments in the field by other research groups as well as their own. The Research Advisor is expected to provide considerable input to the student about the breadth and depth of the literature review, the essential papers to read (and comprehend), the historical and current topics to include and/or emphasize in the seminar, and of course the details of the research project.

Annual Check of Progress

After having passed their Thesis Proposal Exams in their second year, all full-time and part-time research students are required to meet at least three members of their Dissertation Advisory Committee during the spring term of their third year, fourth year, etc. Students have to arrange for this meeting and inform the Graduate Advisor and the GPC chair once the meeting has been scheduled. They should send a three-page report about their research progress one week before their meeting with the committee. That report summarizes their accomplishments and lists their publications and conference presentations. At the meeting the student will present their research to their committee, which will discuss with them the content of the presentation and the progress of their research.

Thesis Pre-Defense

The PhD Candidate will meet with their full Thesis Advisory Committee including its outside member at least six months prior to planned thesis defense in order to ensure that the student has laid the foundation of the submission of a thesis and a final defense. It is the student’s responsibility to schedule this meeting with their committee. The student should have submitted a manuscript for publication in a peer-reviewed journal to meet the publication requirement. If the Thesis Advisory Committee approves the student’s completion plan, they can start writing their thesis and organize the defense. If the plan is not approved, the student has to meet their committee again at a time determined by the Committee Chair and the thesis advisor.


A PhD thesis—the heart of the PhD degree—must be written, accepted by the research advisor, presented to a PhD Thesis Examining Committee, and defended orally to the satisfaction of the Examining Committee. It is the responsibility of the student, not the research advisor, to submit an acceptable thesis. It is expected that the student will have at least one peer-reviewed research article accepted for publication by the time of the thesis defense. The student must be the first author on this paper. 


There are seven undergraduate teaching laboratories in the department: three freshman Chemistry Laboratories, two advanced Organic Chemistry Laboratories, a Physical Chemistry Laboratory, an Analytical Instrumentation Laboratory, and a combined Analytical/Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory.

Mass Spectrometry Laboratory

The Chemistry Department maintains a professionally staffed mass spectrometry facility available to all members of the University community. Current operating instrumentation is listed below.

  • Bruker Autoflex III matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometer (MALDI TOFMS NSF CRIF-MU #0840273)
  • Thermo-Electron LTQ-FT 7T Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance (FT-ICR) spectrometer with both atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI) and electrospray ionization (ESI) sources interfaced with a Thermo-Finnigan Surveyor high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) system
  • Micromass AutoSpec M high-resolution magnetic sector MS with fast atom bombardment, desorption chemical ionization and electron impact capability
  • Sciex API3000 triple quadrupole mass spectrometer also equipped with both ESI and APCI sources interfaced to a Perkin-Elmer series 200 HPLC system
  • Varian Saturn 2000 gas chromatograph/ion-trap mass spectrometer system with both electron impact and chemical ionization capability

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Facility (NMR)

  • 500MHz Varian Unity Inova NMR with multi-nuclear capability, a cryogenically cooled triple resonance model (1H {13C/15N}) probe suitable for protein analysis.
  • 400 MHz Varian Mercury (2 RF channels) with double resonance auto-switchable broadband probe (1H/19F/13C/31P, 1H/19F{15N-31P})
  • 90MHz Anasazi Eft-90 MHz NMR
  • Varian E-12 X-band CW Electron Paramagnetic Resonance spectrometer (with 77 K cryogenic capability)

Analytical Instrumentation Laboratory

Mass Spectrometry

  • Bruker Autoflex III matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometer (MALDI TOFMS NSF CRIF-MU #0840273)
  • Thermo-Electron LTQ-FT 7T Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance (FT-ICR) spectrometer with both atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI) and electrospray ionization (ESI) source interfaced with a Thermo-Finnigan Surveyor high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) system
  • Micromass AutoSpec M high-resolution magnetic sector Mass Spectrometer with fast atom bombardment, desorption chemical ionization and electron impact capability
  • Varian Saturn 2000 gas chromatograph/ion-trap mass spectrometer system with both electron impact and chemical ionization capability
  • Shimadzu 2030 Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) capable of Liquid, Headspace, and Solid Phase Micro Extraction (SPME)
  • Shimadzu 8050 triple quadrupole mass spectrometer (MS) with atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI), electrospray ionization (ESI), and Dual Ionization (DUIS) sources interfaced to a Shimadzu Prominence high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) system with additional Diode Array Detector (DAD).
  • Shimadzu 8020 Benchtop Linear matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometer (MALDI-TOF)
  • PerkinElmer Clarus 500 Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometer (GC/MS)

Chromatography (Liquid and Gas)

  • Shimadzu 2030 Gas Chromatography with both Flame Ionization (FID) and Barrier Discharge Ionization (BID) detectors
  • PerkinElmer Clarus 500 GC with both Flame Ionization (FID) and thermal conductivity (TCD) detectors
  • Shimadzu iSeries high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) system with diode array (DAD) and refractive index (RI) detectors
  • Shimadzu Nexera ultra high-performance liquid chromatography system (UHPLC) with diode array (DAD), and evaporative light scattering (ELSD) detectors. This system is additionally interfaced to a Shimadzu Fraction Collector.
  • SciEX PAC/E MDQ Plus Capillary Electrophoresis with single wavelength UV/Vis, and Diode Array detectors (DAD)

Absorbance Spectroscopy

  • Thermo NanoDrop One UV/Vis Spectrometer
  • Shimadzu UV1900 UV/Vis Spectrometer with temp. control
  • Shimadzu UV2600 UV/Vis Spectrometer with temp. control
  • Shimadzu UV3600Plus NIR/UV/Vis Spectrometer with temp. control and can additionally be interfaced with a 150mm integrating sphere
  • Jasco J-1500 Spectropolarimeter (Circular Dichroism) with Temp. control
  • Shimadzu AA-2000 atomic absorption spectrometer capable of Flame, Graphite Furnace, or Hydride Vapor Generator

Infra-Red Spectroscopy

  • Shimadzu Tracer-100 FTIR spectrometer can be interfaced with Transmission, ATR, HATR, or Diffuse/Specular Reflectance accessories
  • Shimadzu Tracer-100 interfaced with the AIM-9000 IR Microscope capable of measurements in the Near, Mid and Far IR region of the spectrum
  • PerkinElmer Spectrum One FTIR can be interfaced with ATR, Transmission, or Diffuse/Specular Reflectance accessories
  • PerkinElmer Spectrum 2 FTIR can be interfaced with ATR, Transmission accessories

Fluorescence Spectroscopy

  • Shimadzu RF-6000 Fluorescence Spectrometer can be interfaced with sample temp. controller
  • ISS Chronos DFD Digital Frequency and Time Domain Spectrometer capable of SteadyState and picosecond Lifetime measurements, can also be interfaced with sample temp. controller
  • PerkinElmer LS-55 Luminescence Spectrometer
  • Kin-Tek SF-2004 Stopped Flow Fluorescence Spectrometer, also interfaced with diode array absorbance detector
  • Promega Qubit 4 Fluorimeter (470nm and 635nm LED excitation sources – for biological and protein applications)

Raman Spectroscopy

  • Renishaw RM-2000 Vis Raman Spectrometer
  • Renishaw RM-2000 UV Raman Spectrometer (Currently NOT operational)


  • Veeco diNanoScope 3D Multimode Atomic Force Microscope
  • Leica Inverted Fluorescence Microscope
  • Zeiss Epi-Fluorescence Microscope
  • Camaag TLC Plate Imager

Physical Measurements

  • Shimadzu SALD 7500Nano Particle Size Analyzer equipped with a wet measurement, small volume and high concentration accessories
  • Shimadzu TGA-50 Thermogravimetric analysis
  • Brookfield DV-II+ Viscometer and Rheometer can be equipped with spindle, or cone/plate attachments
  • Horiba LB-550 Dynamic Light Scattering


  • BASi Epsilon Eclipse (Potentiostat | Galvanostat | Biopotentiostat) with Rotating Disk Electrode and C-3 cell stand accessories
  • BASi PalmSens4 portable (Potentiostat | Galvanostat | Impedance Analyzer)


  • CEM MARS6 Microwave Digestion System
  • UCT Positive Pressure Manifold for Solid Phase Extraction (SPE)
  • BioTage TurboVap LP Evaporator

Electronics Tools

  • National Instruments ELVIS III with Complete Labview system
  • Quanser Analog Electronics Lab interface Board for the ELVIS system
  • Keysight InfiniiVision X-series Oscilloscope 4 channel 100MHz, with 20MHz arbitrary waveform generator, and 3-digit multimeter

Atomic Force Microscopy

The department has a Veeco multimode Atomic force microscopy (AFM) for research and education. AFM, also called scanning force microscopy (SFM), is one of the foremost tools for imaging, measuring, and manipulating matter at the nanoscale. It is when a fine tip is scanned across a surface the tip-surface force is measured to provide topographic, frictional, and adhesion information of a surface. With the ability to perform non-invasive, high-resolution surface imaging and force measurement, AFM has become an essential characterization tool in multiple disciplines in life science, biomedical engineering, nanoengineering, chemistry, materials science, and other related fields. 

Other Departmental Facilities

The department has a VEECO INNOVA N3 Multimode scanning probe microscope and also maintains a computational chemistry laboratory equipped with nine Dell Optiplex 620 computers running Hyperchem v 8.0. Research laboratories for each of the department faculty members are located in Disque and Stratton Halls as well as in the Bossone Research Center. Instrumentation available in the research laboratories is described on individual faculty web pages. Additional full-time support includes two instrument specialists (for NMR, the Analytical Instrumentation Laboratory and the Mass Spectrometry facility).

Chemistry Faculty

Reza Farasat, PhD (University of Alabama). Assistant Teaching Professor. Modification of polymers for diverse applications; utilizing Thermoanalysis techniques to study polymeric and non-polymeric materials; nanotechnology; applying Multi-detector Size Exclusion Chromatography for characterization of polymers; creating composites to improve materials' properties.
Fraser Fleming, PhD (University of British Columbia (Canada)). Professor. Nitriles, Isonitriles, Stereochemistry, Organometallics
Joe P. Foley, PhD (University of Florida) Department Head. Professor. Separation science, especially the fundamentals and biomedical/pharmaceutical applications of the following voltage- or pressure-driven separation techniques: capillary electrophoresis (CE), electrokinetic chromatography, supercritical fluid chromatography, and high-performance and two-dimensional liquid chromatography (LC). Within these techniques, we explore novel separation modes (e.g., dual-opposite-injection CE and sequential elution LC), novel surfactant aggregate pseudophases, and chiral separations.
Lee Hoffman, PhD (Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia). Assistant Teaching Professor. Interfacial studies on the self-assembly of natural organic materials, understanding the nature of each component, and development of a mechanism describing this process;Dendrimer/metal nanocomposite design and synthesis hosting metal nanoparticles, utilizing the multivalent dendritic polymer architecture for further exploitation with other molecules such as antibodies and other targeting species.
Monica Ilies, PhD (Polytechnic University of Bucharest). Associate Teaching Professor. Bioorganic chemistry and chemical biology; bioinorganic chemistry and biochemistry.
Haifeng Frank Ji, PhD (Chinese Academy of Sciences). Professor. Micromechancial sensors for biological and environmental applications; Nanomechanical drug screening technology.
Daniel B. King, PhD (University of Miami). Associate Professor. Assessment of active learning methods and technology in chemistry courses; incorporation of environmental data into chemistry classroom modules; development of hands-on activities and laboratory experiments.
Jamie Ludwig, PhD (UT Southwestern Medical Center). Discovery and optimization of biocatalytic transformations for use inorganic synthesis.
Dionicio Martinez-Solario, PhD (University of Alabama). Assistant Professor. Total synthesis of complex biologically active natural products serving as inspirational platforms for the discovery and development of new reactions and synthetic methods.
Craig McClure, PhD (University of Michigan). Associate Teaching Professor. Promotion of quantitative literacy in introductory courses; development of guided inquiry activities for introductory chemistry; outreach programs in STEM fields.
Kevin G. Owens, PhD (Indiana University). Associate Professor. Mass spectrometry research, including the development of sample preparation techniques for quantitative analysis and mass spectrometric imaging using matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) time-of-flight mass spectrometry (TOFMS) techniques for both biological and synthetic polymer systems, the development of laser spectroscopic techniques for combustion analysis, and the development of correlation analysis and other chemometric techniques for automating the analysis of mass spectral information.
Susan A. Rutkowsky, PhD (Drexel University) Associate Department Head. Associate Teaching Professor. Development of labs and lecture demonstrations for general and organic chemistry courses; STEM outreach programs.
Jeremiah Scepaniak, PhD (New Mexico State University). Assistant Professor. Design transition metal-based contrast agents for MRI & synthesis of bimetallic complexes to activate small molecules.
Karl Sohlberg, PhD (University of Delaware). Associate Professor. Computational and theoretical materials-related chemistry: (1) complex catalytic materials; (2) mechanical and electrical molecular devices.
Anthony Wambsgans, PhD (Rice University). Associate Teaching Professor.
Ezra Wood, PhD (University of California-Berkeley). Associate Professor. Radical chemistry and formation of secondary pollutants in urban and forest environments, impacts of biomass burning on air pollution and climate change, pollutant emissions, and design and deployment of novel instrumentation for field studies.
Jun Xi, PhD (Cornell University). Associate Teaching Professor. Biomacromolecular interactions both in solution and in confined environment; mechanisms of DNA replication and DNA repair; structure and function of molecular chaperones; drug target identification and new therapeutic development; single molecule enzymology; DNA directed organic synthesis.

Emeritus Faculty

Anthony W. Addison, PhD (University of Kent at Canterbury, England). Professor Emeritus. Design and synthesis of novel biomimetic and oligonuclear chelates of copper, nickel, iron, ruthenium and vanadium; their interpretation by magnetochemical, electrochemical and spectroscopic methods, including electron spin resonance; CD and ESR spectroscopy and kinetics for elucidation of molecular architecture of derivatives (including NO) of oxygen-binding and electron-transfer heme- and non-heme iron metalloproteins of vertebrate and invertebrate origins; energy-transfer by Ru, Ir and lanthanide-containing molecules and assemblies.
Amar Nath, PhD (Moscow State University, Moscow USSR). Professor Emeritus.
Reinhard Schweitzer-Stenner, PhD (Universität Bremen (Germany)). Professor. Exploring conformational ensembles of unfolded or partially folded peptides and proteins; determining the parameters governing peptide self-aggregation; structure and function of heme proteins; investigating protein-membrane interactions; use of IR, VCD, Raman, NMR and absorption spectroscopy for structure analysis.
Peter A. Wade, PhD (Purdue University). Professor Emeritus. Exploration of a newly discovered [3,3]-sigmatropic rearrangement in which O-allyl nitronic esters are thermally converted to γ,δ-unsaturated nitro compounds; development and exploitation of a carbon-based hemiacetal mimic; and exploration of cycloaddition reactions involving nitroethylene derivatives and novel nitrile oxides.
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