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About the PhD Program

Pushing the Forefront of Science

Research at the University of Oregon is designed to keep student researchers at the forefront of chemical science. Our programs in the traditional areas of biochemistry, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry lay the foundation for new discoveries in materials science, molecular biology, optics, and theoretical chemistry. Though our department is medium in size, we are a leading innovator in chemistry.

A Multidisciplinary Approach

At the University of Oregon, we recognize the importance of diversity and breadth in graduate education and continue to respond to the shifts and changes in career opportunities available to our graduates. In pursuit of this goal, we take a cross-disciplinary, interdepartmental approach to research and graduate training. Institutes and centers facilitate scientific investigation at the boundaries of traditional fields and foster collaboration and cooperation between researchers in different departments. Faculty members and students are actively involved in collaborative research efforts in the department and in the interdepartmental research institutes, providing unique opportunities for defining and solving scientific problems. Students pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry may choose to complete thesis projects under the guidance of faculty in other departments, such as biology or physics.

While we de-emphasize the boundaries of traditional disciplines, the classic areas of chemistry do provide a convenient and familiar way to describe the department’s educational activities and research. They include: biochemistry, molecular biology and biophysical chemistry; organic-inorganic chemistry; and physical chemistry. You will find descriptions of these areas on the pages that follow. The multidisciplinary aspects of our research programs are highlighted in the research institute descriptions in this brochure.

State-of-the-art Facilities

Oregon’s science complex includes state-of-the-art buildings and facilities that continually evolve and expand to provide a stimulating environment for scientific discovery. Students have direct access to a diverse array of modern research instrumentation. Highly skilled full-time instrumentation specialists are available to assist with training and in the optimization of experiments. We have an excellent science library, nationally recognized computer resources, and professionally staffed technical support shops. Close proximity of research laboratories and facilities encourages spontaneous day-to-day interactions among students and faculty members, providing a rich chemical education.

A Flexible Graduate Program

The friendly, collaborative nature of our department provides a supportive environment for students and faculty members to concentrate on learning and research. The graduate program emphasizes one-on-one faculty-student interactions, provides mechanisms for obtaining critical feedback and support, and offers students many opportunities to present their research findings to a general audience.

The first year of graduate study prepares students for their thesis research project through coursework, teaching and laboratory research rotations. Students can choose from a wide variety of courses covering traditional core topics and recent developments in chemistry – as well as courses covering such topics as presentation skills or scientific ethics. Teaching helps cement basic knowledge in chemistry and builds important communication skills and teaching experience.

Research rotations form an important part of our graduate program. During the first year, students rotate through three research groups before committing to their thesis research project. Students have over forty research groups in chemistry, biology, physics, and other departments to choose from. Laboratory rotations give students a first-hand look at possible dissertation projects. In addition, rotations provide breadth of experience and a network of colleagues to draw on throughout one’s graduate career. Ultimately, students complete the rotation experience well prepared to choose a thesis project.

After the first year, students focus on research and professional development. Their research is aided by the network of resources built during their rotation experience, the state-of-the-art instrumentation at their disposal, an extensive seminar series featuring scientists from around the world, and an environment that fosters the transfer of information between students and faculty.

To aid in professional development, our program offers students many options to explore and prepare for varied careers in teaching, academic research, government, or industry. Internships with regional companies and national labs are available for students to gain another perspective into their thesis research. These experiences help students learn more about the industrial or government lab research environment and they build vital connections with people in the nonacademic sector. Specialized courses are available to prepare students for internships in various industries.

Opportunities are also available for students interested in teaching careers, such as teaching internships with regional small colleges or in-depth curriculum development within the department. For example, students have completed teaching internships serving as sabbatical replacements at regional colleges, including Cal State Chico, the University of Portland, Linfield College, and Willamette University. Other students had an opportunity to develop curriculum for our new organic green chemistry laboratory course.

The quality of our educational program has been recognized by training grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Education. These grants recognize and support our efforts to provide a comprehensive educational program that can be tailored to the varied career goals of our students.

While the main criterion for choosing a Ph.D. program should be the standard of education and research, we would be remiss not to mention the quality of life in Oregon and Eugene. Quite simply, Oregon is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and Eugene’s location in the Pacific Northwest makes it one of the best places anywhere to live. The mountain and coastal scenery of Oregon, the vibrant cultural and recreational atmosphere of Eugene, and the burgeoning high-technology economy in the Northwest contribute to an appealing way of life.