Future Graduate Students

Why Study Chemistry at UW-Madison?

Graduate students talk about their research at a poster sessionThe University of Wisconsin-Madison is one of the premiere public research universities in the United States. Among all U.S. universities, public and private, Wisconsin ranks in the top five in recent evaluations of research activity and expenditures. In 2012, the university surpassed $1.2 billion in research spending. Among doctoral programs in the U.S., 15 UW-Madison departments, including chemistry, rank in the top 10 within their disciplines. Seventeen Nobel Prizes have been awarded to current or former UW-Madison faculty and alumni. Elected members of the National Academy of Science, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine include more than 120 UW-Madison faculty members; six Department of Chemistry professors are members of the National Academy of Science.

For decades, chemistry at Wisconsin has attracted outstanding students, faculty, and staff. In addition to having a broad choice of high-quality courses, seminars, and research projects, students at all levels benefit from informal interactions with exceptional research scientists. The department's reputation for excellence is nationally recognized by funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Energy, as well as corporate and nonprofit research sponsors.

The research atmosphere at Wisconsin, and especially in chemistry, is a distinctive feature. Collegiality and collaboration are the rule. Multiple research groups regularly come together for various supergroup research and literature seminars, broadening students' exposures to a variety of viewpoints and techniques. This free intellectual and technical exchange, together with talent and enthusiasm for science, creates a very stimulating environment.

Chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacy, and chemical engineering are separate departments at Wisconsin. Each of these departments ranks in the top 10 nationally among doctoral programs. Interaction and collaboration between students and faculty in these departments is common, and we encourage our students to take advantage of these opportunities in their coursework and research.

Research Opportunities

Graduate students at UW-Madison focus on one graduate path, or area of chemistry, such as organic, inorganic, analytical, chemical biology, materials, or physical. At a more granular level, the following subdisciplines are currently represented among our research groups.

Astrochemistry Electrochemistry Molecular dynamics Spectroscopy
Bio-organic chemistry Energy Organometallic chemistry Structural chemistry
Biophysical chemistry Environmental chemistry Photochemistry Surface science
Catalysis Instrumentation Physical organic chemistry Synchrotron radiation
Chemical education Laser chemistry Reaction mechanisms Synthetic chemistry
Computational chemistry Macromolecular science Solid-state chemistry X-ray crystallography

First-year graduate students select from a nucleus of fundamental courses each year in areas such as thermodynamics, organic reaction mechanisms, quantum mechanics, spectroscopy, kinetics, transition metal chemistry, instrumental analysis, MO theory of organic systems, organic synthesis, etc. Specialized courses at the advanced level are also offered; these vary from year to year. To fulfill the minor requirement, each student must take several courses in areas outside his or her thesis specialization area. Coursework in the major area falls along the six graduate paths (analytical, chemical biology, inorganic, materials, organic, and physical). However, there is variation even within these paths, especially after the first year.

For students whose research interests extend into fields bordering chemistry, we provide opportunities for coursework, collaborative research, and seminars in many other departments. Upon approval by the graduate student's thesis adviser, collaboration is possible with the Enzyme Institute, the molecular biology program, the biophysics program, the School of Pharmacy, the Departments of Bacteriology, Biochemistry, Genetics, Mathematics, Physics, Computer Sciences, and the College of Engineering.


View a list of the department's world-class facilities.


Graduate students are supported by teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and fellowships. Most first-year chemistry graduate students receive teaching assistantships. Teaching experience helps strengthen the mastery of the subject matter taught and develops poise and maturity in working with individuals and groups. Students with fellowships benefit by doing some teaching, and can usually supplement their stipends. The department does not, however, require that graduate students teach. In later years, graduate students usually serve as research assistants for their thesis advisers. Summer support for Ph.D. candidates is routinely available.

The Graduate School awards fellowships in mid-February. Incoming students who are awarded fellowships may activate their awards in June or in September. A limited number of summer research and teaching positions are also available from the department for exceptional new students who have accepted the department's offer for the following year. Contact the graduate program coordinator for more information.

Opportunities for Minority Graduate Students: The Chemistry Department welcomes applications for graduate study from members of minority groups. Financial assistance for minority students is available through the UW-Madison Graduate School.

Programs for Future Graduate Students

College juniors and seniors are encouraged to apply for the Chemistry Opportunities (CHOPs) or Partners for Graduate School Experience in Chemistry (PGSEC) programs to get an early idea whether graduate school in chemistry might be the right fit.

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