Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Chemistry and Chemical Biology
The Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology offers a program of study leading to the degree of doctor of philosophy in chemistry, in the special fields of biological, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry. A PhD program in chemical physics is also available.
The entering graduate student at Harvard joins an active research center as a co-worker at the start of or during the student’s second term. The Department’s faculty and its affiliated student scientists share a rich training in the unique tools of chemical inquiry and commitment to scientific investigation at the molecular level. Doctoral research, based on the student’s own interests and those of the chosen faculty supervisor, is concerned with problems of intrinsic interest and importance at the frontiers of chemical science. The student joins a community composed of about 180 graduate students, more than 200 postdoctoral fellows, and 32 faculty members.
Regular seminars are held by most faculty members for their research groups. The exchange of views, the solution of problems, and the discussion of recent developments have made this setting an important component of the graduate program. Colloquia in special fields of chemistry and frequent lectures by visiting chemists are continual catalysts for creative research. Considerable opportunity exists for interaction with other departments and groups inside Harvard University, at MIT, and at other research centers in the Boston area.
Departmental research facilities are located in six buildings on the historic main Harvard campus: Mallinckrodt, Conant, Converse, Naito, Bauer, and the Mallinckrodt/Hoffman “Link.” These laboratories are adjacent to the Departments of Stem Cell and Regnerative Biology, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Physics, Earth and Planetary Sciences, the Centers for Systems Biology and Brain Science, and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Also nearby is the Science Center, housing Mathematics, Statistics, and History of Science, but devoted primarily to undergraduate teaching facilities. In addition to the faculty research labs, the Chemistry and Chemical Biology complex contains facilities for analytical instrumentation (NMR, X-ray Crystallography, X-ray Diffractometry), a library, and computer workstations for molecular modeling and chemical information retrieval. A machine shop, electronics shop, and facilities for mass spectrometry, protein structure determination, materials synthesis, nanofabrication, and imaging are available in adjacent departments. Nearly all CCB faculty are affiliated with multiple cross-departmental programs and research centers at Harvard..
Applications for admission to study for the PhD degree in chemistry are accepted from students who have received the bachelor’s degree or have had equivalent preparation. These applications should be initiated during the fall of the year preceding the September when admission is desired. Normally, students are admitted only for September. The Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology admits students with a record of classroom and laboratory training in biological, organic, inorganic, and physical chemistry. We expect students to possess a strong enough grounding in chemistry to perform well on the required Chemistry GRE subject exam, and to be thoughtful enough about the discipline of chemistry to communicate their desire to pursue doctoral research in our department.
Applicants must take the GRE general and chemistry examinations. These must be taken no later than November of the year prior to admission and preferably earlier so that score reports arrive by the December application deadline. TOEFL is required of all foreign applicants other than those whose native language is English.
We encourage prospective students to submit their applications online whenever possible at http://www.gsas.harvard.edu/apply. We also ask the student’s recommenders to submit their letters online whenever possible. The Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology is a participant in Harvard Integrated Life Sciences (HILS).
The Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology meets the financial needs of its graduate students through Department Scholarships, Department Fellowships, Teaching Fellowships, Research Assistantships, and independent outside fellowships. Financial support is awarded on a 12-month basis, enabling students to pursue their research throughout the year. Tuition support is provided to all graduate students in good standing.
Generally, students in their first year are supported by a departmental fellowship that covers tuition and living expenses. Beginning in the second semester, all students are expected to teach for two semesters. Teaching fellowships are term-long jobs typically available on a quarter-time or half-time basis. A quarter-time assignment involves about ten hours per week of preparation and instruction. With the research advisor’s concurrence, a student may teach in subsequent years.
Research assistantships provide an opportunity for students to devote more time to research. The 12-month research assistantship is the major vehicle for student support within a research group. Research assistantships typically start in July after the student has completed the first year of the graduate program.
Independent fellowships are outside awards (e.g., NSF, NDSEG, DOE) covering a significant portion of a student’s stipend and tuition throughout his or her tenure in the PhD program. Information on major graduate fellowships is available online, or can be obtained by writing to the respective agencies directly, or by inquiring at your college career counseling office. A limited number of corporate fellowships are available to meritorious students after the first year..
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Although the curriculum for this degree includes certain requirements in formal coursework (see below), the majority of the graduate student’s time and energy will be devoted to original investigations in a chosen field of research. Students have many opportunities to learn about current research programs, prior to embarking upon research, both during rotations and through informal discussions with faculty and students. Students are strongly encouraged to enter a research group by June 30 of their first year, unless a deferral is granted on a term-by-term basis by the director of graduate studies. Once a student joins a research group, the faculty member of that group becomes the student’s advisor.
Qualifying Requirements. Students must pass four advanced half-courses in chemistry and/or related fields (e.g., biochemistry, physics, etc.) with average grades of B or higher. Grades of B- will count as a pass if balanced by a B+ or better on a one-for-one basis. An advanced Higher Degrees in Chemistry course is one designated in the announcement of courses as “for undergraduates and graduates” or “primarily for graduates” with the exception of the following courses that cannot be used for credit toward the PhD degree in Chemistry: Chemistry 135 and 165. Courses numbered 300 or above do not count toward this requirement.
All entering graduate students (G1s) are required to take “Chemistry 301hf. Scientific Teaching and Communication: Practicum” in their first year. This course will teach graduate students how to communicate scientific concepts in the classroom.
During the orientation week students will formulate a plan of study in consultation with a member of the Curriculum Advising Committee (CAC). The CAC may withhold approval for courses deemed inappropriate for the PhD degree in Chemistry. Any changes to the original plan of study must be discussed with and approved by a member of the CAC.
It is expected that required coursework be completed no later than the end of the third term in residence. In consultation with the CAC, special arrangements may also be made in the following circumstances:
(a) Advanced courses passed with honor grades by a Harvard undergraduate, who is subsequently admitted to the Graduate School, may be counted in fulfillment of the departmental course requirement. They may be counted for residence requirements only if in excess of the courses required for the AB degree (see The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Handbook).
(b) Students who have taken elsewhere the equivalent of a Harvard advanced course may, by arrangement with the Advisory Committee, meet the requirement with respect to that course without enrollment by fulfilling such requirements as the instructor in the course stipulates. (See The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Handbook, Credit for Work Done Elsewhere.)
Rotations. Entering graduate students (G1s) are required to participate in three 4-week rotations in different laboratories, OR they may conduct one 8-week and one 4-week rotation in two different laboratories. The goal of the rotations is to broaden a student’s scientific perspective by exposing him or her to the science and environment of different laboratories.
Advising. During orientation week, each entering student meets with an assigned member of the Curriculum Advising Committee (CAC) to formulate a plan of study. The CAC advises students on their academic plans, approves required courses, and assists in decisions related to the PhD program.
Students are strongly encouraged to enter a research group by the end of the second term of their first year, unless a deferral is granted on a term-by-term basis by the director of graduate studies. Once a student joins a research group, the faculty member of that group becomes the student’s advisor. If a student subsequently finds that another area of research more closely matches his or her interests, the student should consult with the director of graduate studies.
At the end of their first year, students are expected to constitute, in consultation with the director of graduate studies, their Graduate Advising Committee (GAC). The GAC consists of the student’s advisor and two other faculty members, one of whom must be a CCB faculty member. The committee meets yearly, beginning in the student’s second year, to assess research progress and discuss future plans. Students are expected to present and defend an independent proposal anytime between the second semester of their second year and the end of their fourth year in the presence of their GAC. In addition, they will have meetings with the GAC in the second semester of their second year, and by June 30th of their third and fourth years. The independent proposal defense will serve as one of these three required meetings. Students may have a voluntary GAC meeting in their fifth year and, if necessary, a mandatory meeting in their sixth year. The objective of these meetings is to bring focus to the timely completion of the degree requirements, to foster (non-advisor) faculty-student interactions, and to provide career counseling.
Students are encouraged to consult with the director of graduate studies on any issues that affect graduate student life.
Oral Examinations. Students are expected to present and defend a research proposal anytime between the second semester of the second year and the end of the fourth year. The presentation will be before a faculty committee in accordance with the Graduate Advising Committee guidelines.
Language. A thorough command of oral and written English is required. Incoming PhD students who are non-native speakers of English and who have not received their undergraduate degree from an English-speaking institution will have their English proficiency tested by the Institute of English Language (IEL). Students who are not deemed proficient will be required to take courses at the IEL to develop their English language skills as part of their preparation for teaching and their professional development. Students will not be allowed to teach until they are deemed proficient.
Teaching. It is expected that all students will participate in teaching sections or laboratory for two terms. Most students teach in the spring term of their first year and the fall term of their second year. With his or her advisor’s concurrence, a student may teach in subsequent years.
Continuance. Continuation in the degree program is contingent on the following: (1) satisfactory completion of required coursework, (2) successful presentation and defense of a research proposal in accordance with policy set by the Graduate Advising Committee (GAC), (3) admission to a research group during the second term in residence, unless extension of time has been approved by the director of graduate studies, and (4) satisfactory progress in 300-level research courses.
Dissertation. The preparation of a satisfactory dissertation normally requires at least four years of full-time research. The final manuscript must conform to the requirements described in the booklet The Form of the PhD Dissertation, included in the dissertation preparation packet of procedural and deadline information that may be obtained from the CCB department office.
All students are expected to provide a public presentation of their PhD research. The dissertation defense will be comprised of two parts: 1) a public presentation of the student’s PhD research to which members of the CCB community will be invited, followed by 2) the private PhD dissertation defense before the dissertation defense committee (generally the GAC). One of the readers must be a faculty member of the department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology (generally the advisor). Two members of the committee must be members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Faculty members from other schools at Harvard who hold appointments on GSAS degree committees as well as FAS emeriti and research professors may serve as members of the dissertation committee. Faculty of institutions outside of Harvard may serve as a member of the dissertation committee providing the requirement of two readers from FAS (one being a CCB faculty member, generally the advisor) is met.
Master of Arts (AM)
The Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology does not grant terminal AM degrees. Students may apply for the AM degree after one or two years in the doctoral program. The requirements for this degree are:
Residence. Minimum of one year of full-time study.
Program of Study. The student must pass with honor grades eight advanced half-courses diversified among the fields of chemistry with average grades of B or higher. Grades of B- will count as a pass if balanced by a B+ or better on a one-for-one basis.. Typically, four of the half-courses are classroom work, and the remaining four are research courses. Students will formulate a plan of study in consultation with a member of the Curriculum Advising Committee (CAC). The CAC may withhold approval for courses deemed inappropriate for the AM degree in Chemistry.
Approval of the application for the AM degree is contingent upon the satisfactory completion of the required eight half-courses. Proper documentation of passing grades on applicable bracketed courses (i.e., GSAS transcripts) must be received by the department office before approval of the AM degree is granted.
Language. A thorough command of oral and written English is required. Incoming PhD students who are non-native speakers of English and who have not received their undergraduate degree from an English-speaking institution will have their English proficiency tested by the Institute of English Language (IEL). Students who are not deemed proficient will be required to take courses at the IEL to develop their English language skills as part of their preparation for teaching and their professional development.
Thesis: None required.
Recent PhD Dissertations
Sara Ann Jones, “Visualizing Cellular Nanostructures with Light Microscopy” (Zhuang Group)
Evan King, “Metal-Ligand Multiple Bonds in High-Spin Complexes” (Betley Group)
Katherine Zharkova Mirica, “Density-Based Chemical Analysis and Three Dimensional Self-Assembly Using Magnetic Levitation” (Whitesides Group)
Marvin Morales, “Pseudoephenamine: A Practical Chiral Auxilliary for Asymmetric Synthesis" (Myers Group)
Whitney Nolte, “Identifying Protease-Peptide Interactions Using Mass Spectrometry” (Saghatelian Group)
David Powers, “Bimetallic Redox Chemistry in Carbon-Heteroatom Bond Formation” (Ritter Group)
Yikai Wang, “Developing Chemical Methodology and Synthetic Pathways for Probe Discovery and Biological Studies” (Schreiber Group)
Bingjun Xu, “Fundamental Concepts in Catalytic Oxidative-Coupling Reactions on Metallic Gold” (Friend Group)
Zhizhong Joel Yao, “Using Live Cell Imaging to Probe Biogenesis of the Gram-negative Cell Envelope” (Kahne Group)
Chun Yu, “Nanowires as Optoelectronic and Photonic Elements” (Park Group)