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About Our Program

Welcome to the Department of Chemistry at the University of Kentucky. We take pride in our tradition of excellence in education, which started in 1886 when the first chemistry classes were taught at UK to the establishment of our Ph.D. program in 1946. Our department offers M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in analytical, biological, inorganic, nuclear, organic and physical chemistry. Our 30 faculty, approximately 100 students, and 15 postdoctoral researchers work on a diverse array of research projects that include emphasis in computational & theoretical chemistry; spectroscopy & spectrometry; nuclear chemistry; environmental chemistry; energy storage; organic electronics; health & disease; and biological, inorganic, & organic materials & processes. Our research groups are often kept small at ca. 5 students, thereby allowing faculty to spend more time mentoring each student than is typical at many larger and similarly sized universities. We encourage you to browse the faculty research pages to learn more about the exciting projects that you could join as a graduate student.

The achievements of our students and faculty have been recognized by professional organizations and funding agencies on the national and international level, some of which you can read about in our Features page. Our faculty are funded from numerous sources including the National Science Foundation,  Department of Defense, Department of Energy, National Aeronautics and Space Agency, Office of Naval Research, National Institutes of Health, American Cancer Society, Kentucky Science and Engineering Foundation, American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund, Human Frontiers Science Program, and others.

Contact Information:

Dr. Kenneth Graham
Director of Graduate Studies

Graduate Program Office
phone: (859) 257-4930
toll free: (800) 944-2436
fax: (859) 323-9985

PhD Program Overview:

Entering students take standardized proficiency exams in analytical, biological, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry. The scores on these exams are used by the Graduate Program Committee to help new students accelerate the course-work component of their Ph.D. program by allowing them to bypass courses where they are already proficient. During their second year in the program, Ph.D. candidates submit an original research proposal to satisfy the written portion of the qualifying exam. Having completed the course work and passed the research proposal, the candidate undergoes an oral qualifying exam in which he or she answers questions posed by his or her advisory committee. After that, the path is clear to the Ph.D. degree, and additional time in graduate school is simply a function of research progress.


Our department offers a variety of courses including two core courses in each of the five divisions.  Additionally, we offer several advanced courses including Chemical Crystallography, Neurochemistry, Proteomics and Mass Spectrometry, Environmental Chemistry, Spectroscopy and Photophysics, Inorganic Chemistry of Non-Metals, Polymer Chemistry, and three courses on organic electronic materials, one of which is a laboratory course. Also offered are Special Topics (CHE 580) courses that vary from semester to semester. Typically, students take five to eight courses, with most students completing these course requirements by the end of their first semester of their second year.

At least one out-of-department course or one out-of-area course is required for graduation. Students considering a career in teaching may participate in the Preparing Future Faculty program. Seminars and courses are aimed to help those with academic ambitions.

Financial Aid:

Assistantships are provided to each student accepted to the PhD program. Tuition and benefits, including full health insurance, are covered by your assistantship. Most entering graduate students are supported by Teaching Assistantships. Being a TA is a requirement for graduation and requires a commitment of up to 20 hours of work per week, which includes classroom time, office hours, and grading. Teaching assistantships in the Department of Chemistry are competitive, particularly considering the very low cost of living in Lexington, Kentucky. The typical stipend for a graduate student in the department, assuming 12-month support, is $24,000. Additionally, numerous fellowships can increase the level of support received by graduate students.  After the first year, students may be supported by Research Assistantships. About half of our students are supported as Research Assistants.