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Prospective Students

Why choose UK?

Excellent research opportunities spanning 28 faculty with major strengths in biological, environmental, and materials chemistry; competitive stipends; excellent support facilities; and a fantastic location in the middle of horse and bourbon country with beautiful hiking and nearby world-class rock climbing. Our program is designed such that students take coursework to develop a core expertise while taking special topics courses in areas of interest. Our collaborative research groups provide students with opportunities to have diverse experiences, both in their primary advisor's research laboratories but also in others at UK and at our partner institutions. Further training outside of research includes programs in preparing students for faculty positions as well as exposure and training in entrepreneurial ventures. Several groups have received patents for inventions developed at UK, many of which have been licensed by outside companies and others of which have been the basis for start-up companies formed at UK. Furthermore, the welcoming atmosphere in our department provides students with an environment not only for teaching, learning, and research, but also to develop lifelong friendships.

  • Full assistantships, including a typical stipend of up to $29,000/year if supported over the entire summer, full tuition scholarship, and fully paid health insurance are offered to all new students admitted to the PhD program. The relatively low cost of living in Lexington makes this stipend go farther than it would at many other universities. For a list of internal and external funding opportunities, click here.
  • Our department has 28 research groups, which house state-of-the-art instrumentation, and there many opportunities for collaborative research and co-advisement. Our research groups have close ties with national laboratories including Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the Army Research Laboratory, as well as other academic instituttuions including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Wake Forest University, Purdue University, Harvard University, the University of Utah, and the University of Michigan. Many of our students spend time at these partner institutions to receive training and conduct experiments.
  • Our shared facilities include a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Center that houses 5 NMR spectrometers (400 - 600 MHz, the newest one acquired in 2018), a single crystal X-ray diffraction facility with two diffractometers (newest one acquired in 2017), an Electron Paramagnetic Resonance Facility with two EPR instruments, a Mass Spectrometry Center, a Light Microscopy Core, Electron Microscopy Center that includes SEM and TEM instruments including a new (2018) Talos 200x TEM, a Center for Advanced Materials, and the Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering.
  • Our primary research building (Chemistry-Physics Building) houses a machine shop, glass blower, and electronics shop.
  • Interaction with alumni in academia, industry, and other fields who continue to be involved with the Department
  • Weekly seminars from world-renowned scientists and annual events such as the Dawson Lecture and Naff Symposium
  • NEW as of Fall 2019: Opportunity to submit an original research proposal for the written portion of the PhD qualifying examination
  • UK is located in Lexington, Kentucky - a great place to live that 
    • is in the center of horse country and bourbon country!
    • has a relatively low cost of living, making your stipend go farther.
    • is ranked the 10th most educated U.S. city based on college eduation rates.
    • has the most bicycle friendly campus (Bicycling magazine)
    • is close to beautiful places to hike and climb, including Raven Run (30 min), Red River Gorge (1 hour), and Daniel Boone National Forest (1.5 hours)

How do I apply?

Eligibility criteria

As of October 2020, we no longer require that applicants take or submit their GRE scores. Our admissions committee uses some unofficial lower score limits when evaluating applications.  These are not set in stone, and therefore, a score lower than one of these limits does not automatically disqualify an application if other parts of the application are strong. Other important parts of the application include recommendation letters or publications, research/teaching experience, or examples of problem-solving abilities.

The unofficial lower limits are:

  • GPA: 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • TOEFL* (each section): 20 or IELTS* (each section): 6.5

*If you are unsure whether TOEFL/IELTS scores are required for your application, please contact your Admissions Officer.

The minimums listed above are used by department's Admission Committee. However, the Graduate School at UK also has required minimums including an undergraduate GPA of 2.75 and a 3.00 for any graduate work.  Please visit their admissions page for more information.

Application process

The application process is managed entirely by the University of Kentucky Graduate School. All materials should be submitted through the web application found at The materials you need to assemble for application are as follows:

  1. TOEFL/IETLS Scores (if an international student)
  2. Transcripts from current and prior institutions (Unofficial documents are acceptable for the application.  Admitted students are required to provide official documents.)
  3. Personal statement that includes your research interests (include names of faculty at UK)
  4. Three letters of reference, to be uploaded by the letter writers

If you are unsure whether TOEFL/IETLS scores are required for your application, please contact your Graduate School Admissions Officer

In limited circumstances it may be possible to defer your application fee payment. We only offer a small number of application fee deferrals, and these are awarded based on need, merit, and date of request.  If you would like to request an application fee deferral you must have all application materials completed and uploaded, including three recommendation letters, by December 15. If you intend to apply for an application fee deferral, do not pay the application fee. Once the application fee is paid it will not be refunded. After all materials are uploaded and your application is fully complete, but not submitted, please email stating that you are applying for an application fee deferral. Please title the subject of your email "Application Fee Deferral".


Fall Applicants: Primary consideration will be given to applications received by December 15th. While applications may be considered after that time, most admissions decisions are made by the end of February.

Contact us

If you have questions about our program, or if would like to schedule a campus visit, please email the Director of Graduate Recruiting at