GRC/GRS and Qual Logistics

Graduate Research Conference/Seminar

During your second year of graduate school, you will be required to give a presentation on your research to which the department, including faculty and students, are invited. This is termed the Graduate Research Conference (GRC) for Physical students, held on Thursday afternoons, or the Graduate Research Seminar (GRS) for Synthetic students, held on Thursday mornings. Chemical Biology students may present either a GRC or a GRS, depending on the nature of their work. The presentation is twenty minutes long, with five additional minutes for a question and answer session at the end. During the summer of your first year, the Vice Chair of your division will explain the procedure for the GRC/GRS in detail.

The GRC/GRS is scheduled during the summer, at the same time as the qualifying exam. Typically students will present their GRC/GRS two to three weeks before their exam. This gives you the opportunity to organize and present your own results in the greater context of your field, and is a helpful method of preparation for the qualifying exam. You should notify the members of your qualifying exam committee of the date of your GRC/GRS, as many faculty members make an effort to attend the presentations of students on whose committees they are serving.

Qualifying Exam

A few weeks after your GRC/GRS, you will take an oral qualifying exam. You Vice Chair will also explain this process during the summer meeting. You will be able to suggest a date and committee members for your exam; the Vice Chairs do their best to accommodate your requests. The QE is evaluated by a committee of four faculty members. Three of the committee members must be from the Department of Chemistry, and one from a different department. The QE tests your knowledge and understanding of your research and experimental techniques as well as a general knowledge of your subject. You will also have to present a separate proposal (outside your research area) if you are a Synthetic student, or an outside paper if you are a Physical student. The QE typically lasts between two and three hours: the first half focusing on your research, and the second half on your outside topic or proposal. There are three possible outcomes of the QE:

  1. Pass
  2. Partial Pass. The student may be required to:
    1. Retake the entire exam in about 6 months (or some students opt to leave with a Masters degree in Chemistry). The QE cannot be taken more than twice.
    2. Retake sections of the exam in which the student performed poorly.
    3. Take a class or write a paper in an area that the QE committee thinks would be beneficial to the student. The student will pass on completion of the assigned task.
  3. Fail with no option to retake the exam (this occurs very rarely and typically students may leave with a Masters degree in Chemistry)