Our department offers degree programs in analytical, biological, inorganic, organic, physical, and polymer/materials chemistry. Although the faculty is organized into traditional divisions for teaching purposes, the divisional structure does not restrict research opportunities - students are free to choose advisors in any division. The typical graduate experience involves the full range of opportunities offered by a major research institution, with a truly collegial environment that encourages interactions across divisions and throughout the university.
The Ph.D. degree is a research degree, and the most important element of the program is therefore a student's original research project. When students arrive on campus, members of the Graduate Studies Committee are available for advising the students on possible research projects in the department that fall into their areas of interest.
During the first semester at Chapel Hill, students talk with faculty members and their groups about possible research projects, read relevant papers, and ultimately select a research group and project. Most students complete the selection process by the end of the first semester. After joining a research group, they take residence in their research group, and begin reading relevant articles, and initiating the experimental, or theoretical, work on their chosen project. Graduate students must associate with one of the six divisions for the purpose of fulfilling the oral and written requirements for the Ph.D. degree. Although there are no formal course requirements, students typically take five or six courses during their first year. Interdisciplinary students take additional courses to gain adequate breadth.
Admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. requires to passing cumulative exams, the number and make-up of which are determined by the division, and a preliminary oral exam. The latter involves a presentation of a research prospectus followed by a comprehensive oral exam.
Attending and delivering seminars are also an important part of the curriculum. The Department hosts divisionally-based chemistry seminar program, and several featured lectureships, each of which serve to bring outstanding scientists to UNC. There are regular weekly seminars in physical, organic, biological, inorganic, and materials chemistry. These seminars are presented by members of the UNC faculty, graduate students, and visitors to the campus, and allow the student to become aware of the most important current research in chemistry. Because of the size and diversity of the UNC faculty, there is a great variety of seminars topics that a student may choose to attend in a given week. Graduate students also hone their presentation skills in individual research group meetings.
On a regular basis, students present their own research to members of their group or lead group discussion of recent relevant papers in the literature. It is in the more informal setting of the research group meeting that students develop the ability to organize their own research results for presentation to peers, and to defend their interpretation of the results. The final requirement for the Ph.D. degree is for the student to complete their original research project and to write a dissertation on the subject. Most students complete their degree between four to five years after entering the department.