Graduate Student Guide


Welcome to CCB!Maria Brouard from the Woo Lab


Whether you're a newly admitted student or a fifth-year veteran, you can find information on courses, teaching, and requirements here.

Can't find what you're looking for?

Contact Kathy Oakley, Graduate Program Administrator.








  • Check-in at My.Harvard is required for all students at the beginning of each term in order to be considered an active student and register for courses. (NOTE: late check-in may be subject to a $50 late fee.). 
  • Course Registration: students are required to take a minimum of 16 credits per term. Register here.
  • Advising Hold: cleared when your advisor signs your Crimson Cart (formerly Study Card).
  • Financial Hold: please contact Joe Lavin if you experience registration issues due to financial holds.
  • Fall 2019: Check-in period begins on August 1st. Students must check in by September 3rd. The course registration deadline is September 9th.
  • Spring 2020: Check-in period begins on January 22nd. Students must check in by January 27th. The course registration deadline is January 31st.
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Ph.D. candidates must pass four advanced* 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. Grades of C+ or below will not count. 



Ph.D. candidates must pass five advanced* 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. Grades of C+ or below will not count.

*An advanced course is one designated in the announcement of courses as "for undergraduates and graduates" or "primarily for graduates." Exceptions include the following courses, which cannot be used for credit: Chemistry 100r, 135, 145, 160, and 165; Physics 143a, 143b; Chemical Biology 2200, and Molecular and Cellular Biology 121. Courses numbered 300 or above do not count toward this requirement. 


Chemistry 301hf

Both programs require students to take “Chemistry 301hf, Scientific Teaching and Communication: Practicum” in their first year. This course teaches how to communicate scientific concepts in the classroom to prepare for teaching responsibilities in the spring term of the first year.



During Orientation, incoming students will create a Plan of Study in consultation with a member of the Curriculum Advising Committee (CAC). The CAC advises students on their academic plans, approves required courses and assists in decisions related to the PhD program. Any changes to the Original Plan of Study must be discussed with and approved by a member of the CAC. In both programs, students normally satisfy the letter-graded requirements in the first two years of graduate studies. 

Any changes to your original CCB plan of study must be approved by either your research advisor or a member of your Curriculum Advising Committee, if you have not yet joined a research group. Please see Kathy Oakley (Mallinckrodt 133) to receive your Plan of Study for a member of your Committee to update and sign. This must be done before you register for courses.




Your 16 credits should include:

  • Your letter-graded courses
  • 2 credits of Chem 301HFA
  • 4 credits of Chem 300 for rotations, 
NOTE: To reach the 16-creditminimum, you may enroll in more than 4 credits of Chem 300. If you need to take an English Language course, please include this as 4 credits of Chem 399 (Chemistry-related Coursework)

Sample Course List - if taking two letter-graded courses:

G1 Fall - 2 Courses


OR, if taking three letter-graded courses:

G1 Fall - 3 Letter-Graded Courses



Your 16 credits should include:

  • Your letter-graded courses
  • 2 credits of Chem 301HFB (G1s will be automatically enrolled in this)
  • Your advisor's 300-level reading and research course.
NOTE: Students still rotating should continue to list Chem 300 for their reading and research course.

Sample Course List
G1 Spring Courses



Your 16 credits should include:

  • Your letter-graded courses
  • Your advisor's 300-level Research and Reading course

For example:

  • Those who are not taking any letter-graded courses should list 16 cedits of their advisor's 300-level Research and Reading course.
  • Those taking one letter-graded course should list 12 credits of their advisor's 300-level Research and Reading course and 4 credits of the letter-graded course.

Note: GSAS is no longer using Time-T or Time-R.  If teaching, you will no longer need to enroll in Time-T. 

Sample Course List
If taking one letter-graded course:

G2 with one course

If taking no letter-graded courses:

G3 with no courses

Guidelines for Reduction in Course Loads

In the following situations, students may request a reduction in their course requirements. It will generally be understood that students must demonstrate excellent preparation and generally will be expected to earn grades of A- or better to be considered for these exceptions. 

  1. Students who have already earned a Master’s degree at Harvard. 
  2. Students who received an A.B. from Harvard University and have taken a large number of graduate courses already with honor grades. Graduate-level courses that were used to fulfill the course requirements for the A.B. degree cannot be used to fulfill the Department course requirements. 
  3. In rare cases, students who have earned a Master’s degree at another institution and have taken graduate-level courses at that institution equivalent to specific Harvard courses.

The Director of Graduate Studies, in consultation with the Curriculum Advising Committee, will make the final decision, and ordinarily the course requirements would not be reduced by more than one course.  While these requests will be considered, a reduction in course load is rare. The Department feels that taking courses at Harvard, that may be similar to courses previously taken elsewhere, will still be advantageous to the student’s academic growth, as students will gain new insight from learning advanced material with a different professor.

Students should email a written petition to Joe Lavin, Co-Director of Graduate Students. This petition should include supporting information about the courses, such as transcripts, a syllabus, name of the professor, textbooks used, etc. Requests may not be made until the student has joined a research group, and approval of the student’s research advisor will be required.  

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Our Lab Rotation Program allows first year graduate students (G1s) to experience the science and environment of our CCB laboratories. The program also exposes our students to the interrelated, multidisciplinary research our faculty pursue and encourages them to investigate beyond the borders of their chosen field. 

Lab Rotation Policies for G1s

  • G1s are required to participate in either three 4-week rotations in different laboratories OR one 8-week and one 4-week rotation in two different laboratories.
  • Each student is assigned a graduate student or postdoctoral mentor for guidance and advice on lab practices and policies.
  • In the third rotation, students may choose to rotate with a professor in a department outside CCB with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies; to do so, contact the outside faculty member directly to discuss your possible rotation.
  • Students must wait for the mid-December group joining deadline before officially joining a group.
  • If a student has not joined a group after the first three rotations, the student may do additional 4-week or 8-week rotations in the spring term with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies.
  • All students should enter a research group by June 30th of their first year. Students are encouraged to join a group at the start of or during their second term.
  • The faculty head of the chosen group serves as the student’s advisor.

If, after you join a research group, you find that another area of research more closely matches your interests, consult the Director of Graduate Studies, Professor Ted Betley, or Co-Director of Graduate Studies, Joe Lavin

Questions? Please contact Kathy Oakley
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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.

G1s are typically paid through a departmental fellowship in the fall term and a teaching fellowship in the spring term. Research assistantships start in July after the student has completed the first year of the graduate program. 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.

Stipend and Tuition

The CCB stipend rate is $37,932 ($3,161/month). Stipend and tuition support (including student health fees and the student health insurance plan) is provided to all graduate students in good standing, through the Department, faculty advisor, and/or external fellowships. More information on student health insurance is available through University Health Services

Fellowship Policy

Funding from an external fellowship will replace any stipend and tuition support from the Department. However, the Department will supplement any fellowship to the amounts indicated above, so that those students with external fellowships receive the same level of support as other graduate students in the Department. Students with external fellowships are required to inform the Department so that the fellowship may be integrated with the rest of their financial support.

Teaching Salaries

When students teach after the first year, it is departmental policy to reduce the student's research assistant salary by half of the teaching salary. In this way, students still receive additional income from teaching, but their research advisors are also compensated for the reduction to the student's time in the research group. This policy is also followed when students teach in courses outside CCB.

GSAS Financial Aid

Term Bill and Health Insurance

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External Fellowships

Graduate students, both U.S. citizens and international students, can apply for external fellowships, and the University offers resources to help graduate students find relevant funding opportunities and prepare strong applications. International students may also choose to check with their respective governments and in-country organizations to locate additional fellowship opportunities.

For fellowships and grant writing workshops:


CCB Fellowships


The Christensen Prize was established in 1988 by Dr. Burton G. Christensen, A.M. 1954, Ph.D. 1956. A limited number of travel grants, up to $2,000 each, will be awarded to graduate students in organic chemistry to attend a prestigious scientific meeting of their choosing. This prize is also open to non-CCB students working in CCB labs, though some preference may be given to CCB students. 

To apply, email the following to Kathy Oakley (with a copy your advisor):

  • name
  • description of the outstanding research achievement (1-page research summary)
  • graduate year
  • conference name and dates
  • title of the individual's talk (if he/she will be giving a presentation)


  • Fall Funding Cycle - August 31
  • Spring Funding Cycle - December 1  
  • Summer Funding Cycle - April 15


Starting with 2018-19, the Department has established the CCB Department Travel Prize for those graduate students in areas not eligible for the Christensen Prize.  A limited number of travel grants, up to $2,000 each, will be awarded to graduate students in physical, inorganic, or theoretical chemistry to attend a prestigious scientific meeting of their choosing. This prize is also open to non-CCB students working in CCB labs, though some preference may be given to CCB students. 

To apply, email the following to Kathy Oakley (with a copy your advisor):

  • name
  • description of the outstanding research achievement (1-page research summary)
  • graduate year
  • conference name and dates
  • title of the individual's talk (if he/she will be giving a presentation)


  • Fall Funding Cycle - August 31
  • Spring Funding Cycle - December 1  
  • Summer Funding Cycle - April 15


Beginning with the class entering in Fall 2015, incoming graduate students have the option to be reimbursed for (1) the purchase of a computer and/or research-related software -OR- (2) the cost of attending one research-related conference. These funds would need to be used by the end of the G4 year (June 30th). Note that funds may not be used in both categories. Receipts will be required, and this one-time reimbursement is limited to $1,200.

To qualify, please submit a Laptop/Research Allowance Form to Kathy Oakley.


The Dudley R. Herschbach Award recognizes excellence in teaching and dedication to departmental service. Eligible recipients have:

  • high CUE scores
  • a strong reputation as a teacher and nomination by one Faculty member AND one undergraduate student
  • taught more than one semester
  • made significant contributions (i.e. Quality of Life work, Science Center lab efforts, etc.) to the department
  • not already received a Herschbach Teaching Award

Recipients receive a $500 stipend and Certificate from the Department Chair; an award presentation(s) by Dudley R. Herschbach, Frank B. Baird, Jr. Research Professor of Science; and their name inscribed on the Teaching Award plaque in our Department Center.

Nominations may be sent by email or hard copy to Gregg Tucci, Co-Director of Undergraduate Studies.

GSAS Fellowships


Beginning with the class entering in Fall 2015, all GSAS PhD students in the third year or beyond are eligible to apply for professional development funding of up to $2,500 over the course of their enrollment in the PhD program. Students are eligible in their G3 year, with proof of a successful G2 GAC, approval of their faculty advisor, and with the approval of the Co-Director of Graduate Studies (Joe Lavin). 


  • Fall Funding Cycle - August 31 for fund disbursement on October 1
  • Spring Funding Cycle - December 21 for fund disbursement on February 1  
  • Summer Funding Cycle - April 30 for fund disbursement on June 1
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All students are expected to teach half-time in the spring term of their first year and during one term of the second year based on teaching needs. In rare instances and at the discretion of the Department, less than half-time teaching may be allowed to meet this requirement when half-time teaching positions are not available. With their advisor’s approval, a student may also teach in subsequent years.

Teaching fellowships are term-long jobs typically available on a quarter-time or half-time basis. A half-time assignment involves an average of twenty hours per week of preparation and instruction.



Teaching fellow assignments are handled by Joe Lavin, Associate Director of Academic Affairs, and Gregg Tucci, Director of Undergraduate Studies. The application deadlines are:

  • Fall Term: May 1
  • Spring Term: October 1

Apply: Centralized Application for Teaching Sections (CATS). A list of offered courses can be found here.

NOTE: CCB graduate students may also teach courses in other departments, with the approval of the CCB Department and their research advisor. If teaching in other departments, students must notify the CCB Department before accepting the assignment.



A thorough command of oral and written English is required to teach. 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 determined by their TOEFL iBT score. Students who are not deemed proficient will be required to take courses approved by GSAS to improve their English proficiency as part of their preparation for teaching and professional development. Adjustments to first-year course schedules may be necessary to allow for time to take these courses. Students will not be allowed to teach until they are deemed proficient.



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Our faculty are dedicated to teaching graduate students to perform original and creative research. To fulfill this goal, graduate students participate in three student/faculty meetings over the course of their career. Each meeting serves a different purpose within the overall objectives to: 

  • Assess the expertise of a student in performing independent research (2nd year Ph.D. Qualifying Exam);
  • Monitor a student’s research progress and guide the student to develop an original research program (3rd year Proposal / Research Review Meeting); and
  • Offer advice for the professional development of the graduate student (4th year Advising Meeting).

G2 Ph.D. Qualifying Examination

All students must pass a Ph.D. Qualifying Examination to: assess the (i) early research progress of the Ph.D. candidate and (ii) fundamental knowledge underpinning the student’s Ph.D. research project.

The director of graduate studies (DGS) assigns each student a Ph.D. Qualifying Committee by the end of the G1 year. Committees consist of four CCB faculty members, including the student’s research advisor, with one member designated as Chair. Each committee assesses four to six students. If a research project involves an advisor (primary or collaborative) external to CCB, s/he may attend as a 5th member. The Chair administers the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination and schedules the exam meeting. Meetings for all G2 students are held in April or early May of the G2 year and a given committee administers exams for the four to six students in either one or two consecutive days. Meetings may only be delayed if the student has an approved leave of absence during the first two years, in which case the meeting must be held during the 4th term in residence. The Chair from each committee will notify students of the exam results in a letter by the end of the week in which the exam was scheduled.

Exam Format

The examination includes both written and oral components (Formatted: Font: 12 pt)

  • Written Examination: no more than 5 single-spaced pages (or 10 double-spaced pages) in a communication-style format; report key results of accomplished research and include a brief discussion of future plans (must be submitted by email to the chair of the Qualifying Committee at least 7 days prior to the oral examination)
  • Oral Examination: consists of a 20-minute PowerPoint or blackboard presentation (as decided by the student), followed by 30 minutes of Questions and Answers from committee members. Committee members will not interrupt the student during the 20-minute presentation. Adherence to the guidelines of the 20-minute presentation will be enforced by the Chair of the committee. During the 30 minute Q&A session, queries from committee members span specific aspects of the research project to explore the fundamental knowledge underpinning the research project. Questions on the latter focus on material typically covered in an undergraduate chemistry curriculum that relates to the broadly defined area of the research project

Three Possible Results

  • Pass: the student becomes a candidate for a Ph.D.; a thesis committee forms by the end of the term (see below)
  • Conditional Pass: the committee re-examines the student before the end of the fall term of the G3 year. The committee decides the re-examination format, which may involve a written report to address specific concerns of the committee or re-assembled committee
  • Fail: the student withdraws from the program at the end of the term, with the opportunity to receive an A.M. degree, provided s/he meets other requirements outlined in the GSAS Policies (Ch. VI).


Constitution of PhD Thesis Committee

Upon passing the PhD Qualifying Examination, a three- member Thesis Committee will be formed, which will include the student's faculty advisor and two other faculty members. Two members of the committee must be from CCB. The third faculty member may be from CCB or from an external department associated with Harvard University. A student may also petition the DGS for approval of a third faculty member external to Harvard University. A student, in consultation with their research advisor, may add external members beyond the three-person committee.

To constitute the committee, in consultation with their research advisor, students will propose at least three faculty members as candidates for their committees in addition to the advisor. The student will submit their faculty preferences on a Thesis Committee Nomination Form, submitted to the CCB Department office by June 15th of the term  in which they pass the PhD Qualifying Examination. The form must be signed by the research advisor. These preferences will be reviewed by the DGS and a faculty advisory group with the intent of honoring the student’s preferences while balancing a fairly distributed committee load among the faculty. The selection process is necessary to avoid faculty being assigned to an inordinately large number of committees. Under unusual circumstances, students may wish to change the membership of their thesis committee, for reasons including significant changes in direction of their research topic. Such changes should be requested through the CCB Department office. Students must receive approval from the DGS in order for the change in committee to take effect.

G3 Proposal / Research Review Meeting

The one-hour meeting should be held with a student’s Thesis Committee before May 31st of the G3 year and will be scheduled by the student. The meeting will have two components: (i) a research proposal and (ii) review of research to date.

  • A Research Proposal will compose 30 minutes of the 1-hour meeting. Students will submit a 3-5 page single-spaced proposal 7 days before the meeting. The student may present either an original independent research proposal or a research proposal based on the student's current PhD research. The student will present this proposal and accept questions from the committee during the first 30 minutes of the meeting. A student cannot pass/fail the Research Proposal. The purpose of the research proposal is to better develop the student’s skill set at conceiving and designing an original research program. For an original research proposal, the proposal will be rated (excellent, very good or good) with a short written critique provided by the committee designed to provide the student feedback that helps to develop further this skill (of writing proposals). 
  • A 30-minute Research Review will be devoted to an update of the research progress made by the student. The research review will be graded Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory. A grade of Unsatisfactory will be reflected in the grade for the student's 300-level reading and research course. This alone will not result in a withdrawal; a student would be withdrawn from the program with two grades of Unsatisfactory in a 300-level reading and research course during the course of a student’s graduate studies, in accordance with the policies outlined in the GSAS Policies.

G4 Advisory Meeting

The G4 Advisory Meeting provides a mechanism for students to create relationships with faculty other than their advisor, as well as to mediate student/advisor conflict, if one exists, provide direction to completion of the PhD degree, provide career counseling or to address any other concern or issue of interest to the student. The student must call this meeting any time during the G4 year.

The agenda will be set by the student and may address research progress or career counseling in one of two meeting formats:

  • The student may assemble their Thesis Committee for a formal 1-hour meeting.


  • In lieu of a full meeting of the Thesis Committee, the student may instead choose to meet individually with one or two of their committee members other than their advisor.

For either meeting format, the student must first meet with their research advisor to discuss a (i) professional development (PD) plan, and (ii) proposed plan to graduation (PG). The student will summarize these discussions on two separate forms (PD Form and PG Form), available from the CCB Department office or from the departmental website. The research advisor must sign off on the two forms. Students will bring these two signed forms to their G4 meeting (either format) for review by the members of the Thesis Committee with whom the student chooses to meet. The signed forms will be returned to the CCB Department office.

G6+ Advisory Meeting

Students in their G6 year must meet with their Thesis Committee by December 31st of their G6 year and then every year beyond the G6 year. A detailed plan for the student's graduation and a proposed defense date will be decided at these meetings.




At the end of their first year, students are expected to form, 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. Students report their progress to the GAC at least once per year, beginning in their G2 year. The GAC may require more frequent meetings depending on the student's progress, especially as the dissertation defense nears.

The GAC has 3 main objectives:

  • To promote the timely completion of the degree requirements
  • To foster non-advisor faculty-student interactions.
  • To provide career counseling.

While it is generally assumed that the Faculty members serving on the GAC will transition to the Dissertation Defense Committee, this is not mandatory. Students should keep in mind that their GAC members will be more familiar with them and their research.

Forming the GAC

The GAC consists of the student's advisor and two other faculty members, one of whom must be a CCB faculty member. Two of your three GAC members must be from Harvard Faculty of Arts & Sciences (one of which must be from CCB specifically). All GAC members (including the advisor) will be present for all GAC meetings. The process for constituting the GAC begins in the G2 year and differs by area of concentration, as follows:

Physical, Inorganic, and Chemical Physics students are responsible for coordinating their Committee membership. Please email Kathy Oakley with your GAC composition no later than Monday, November 13, 2018.

Organic and Chemical Biology students must email Kathy Oakley a list of at least four suggested faculty members (excluding your advisor who is automatically on your committee), in order of preference, no later than Monday, November 13, 2018. The Department Office will determine the composition of your committee and then notify you, as well as your committee members, via email.

Progress Report

Students must submit a 2-page outline of their research progress and future plans to their GAC at least 7 days prior to each GAC meeting.


The GAC will judge all GAC meetings on a pass/fail basis. In the event of a fail grade, the committee will set goals, with a timeline for completion, to be met by the student. An additional follow-up meeting may be requested by the committee before the next regularly scheduled GAC meeting (for example in 6 months) to assess the student’s progress toward their goals.

At the conclusion of the GAC meeting, the committee members will sign the GAC Meeting Confirmation Form, which details the progress of the student. The signed form should be returned to Kathy Oakley in the Department office.

GAC Meeting Deadlines by Year

  • G2 Year: Students shall convene their first GAC meeting on or before February 1st of their G2 year. To ensure that the scheduling is completed in a timely manner, the date of the GAC must be confirmed with the relevant faculty by December 15th. Students are responsible for all meeting preparation, including securing a meeting location. Kathy Oakley will schedule the GAC meeting if no date is set by the December 15th deadline.
  • G3 AND G4 Years: Students shall schedule the meeting date by March 1st and convene their GAC by June 30th of their G3 and G4 years. The student is responsible for all meeting preparation including securing a meeting location. Kathy Oakley will schedule the GAC meeting if no date is set by the March 1st deadline. (NOTE: Students are expected to present and defend an independent research proposal anytime between the first semester of their 2nd year up to the end of their 4th year (June 30th). Any one of the G2, G3, or G4 GAC committee meetings can serve as the independent research proposal meeting.)
  • G5 Year: This meeting is optional. Students may arrange a meeting with their GAC in the G5 year if they feel one is necessary.
  • G6+ Year: Students must meet with their GAC by December 31st of their G6 year and then every year beyond the G6 year. A written report, signed by the Advisor and GAC, should be submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies detailing specific goals, a timeline for achieving those goals, and a projected defense date. This report should be submitted by January 4th.

Independent Research Proposal

Students present and defend an independent research proposal between the first semester of their 2nd year and the end of their 4th year (June 30th). Any of the G2, G3, or G4 GAC committee meetings can serve as the independent research proposal meeting. Students are required to choose topics that are distinct from their Ph.D. research and should consult with their advisor to develop the topic. Students and their advisors decide when to present the independent proposal.

Completing an independent research proposal expands a student's base scientific knowledge and provides a formal exercise in identifying research projects in interesting and promising areas of research. The objectives of the independent research proposal program are to provide students the opportunity to:

  • Think deeply and creatively about a significant research problem and propose how that problem can be addressed experimentally;
  • Develop writing skills by preparing a clear and concise scientific document; and
  • Develop oral presentation skills and engage in scientific discourse.
  • To provide students with a forum to receive constructive, critical feedback from faculty members.

Oral Exam

The oral exam typically takes 30 to 60 minutes. During the presentation, students should be prepared to answer questions concerning the proposal topic as well as allied areas. Questions of a more general nature or of topical interest (e.g. recent CCB seminars) may also be asked. At the end of the independent research proposal presentation, there will be a short discussion on research progress to date.

Written Proposal

Students submit a five-page independent research proposal to their GAC seven days in advance of the oral presentation. Please use the guidelines specific to your area of research:

Physical Chemistry & Chemical Physics: 5 pages maximum, single-spaced, 12-point font, 1-inch margins.

Organic Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry & Chemical Biology:

  • Topic: Candidates select a topic after direct consultation with, and with the approval of, his/her Advisor; proposals must contain ideas that originate with the Candidate
  • Required Format: standard letter-sized paper (8.5 x 11"); single-spaced, 12-point font; 1-inch margins; figures embedded in the document are included in the five-page limit.


  • Overview (1 page)
  • Abstract (0.5 page)
  • First paragraph (0.5 page): Identify the field of the proposal topic and briefly discuss any relationship between the proposal topic and the student's thesis research; identify the critical question(s) that are addressed and why these are important; identify those features of the proposal that are original
  • Proposal (maximum of 5 pages, including figures, excluding overview page and references): Specific aim(s) (0.5 pages); Background and significance (1 - 2 pages); Research design and methods; Impact statement (2 - 3 sentences); References (not included in page limit)

Possible Outcomes

GAC members will be given a GAC Confirmation Form and will indicate satisfactory (Pass) or unsatisfactory (Fail) progress. This grading sheet becomes part of the student's academic record.

Pass: The student continues in the program towards the Ph.D.

Fail: The student will be required to submit a revised written proposal for reevaluation. In addition, the GAC will establish goals, with a timeline for completion, to be met by the student and may schedule an additional meeting before the next annual GAC meeting to assess the student's progress. Students receiving a grade of Fail on the oral portion of the exam may, in some cases, be required to improve their oral presentation skills through the Bok Center for Teaching and/or by giving presentations within the department.

GAC Confirmation Form

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The preparation of a satisfactory dissertation normally requires at least four years of full-time research. All students are expected to provide a public presentation of their Ph.D. research as part of their program requirements. The dissertation defense includes:

  • A public presentation of the student's Ph.D research to which members of the CCB community will be invited
  • The private Ph.D. dissertation defense before the Dissertation Defense Committee (generally the GAC)

Students must submit the dissertation to the Dissertation Defense Committee at least 7 days before the defense date. The final manuscript must conform to the requirements described online on the GSAS website here.

Once the date, time, and location of the dissertation defense has been scheduled by the student with the Committee Members, the student must notify Kathy Oakley in the Department Office, who will send an email announcement to CCB faculty, graduate students, and postdocs inviting them to the public presentation. The CCB Doctoral Dissertation Form must be submitted 1-2 weeks prior to the defense to Kathy Oakley in the Department office, M-132.  Please contact her with any questions. 

GSAS Thesis Requirements

All PhD candidates are required to submit a copy of the dissertation via the ETDs @ Harvard submission tool by the deadline established for each degree conferral date. (See the GSAS Degree Calendar page for more information on deadlines.) Dissertations must be submitted electronically to ETDs following their guidelines, including the requirement of embedded fonts. Note that GSAS rules supersede those of ETDs for format.

Program Completion Date

For international students on an F-1 visa, the F-1 visa will end on the program completion date. The program completion date is not necessarily the defense date. It is the date the student stops working in the lab, and any salary/stipend would be ended on that date. International graduate students on an F-1 visa may continue working in the lab as students after their defense until the dissertation submission deadline, if the PI agrees to pay them and they are still completing graduate research in their lab.  International students should wait until the week of their program completion date before submitting their dissertation, while being careful to meet all GSAS deadlines. U.S. citizens may continue working in in the lab as students after their defense until the end of the term, if the PI agrees to pay them and they are still completing graduate research in their lab.

Dissertation Embargo Requests

If necessary, students may request to delay the release of (“embargo”) their work when submitting their dissertation to ETDs @ Harvard. Embargo requests greater than two years must be approved by the Department. For embargoes over two years, students must first get the approval of their advisor. Written approval from their advisor and a strong written academic reason for the embargo must be forwarded to the Co-Director of Graduate Studies, Joe Lavin, for departmental approval. Students should not begin the process until they have permission of their advisor.



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The Department does not grant a terminal AM degree. However, upon completion of certain requirements, students in the Chemistry PhD program may apply for the AM degree in Chemistry. An AM degree in Chemical Physics is not offered, but Chemical Physics students may also apply for the AM degree in Chemistry. 


A minimum of one year of full-time study is required.

Course Requirements and Research

The student must pass eight advanced four-credit 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. Grades of C+ or below will not count. Typically, four of these four-credit courses are classroom work, and the remaining four are research courses. As many as four four-credit courses of the required eight may be taken outside the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, provided the Curriculum Advising Committee approves them. Students planning to take such courses should petition the CAC in advance of taking the courses in order to have them count for the AM degree. Approval of the application for the AM degree is contingent upon the satisfactory completion of the required eight four-credit 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.


No thesis is required.

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