Skip to main content

Chemistry: MS, PhD


While students have the opportunity to do research in the traditional areas of biochemistry, analytical, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistries, they also have access to pursue interdisciplinary research that spans several of these sub-disciplines or goes beyond them. These interdisciplinary research topics encompass areas in medical, computer, and environmental science and allow students to interact with groups from diverse scientific areas in collaborations designed to solve complex, multi-faceted problems.

Research programs are consistently funded by national agencies such as the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Department of Energy.


  • Analytical Chemistry: This specialization researches novel optical methods of chemical analysis; white light spectrometry; and the analysis of large, nonvolatile molecules by mass spectrometry. Environmental chemistry is a major focus, with research projects directed toward the development and application of methods for the analysis of small particles in the atmosphere and the application of real-time mass spectrometry for aerosol analysis, and the detection of trace fluorocarbon substances in the atmosphere.
  • Inorganic Chemistry: In this specialization, research is devoted to understanding how metal-catalyzed chemical processes occur, and how features associated with the metal center influence chemistry. In bioinorganic chemistry, approaches involve the synthesis of model complexes that are designed to mimic structural, spectroscopic, and reactivity features of metalloenzyme active sites. Comprehensive studies of these model complexes increase understanding of the chemical principles that control the structure and function of metalloenzymes.
  • Organic Chemistry: This specialization focuses in the areas of physical organic chemistry and the synthesis of biologically active compounds. Mechanistic studies using novel kinetic techniques are questioning long-held assumptions about the details of some common chemical reactions. Other projects investigate the details of reactions at the chemistry-biology interface, including the chemistry of phosphate and sulfate esters. Other groups are working on the synthesis of novel unusual sugar-containing antibiotics or anticancer agents, and on studying the structural chemistry of naturally occurring compounds, in order to understand how structure affects stability, reactivity, and biological activity.
  • Physical Chemistry: This specialization focuses on computational chemistry. Research at USU led to the first experimental and theoretical evidence of aromaticity in all-metal systems. Other projects utilize modern methods of electronic structure theory to understand the fundamental nature of interactions between molecules, chiefly hydrogen bonds, which are critical to structure and function of biomolecules like proteins. In addition, projects in theoretical chemical physics are directed to studying the dynamics of microscopic and mesoscopic systems (e.g., quantum dots) in the classical limit of quantum mechanics.

Chemistry is a versatile degree. While many of USU’s graduate alumni enter the fields of research and academia, the following options are also available to chemistry graduates:

  • Chemistry
  • Ethnobotany
  • Environmental law
  • Patent law
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Oceanography
  • Forensic science
  • Biotechnology
  • Metallurgy
  • Ceramics industry
  • Plastics industry
  • Paper industry
  • Medicine
  • Teaching
  • Engineering
  • Geochemistry
  • Agrochemistry
  • Military systems

Admission Requirements

Prospective students in the graduate programs must have undergraduate degrees in chemistry or biochemistry.

Application Requirements:

  • Complete the online application
  • Pay the $55 application fee
  • Score at or above the 40th percentile on in the GRE
  • Have a 3.0 or higher GPA on your last 60 semester or 90 quarter credits
  • Provide transcripts of all college/university credits
  • Provide three contacts for letters of recommendation

International students have additional admissions requirements.

Admission Deadlines

Due to the nature of graduate course sequences, it is highly recommended that students enter the graduate program in the fall semester. Although there are no application deadlines, submission of all application materials by March 15 is strongly encouraged.

Program Requirements

In the weeks prior to the first academic semester, new students must participate in the graduate student orientation program. New students are required to attend a safety workshop and departmental orientation sessions, take departmental competency examinations, and receive academic advising. Students receiving a teaching assistantship must attend training sessions administered by the School of Graduate Studies. The scheduling of these events will be announced well in advance.

PhD Qualifying Exams:

PhD students must take both written and oral candidacy examinations. The written examination ensures that students have a broad understanding of chemistry and the depth of knowledge in their chosen fields required for PhD work. The written examination must be passed before the oral examination is attempted.

Master's Degree Plan Option(s)

Students can receive the MS by pursuing the following option:

  • In the Plan A option, students complete graduate-level coursework and must write a thesis.

Financial Assistance

First-year graduate students are awarded a $1,000 Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry Fellowship. Health insurance is offered to graduate students at a subsidized rate (80% covered).

The Willard L. Eccles Foundation Science Fellowship is an award of $22,000 per year for three years. The graduate programs committee nominates two to three candidates, and one candidate is chosen from the College of Science each year. Selection criteria include: grade point average, GRE score, letters of recommendation, and evidence of strong academic and research potential in the discipline.

Assistantships are also available. With these, the department is responsible for the first nine months of stipend and tuition, with the remaining summer stipend and tuition usually paid from faculty research funds. Teaching assistants devote no more than 12 hours per week directing undergraduate laboratories, leading recitation sections, and assisting students with questions during the regular two-semester academic year. Research assistantships are funded from individual faculty research grants and support students conducting research related to the grant projects. Although first-year students are not normally supported as research assistants, well-prepared students may be eligible for research support at the discretion of their major professor.

A variety of funding opportunities are available on the graduate school website.

Lisa Berreau, PhD, Iowa State University
Associate Professor
Area: Inorganic chemistry
Office: ESLC 245 J
Phone: (435) 797-3509

Stephen Bialkowski, PhD, University of Utah
Area: Analytical chemistry
Office: MCL 359
Phone: (435) 797-1907

Alexander Boldyrev, DSc, Academy of Sciences
Area: Physical chemistry
Office: MCL 369
Phone: (435) 797-1630

Robert Brown, PhD, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Associate Professor
Area: Analytical chemistry
Office: WIDT 026
Phone: (435) 797-0545

Cheng-Wei (Tom) Chang, PhD, Washington University – St. Louis
Associate Professor
Area: Organic chemistry
Office: WIDT 337
Phone: (435) 797-3545

Bradley Davidson, PhD, Cornell University
Associate Professor
Area: Organic chemistry
Office: WIDT 341
Phone: (435) 797-1628

Nick Dickenson, PhD, University of Kansas
Assistant Professor
Office: WIDT 233
Phone: (435) 797-0982

Scott Ensign, PhD, University of Wisconsin
Area: Biochemistry
Office: WIDT 239
Phone: (435) 797-3969

David Farrelly, PhD, University of Manchester
Area: Physical chemistry
Office: MLC 153
Phone: (435) 797-1608

Doug Harris, PhD, Brigham Young University
Senior Lecturer
Area: ---
Office: WIDT 335
Phone: (435) 797-1609

Alvan Hengge, PhD, University of Cincinnati
Professor, Department Head
Area: Biochemistry
Office: WIDT 343
Phone: (435) 797-1620

Joan Hevel, PhD, University of Michigan
Associate Professor
Area: Biochemistry
Office: WIDT 235
Phone: (435) 797-1622

John Hubbard, PhD, University of Arizona
Associate Professor
Area: Inorganic chemistry
Office: MCL 361
Phone: (435) 797-1641

Sean Johnson, PhD, Duke University
Associate Professor
Area: Biochemistry
Office: WIDT 237
Phone: (435) 797-2089

Tapas Kar, PhD, Indian Institute of Technology
Research Assistant Professor
Area: Theoretical chemistry
Office: MCL 279
Phone: (435) 797-7230

Steve Scheiner, PhD, Harvard University
Area: Computational chemistry
Office: MCL 273
Phone: (435) 797-7419

Lance Seefeldt, PhD, University of California – Riverside
Area: Biochemistry
Office: WIDT 241
Phone: (435) 797-3964

Professional Organizations, Honor Societies, and Clubs

American Chemical Society: With more than 161,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and one of the world’s leading sources of authoritative scientific information. A nonprofit organization, chartered by Congress, ACS is at the forefront of the evolving worldwide chemical enterprise and the premier professional home for chemists, chemical engineers and related professions around the globe.

Labs, Centers, Research

Center for Advanced Nutrition: The CAN provides a multi-disciplinary venue for the discussion, discovery, and dissemination of information about the biological, physiological, and psychological mechanisms of proper nutrition. The scope of discovery is broad and falls into four distinct but overlapping focus areas: bioactive foods, nutrition and the brain, ingestive behavior, and personalized nutrition.

Center for Integrated BioSystems: The CIB leads a progressive, interdisciplinary effort in research, core services, and education serving agriculture and life sciences. The CIB is where the first hybrid animal, a mule, was cloned, and was named one of “30 Awesome College Labs” by Popular Science magazine. The CIB has a research program with several active projects in diverse areas of life science that encompass plant, animal, and microbe functional genomics.

Energy Dynamics Laboratory: EDL bridges the gap between academia and industry, confronting the challenges of prototyping, deployment, and commercialization of enabling technologies for renewable and advanced energy systems. USU researchers originate projects to derive energy from non-fossil fuels, such as biofuels, wind, and solar power. With EDL’s collaboration, research develops through pilot projects to commercial application.

Energy Laboratory: This lab seeks to develop solutions to America's most intractable energy problems through scientific and technological innovation. It provides a cohesive framework permitting faculty, students, and partnering institutions to focus on contemporary energy-related research issues.

Environmental Quality Laboratory: The EQL is located at the Utah Water Research Lab and is equipped for analyses of organic and inorganic constituents in air, water, and soil. The EQL consists of chemistry, microbiology, radiological and analytical instrumentation laboratories, two constant-temperature rooms, and research project areas.

Institute for Antiviral Research: The IAR is comprised of a recognized team of scientists representing a spectrum of disciplines, who are researching ways to control viral diseases. The IAR has been involved with the pre-clinical development of several FDA-approved drugs, including Tamiflu, which was recently used to combat H1N1. The main areas of emphasis are respiratory diseases such as influenza and infections caused by emerging viruses, including West Nile virus.

Metabolic Engineering Laboratory: Research areas in this lab include the discovery and identification of bioactive natural products, biosynthetic mechanisms of pharmaceutically important compounds, characterization and development of biocatalysts for structural modification, as well as improvement of useful enzymes using protein-engineering approaches. Combinatorial biosynthesis of novel biologically significant compounds for drug discovery is also being investigated.

USDA ARS Poisonous Plant Research Laboratory: The Poisonous Plant Research Laboratory identifies toxic plants, and its interdisciplinary teams of chemists, geneticists, pathologists, physiologists, plant and range scientists, toxicologists and veterinarians provide an interdisciplinary approach of applied and basic research to develop solutions to intoxication.



Academic Advising

Cindy Weatbrook
Graduate Program Coordinator
Office: ML 140B
Phone: (435) 797-1618

Submit Edits/Updates for this degree