Chemical Physics is a separate interdisciplinary graduate program with faculty from the departments of Chemistry, Physics, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, Biochemistry, and Medicinal Chemistry. 

Thesis directions of students in this program cover a range of topics ranging from spectroscopy, to molecular collisions, chemical dynamics, quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, low-temperature behavior, polymers and macromolecules, surface science, and biochemical and heterogeneous catalysis.

Although it is a stand-alone degree program, students in Chemical Physics are embedded into the culture and activities of their research advisers’ home departments. Students typically take coursework and attend seminars in both chemistry and physics. A small number of students in the program begin as chemistry or physics majors and later switch to Chemical Physics, or vice versa, if they find that one graduate program better suits their educational objectives. Financial support commitments and research/thesis options for accepted chemistry students switching to chemical physics are unchanged.

Questions and Answers

What are the course requirements?

The Chemical Physics Graduate Program provides the flexibility needed for students to take courses from different departments to provide optimum preparation for their research interests, which are often interdisciplinary in nature. The program is designed to enable students with typical undergraduate backgrounds in chemistry, physics, or related subjects to begin research during the summer of their first year in residence. Course programs are individually tailored to each student, and advisers help determine research goals.


Ordinarily, course programs for doctorate students include at least 24 semester credits of graduate courses. Typically, each one-semester course is 4 credits, and students take about three courses per semester, so the course work requirements can, if desired, be completed during the first year. These 24-graduate credits must include either

  • at least 5 credits in chemistry and at least 5 credits in physics, or
  • a total of at least 16 credits in chemistry and/or physics combined, including at least 5 credits of quantum mechanics and at least 5 credits chosen from the areas of thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, statistical physics, and chemical dynamics.

There is no minor or supporting field requirement, and no foreign language requirement. The candidacy exams may be taken in physical chemistry, physics, or chemical physics.

Seminars and colloquia

Chemical Physics students and faculty attend the department seminars and colloquia in chemistry and physics which provides twice weekly lectures by outstanding scientists from around the country and the world. In addition, Chemical Physics students attend the Waves and Beams student seminar series and present a seminar on their own research in their third and/or fourth years.

What financial aid is available?

The Chemical Physics program offers three types of financial support: fellowships, research assistantships, and teaching assistantships (see below). The stipends are very competive and range from about $1,800/month to $2,500/month. In addition, all graduate students that are appointed for at least half-time as research or teaching assistants receive full tuition benefits and generous health benefits.

Fellowships are awarded by the Graduate School, the Chemistry Department, or the Chemical Physics Program to highly qualified students. There is a substantial number of fellowships available for both entering students and more advanced students. Furthermore, some of our chemical physics students have received nationally competitive fellowships.

Research assistantships are funded from grant support given to faculty members for specific research projects. Major sponsors of chemical physics related research projects are various government agencies, charitable foundations, and industry.

Teaching assistantships are awarded by the Chemistry Department. Teaching assistants supervise laboratory work, hold recitation sections, and/or grade homework assignments and exams for a total of approximately twelve hours per week. 

How do I enroll?

Prospective graduate students should have adequate undergraduate preparation in chemistry, physics and mathematics. Students must be accepted for graduate study by the Graduate School and for financial support (in the form of a teaching assistantship or a fellowship) by the Chemistry or Physics Department, or by one of the other departments represented on our faculty.

Current doctorate students with a teaching assistantship, fellowship, or research assistantship who wish to switch their degree program to Chemical Physics can do so upon approval from the Chemical Physics Graduate Committee. Upon their arrival at the University, new graduate students take a proficiency examination in physical chemistry, which pre-supposes knowledge equivalent to a full year study of undergraduate physical chemistry. 

You can use the apply to the Chemical Physics Graduate Program online via the Graduate School Program Application. Specify Chemical Physics as your major area of interest. Please note that Chemical Physics applicants who are non-chemistry majors are not required to take the chemistry Graduate Record Examination (GRE) subject test, but are required to take the GRE general test. If you are a non-chemistry major applying for Chemical Physics, leave the GRE subject test score blank, or you may choose to fill it in with a subject score from a different field such as physics. 

Who are the Chemical Physics faculty members?

Our Chemical Physics faculty members include:

Graduate Student Handbook


    • Chemical Physics Graduate Program
    • 245 Smith Hall
    • Professor Aaron Massari, Director of Graduate Studies for Chemical Physics
    • (612) 626-8416