When we make you an offer, you will be invited to visit the Department of Chemistry and Twin Cities for a weekend; however, if airfare is needed, we only pay for flights within the United States. We do not pay for international flights. If you would like to arrange a non-paid visit or tour prior to your offer, please contact us at chmapply@umn.edu.

The following list of questions to ask and things to observe has been compiled from graduate student feedback over the years, and will offer a starting point for you as you prepare for your visit. 

Suggestions for what to observe and ask

of faculty

Things to observe: are they approachable, willing to answer questions, enthusiastic about their work.

  • Where do your graduate students find jobs or post-doctorate positions after graduate school?
  • Do you take an active part in helping your students find jobs or post-doctorate positions after graduate school?
  • Typical length of graduate education in your group?
  • How often are your students allowed to present at national chemistry meetings?
  • How long is a student typically a teaching assistant in your group?
  • How many students do you typically take in your group/year?
  • Tell me about the process of choosing a research adviser.
    • By what date do I need to choose an adviser?
  • Do your provide monetary support for the summer months?
  • Do you encourage and support students in applying for graduate school fellowships?
  • Tell me about the size of your lab and how your lab is structured?
  • Do you have regular group meetings and, if so, how are they organized? Large or small subgroups?
  • What percentage of entering doctorate candidates graduate within 6 years with a degree?
  • Ask about funding . . .
  • Publications—tell me about your students' publications (How many? In which journals?)

of graduate students

Things to observe: Do most of the students look happy? Do the students have balance in their lives?)

  • Tell me a little about your first year of graduate school.
    • How many hours are spent in class and/or studying?
    • Is there collaboration or competition among students in the classes?
    • Are the professors helpful in answering student questions?
    • Tell me about the difficulty of the classes compared to college classes.
    • How many classes will I need to take?
  • Are there entrance exams to pass?
    • How many must be passed?
    • If not all are passed, do I have a chance to retake the exam or do I need to take a class in the area of the exam?
  • What are preliminary exams like?
    • When are they taken?
    • Are there cumulative exams (written tests) to pass?
    • How many must be passed and what is the time frame for passing the exams?
  • On what is the preliminary oral exam based?
    • Original research proposal relating to research or totally independent of research?
  • Once prelims are passed, how many hours do you typically work/week?
    • What do you do outside of the lab?
    • Do the graduate students have some balance in their lives?
    • Are there department events that promote community building; i.e., annual picnics, softball, or bowling leagues?
  • Do graduate students interact with each other well or is there competition between research groups?
  • How often are students allowed to present at national chemistry meetings?
  • How long is a student typically a teaching assistant vs. a research assistant?
  • What are the responsibilities of a teaching assistant?
    • How many hours/week are committed to this responsibility?
    • Are there clear chains of command in case of problems?
  • What are the tuition/fees per year of graduate school?
    • Is the graduate school stipend enough to afford a decent place to live, have fun, pay fees, etc.?
    • Will I need to take out a loan for basic living expenses?
  • How is health insurance covered here?
    • What type of premium will I pay?
    • Is the student health center any good?
  • What do you do for fun?
    • What types of cultural experience are available in the area?
    • Describe the night life.
  • Is housing affordable in the are surrounding the university?
    • Ask for typical rent for a 1 or 2 bedroom apartment.
    • Do most graduate students live with a roommate?
    • Is there a program through the department that provides help in finding a roommate and/or place to live?
  • How safe is the area surrounding the university?
    • Is it necessary to use the campus escort service after dark? What is the crime like in the city?
  • Overall, what is the political environment of the department?
  • Is there graduate school union?

about a specific professor you're interested in

If you want to know about a specific professor whom you want to work with in the future, here are some questions to ask graduate students:

  • What is the reputation of the professor?
  • What is the chain of command in his/her research group?
  • How many years to receive a doctorate in his/her group?
  • What is his/her relationship, formal/informal, with students in his/her group?


  • Prospective Graduate Students
    Application Information
    (612) 624-8008
    Fax: 1-612-624-5724

    Stephanie Stathopoulous
    Assistant to the Director of Graduate Studies
    135 Smith Hall
    (612) 624-8008

    Current Students
    Nancy Thao
    Assistant to the Director of Graduate Studies
    115 Smith Hall
    (612) 624-0313

    • Director of Graduate Studies in Chemistry
    • Professor Aaron Massari
    • massari@umn.edu
    • Director of Graduate Studies In Chemical Physics
    • Professor Renee Frontiera
    • rrf@umn.edu