Degree Completion

section IV, article 5

The dissertation is the culmination of a scholar’s Emory training. And after it’s over, most new PhDs throw a party! Many of the degree requirements must be completed well ahead of the actual defense, so make sure to familiarize yourself with the procedures starting early in any semester in which you may graduate.

The Laney Graduate School sets the requirements for the completion of the graduate degree. Scholars should familiarize themselves with these requirements. The Graduate Program Coordinator is available to assist scholars in navigating the degree completion procedures but it is the responsibility of the scholar to complete and submit all required documents.

Chemistry-Specific Degree Completion Guidelines

  • A public defense is required.
  • The dissertation must be submitted to the scholar’s entire committee at least seven days in advance of the scheduled defense.
  • The date, time, and location of the defense must be publicly advertised at least seven days in advance of the defense.
  • All committee members must be present at the defense.

Completion Extensions

If a scholar has not completed the degree at the end of the seventh year, the program may grant a one-year extension. The program must submit notice of this extension to the Dean, no later than August 1 of the seventh year (before the eighth year). The notice must contain a completion timeline signed by both the scholar and the dissertation committee chair or co-chairs. Scholars who enroll for this extension year will be responsible for some tuition.

If a scholar has not completed the degree at the end of the eighth year, the scholar may continue work for at most one additional academic year and only with approval from the Dean. To obtain approval, the program must submit a request to the Dean no later than August 1 of the eighth year (before the ninth year). The request must:

  • outline the reasons the scholar has not completed
  • consider whether the scholar needs to repeat any part of the qualifications for candidacy or obtain approval of a new dissertation prospectus
  • present a detailed completion timeline signed by both the scholar and the dissertation committee chair or co-chairs. Scholars who enroll for this extension year will be responsible for some tuition.

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Next: Section V: Money Matters


section III, article 5

Candidacy status is an indication that a doctoral scholar has developed sufficient mastery of a discipline to advance towards the PhD. The scholar will rely on this foundation to produce an original research contribution in their field in the form of the dissertation.


PhD scholars are eligible for candidacy when they have earned at least 54 credit hours at the 500 level or above. All incomplete (I) and In Progress (IP) grades must be resolved. Candidates must be in good standing with the program. Scholars must also complete the following before entering candidacy:

  • Rotations
  • JPE: LGS Ethics course JPE 600 (JPE 610 may be completed after entering candidacy) 
  • Chemistry JPE Requirements
  • Second Year Qualifying Exam
  • TATTO: TATT 600 & TATT 605 (x 2 semesters)
  • Six chemistry courses (or equivalent course release based on transfer coursework) with a minimum G.P.A. of 2.7


Scholars should enter candidacy as soon as all requirements have been completed. Scholars must reach candidacy by September 15 of their fourth year. Scholars who do not meet this deadline will be placed on academic probation, will not be eligible for PDS funds, and may forfeit financial support. These sanctions will be lifted when the scholar enters candidacy.

How to Apply

Scholars enter candidacy by submitting the application to enter candidacy, available on the LGS website. Chemistry will confirm that all program requirements have been met and LGS will confirm that remaining requirements have been met. Scholars are considered “in candidacy” when the Dean has approved the application to enter candidacy.

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Next: IV: Milestones

Fifth Year+ Degree Completion Plan

section IV, article 4

As research expertise and engagement grows, you may find it difficult to place an emphasis on degree completion. Making a plan facilitates this focus.

A scholar in their fifth year who is not graduating must submit a Timeline for Degree Completion and have it approved by their P.I. The plan should be presented as a written timeline to graduation and must be signed by the chair of the dissertation committee. The scholar should submit this plan to the Graduate Program Coordinator along with their annual report form by April 30 of the fifth year and should submit a revised plan in any following semester during which they will not graduate.

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Next: Degree Completion

Fourth Year Milestone

section IV, article 3

Taken together, the third year proposals, the fourth year original research proposal, and the proposal writing course provide scholars with a solid foundation in creating and communicating original research. The original research proposal is the penultimate outgrowth of these efforts, followed by the dissertation.

All fourth year scholars must present and defend an original research proposal in the first semester of the fourth year. It is essential that the proposal not overlap significantly with any ongoing research at Emory. 


  • Scholars should use the NIH Research Training Proposal requirements as a guideline for the written proposal.
  • The oral presentation should:
    • Clearly define the proposed problem and how the proposed research would be accomplished
    • Include approximately one dozen PowerPoint slides or other visual aids

The scholar is responsible for scheduling a date, time, and location for the oral defense with their committee and for ensuring the location meets any technology needs.

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Third Year Milestone

section IV, article 2

Proposal development is a critical skill for scientists. The ability to recognize problems and creatively address them is key to success in research and teaching. Scholars who develop research proposals also practice critical thinking, learn to evaluate the work of others, and become more familiar with the scientific literature. 

In the third year, scholars will be required to write three one-page research proposals. 

Topic Requirements

  • One proposal may be an optimized form of the scholar’s proposal from the proposal writing course
  • Two proposals must detail an idea for research outside of what is being conducted in the scholar’s home group

Content Requirements

  1. Identify the problem.
  2. Identify known approaches to solving the problem and assess the merits and demerits of each.
  3. Propose a solution to the problem.
  4. Describe expected outcomes and implications of proposals.

Format Requirements

Each proposal should be written using the “quad sheet” format taught in the proposal course. A quad sheet format template is available on the website.

Assessment Criteria

Faculty feedback will be provided based on the following:

  • Importance of the problem and the need for a new approach;
  • Logical development of the problem and new idea;
  • Creativity of the scholar’s solution to the problem;
  • Quality of the writing.

Assessment Timeline

Third Year Milestone and Scholar Standing

Scholars who fail to have three proposals approved by the end of the spring semester in the third year will receive a “U” research grade and be placed on academic probation. Scholars who fail to achieve three “S” grades by the end of the summer semester may be recommended for termination from the program.

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Next: Fourth Year Milestone

Second Year Qualifying Exam

section IV, article 1

Qualifying Exams are an important checkpoint meant to show that you are on a promising research track toward the Ph.D. degree.

  • basic research skills
  • knowledge of the literature
  • work ethic and motivation.

Scholar Responsibilities

  • Enroll in CHEM 798 to receive course credit for exam preparation.
  • Coordinate scheduling with the committee.
  • Reserve a room for the report.
  • Ensure that the committee completes an assessment and submit the assessment to the Graduate Program Coordinator.

Scholars should review the Second Year Qualifying Exam form for additional details, including the evaluation criteria for the exam.

Due: The written report must be submitted at least one week prior to the scheduled oral defense and no later than February 1 in the second semester of the second year. The oral defense must be completed by March 1 of the same semester.

Grading and Re-test Policy

Scholars must receive an “S” grade on both the written and oral portion of the exam to pass CHEM 798. 

Failure to submit both portions of the exam or a receipt of a “U” on the oral and/or written portion of the exam will result in a “U” in CHEM 798. When a scholar receives a “U” grade, they may re-test before the end of the semester. At that time, if the “U” grade is not cleared, their committee may recommend termination from the program. 

If given the option to retest by their committee during the summer semester, scholars will be placed on probation and must re-test any portion of the exam for which they received the “U’ grade by the end of the summer term. Failure to earn an “S” on all exam requirements by the end of the summer term will result in termination from the program. Probation will be lifted in the semester following a successful re-test (assuming a scholar is in good standing in regard to all other program requirements.) 

Feedback to Scholars in the Event of a Re-Test

If a retest is required, the scholar’s primary mentor will compose a written summary of faculty feedback from the milestone meeting. The summary will include a specific timeline for the retest, an explanation of what elements of the milestone were not met, and clear expectations (in line with the retest timeframe provided) for what the scholar will need to accomplish to successfully complete the milestone. The written summary will be shared with the scholar and the DGS within a week of the milestone exam. The scholar and the mentor are encouraged to develop a detailed study and research plan that elaborates on the summary to facilitate the scholar’s development and successful completion of the milestone in the timeframe provided.

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Next: Third Year Milestone

Annual Reports

section III, article 4

It is the responsibility of the scholar to track their progress towards the PhD. Annual report and milestone requirements will assist you in this process. If you don’t know where you stand—ask!

Scholars should obtain signatures on the Annual Committee Evaluation during an in-person meeting scheduled on or before April 30th each year. First year scholars are only required to submit the signature of their P.I.

The annual meeting can be scheduled at any time, but it cannot be scheduled earlier than any required in-person meetings for annual milestones (Second Year Qualifying Exam, etc.) The meeting may take place at the same time as the evaluation of milestones with the permission of the committee.

In addition to a discussion of milestone requirements completed in a given year, scholars should be prepared to discuss the following:

  • What did you accomplish this year?
  • Where are your future plans and goals?

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Next: Candidacy


Section III, Article III

Laney Graduate School seeks to ensure that a scholar’s education includes thoughtful and thorough preparation in the art of teaching. All chemistry scholars will serve as Teaching Assistants as part of their education. Additional teaching opportunities are available on a competitive basis to those who are interested.

Teaching Requirements

  • All scholars will complete the Laney Graduate School TATTO (Teaching Assistant Training and Teaching Opportunity) Program—including the two-day TATT 600 workshop and microteaching during graduate orientation.
  • All scholars will serve as a Teaching Assistant for two semesters—once in the Fall and once in the Spring of the first year.

First Year TA Assignments

  • TA assignments are made by the DGS in consultation with the Graduate Committee. Class size and type are the primary driver of TA assignments.
  • Faculty are allowed to request specific students and/or skill sets for their assigned TA(s) via the DGS. These requests are given priority over scholar requests but are not guaranteed.
  • First year scholars may make requests for specific TA placements to the DGS, but these selections are not guaranteed and, in many cases, cannot be honored. Most first year scholars will TA in laboratory courses.

TA Responsibilities

  • Provide classroom instruction as needed
  • Develop laboratory course materials as needed
  • Lead a lab section (if applicable)
  • Grade homework and quizzes
  • Proctor exams
  • Work closely with your faculty supervisor to ensure duties are completed to a high standard of excellence
  • Other duties supportive of University instruction as assigned

TA assignments are 10 hrs/week for a TA enrolled in TATT 605. Laboratory TAs may be required to occasionally work more than 10 hrs/week to assist with exam grading. The expectation is that lead instructors will balance this requirement with a lower work load in other weeks.

TA Probation Procedures

Graduate TA assignments are graded on an S/US basis. Scholars are expected to achieve an “S” grade. If a scholar receives—or is advised that they are on track to receive—a “U” grade, the following probationary procedure will be followed.

  1. Graduate scholar must re-take any failed assessments.
  2. Graduate scholar must arrange a meeting with their lab/course director, advisor, the DGS, and the Graduate Program Coordinator to collaboratively develop a plan to achieve an “S” grade either by improving performance in the current semester or via an additional TA assignment.

Teaching for Advanced Scholars

If a scholar wishes to change their TA commitment request, they must submit a new form by the last day of classes in the semester prior to the commitment you want to change. Changes requested after this date, either to reduce or add TA hours, may not be possible.

Additional Teaching Opportunities for Advanced Scholars

  • Dean’s Teaching Fellowship
  • Emory Advanced Graduate Teaching Fellowship (AGTF)
  • SIRE for Natural Sciences
  • Emory Pipeline
  • Instructor-of-Record for chemistry courses

For the most up-to-date opportunities, visit the Laney Graduate School Advanced Student Fellowships page. Also, keep an eye out for opportunities in your email inbox via the LGS and chemistry digests.

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Next: Annual Reports

Research Group Selection & Assignment

section II, article 3

Your research group will comprise a large part of your network at Emory. Other important professional relationships – whether with student organizations, rotation advisors, committee members, and beyond – will also have an impact. Thinking of the entire “network” you are seeking to build can help with your group decision.

Advising Before You Choose a Group

Prior to research advisor selection, scholars should consider the Director of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Program Coordinator as primary contacts for questions and concerns, including about the rotation experience. 

Finalizing Group Selection

Scholars should indicate the group that they wish to join by emailing the Graduate Program Coordinator and copying the requested advisor no earlier than the first day of the discernment period and no later than noon on October 30.

The Director of Graduate Studies will finalize group assignments in consultation with faculty. The DGS will work with scholars who do not “match” to facilitate additional discussions with faculty so that the scholar may seek an alternate group placement or an additional rotation assignment.

Options for Scholars Who Do Not Match with a Group

Faculty may accept a scholar seeking a fourth rotation either as a rotator or as a lab member, even if the scholar has not yet rotated with their group. Scholars who do not secure an additional rotation or lab placement OR who are not offered a lab placement following the completion of an additional rotation will be asked to leave the program by the end of the Spring semester.  

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Next: Committee Selection

Research Rotation Program

Section II, Article 2

Rotations are short experiences in Emory research groups for the benefit of first year scholars. The rotation program is intended to acquaint scholars with the research and resources of the Department before they choose a research home for pursuing their PhD. All scholars are required to complete three rotations before joining a research group.

Rotation Structure

Group Exploration Period

August 25 – September 15

Submission of Rotation Preferences

September 15 at 5 pm

Scholars submit three unranked rotation choices to the Graduate Program Coordinator on the Group Exploration Period form. Faculty will have an opportunity to review the names of all scholars who have requested a rotation in their lab and indicate their response to the request to the Director of Graduate Studies.

Rotation Assignments and Notification

September 17

Scholars will be advised of the faculty response to rotation requests and receive a rotation schedule. Scholars who fall short of the required three rotations will be required to meet with the DGS to discuss their options and secure three rotation placements.


Rotation 1: September 20 – October 8
Rotation 2: October 11 – October 29
Rotation 3: November 1 – November 19

Faculty have considerable flexibility in assigning rotation activities. At a minimum, satisfactory completion of the rotation will require attendance at all group meetings, seminars, scholar seminars, and/or journal club activities scheduled during the rotation period. Faculty may set a minimum hour-per-week requirement for graduate scholar engagement.

During the time a scholar is engaged in a rotation, the scholar’s total research effort should be focused on that rotation. Faculty cannot require that scholars participate in research activities in a group outside their current rotation assignment. Scholars are expected to complete coursework and TA responsibilities during rotations and rotation requirements should account for these responsibilities. With these requirements in mind, scholars should feel free to participate broadly in the intellectual life of the department.

Discernment and Discussions

November 20-December 1

Scholars are encouraged to meet with their rotation advisors during this time with the goal of finalizing their group selection. Faculty and scholars are encouraged to be candid about their goals during this period. However, group assignment is only finalized by the DGS in consultation with the faculty after the scholar submits their selected group.

Rotation Etiquette 

Rotation and group selection is an opportunity to fully explore scientific opportunities at Emory and to join a group with confidence. However, the inherent uncertainty in this process can be stressful for scholars and faculty. Based on feedback from scholars, clear and consistent “rules of engagement” for both students and faculty help to ensure a positive rotation experience.

The following rules for rotation etiquette should guide faculty, current scholars, and rotating students:

  • Faculty are encouraged to provide clear feedback related to performance during the rotation but to remind rotators that group selections cannot be made until the rotation period has concluded. At the risk of being prescriptive, we suggest that the following language would be appropriate: “I would be happy to discuss group placement with you at the end of the full rotation period.” Rotators, in turn, should not press faculty for a commitment prior to the conclusion of the rotation experience.
  • Faculty are asked not to accept rotators that they are not willing to consider for placement in their group. Faculty have the option of advertising a cap on the number of rotation students and group members that they plan to accept during the Exploration Period.
  • Faculty and rotators are asked to confine their discussions of other groups to issues related to scientific work rather than group placement.
  • To accommodate the need for in-depth discussion about group placement, faculty should plan time to meet with rotators after rotations conclude and before the group selection deadline. Students should be proactive in scheduling these discussions.

Changes to Rotation Placements

A scholar may change their choice of the second and/or third rotation group during an earlier rotation. The scholar must submit a petition email to the DGS stating the reasons for the requested change. The DGS will discuss the petition with all faculty involved and advise the scholar of the outcome.

Summer Rotations

Summer rotation opportunities are handled by individual P.I.s. Scholars who are interested in summer rotations should reach out to P.I.s directly. An offer of a summer rotation can only be made to a student who has accepted an offer of admission. Once an offer is made, it is not finalized until the P.I. confirms a start date and funding details to the Graduate Program Coordinator. Once this happens, the Laney Graduate School will generate a new offer letter for the scholar that outlines the terms of summer support. Once this offer is accepted by the scholar, generally by reply email, the rotation is finalized.

Summer rotations can be an excellent opportunity to get started at Emory, but they are not required for students to have a successful Emroy experience. Scholars should keep in mind that there is no formal orientation for summer rotators. Additionally, there is no obligation on either side for a scholar to join a lab that offers them summer support.

In consultation with International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), the Laney Graduate School has determined that summer rotations cannot be offered to international scholars unless they can obtain a visa and start work on the first day of the first summer term. This policy is in place to ensure that summer does not jeopardize the visa status of international scholars. In order to start on this date, scholars must have formally completed commencement at their previous institution.

Scholars who have completed a summer rotation have two options for the fall semester:

  1. Request to repeat a rotation in the same group pending available space;
  2. Select three new rotation advisors, completing a total of four rotations.

Scholars enrolled during summer may not skip a fall rotation.

For more information on summer rotations, admitted students should contact the communications and outreach manager.

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Next: Research Group Selection and Assignment