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


section III, article 1

Coursework is an opportunity to delve deeper into the science of your chosen research area as well as the discipline of chemistry more broadly. Required skills-based coursework in proposal preparation, pedagogy, and ethics, among others, will help prepare you for your thesis work and for the job market.

Required Courses for All Scholars

In addition to the course requirements listed below, all scholars must enroll in research credit as defined in the Coursework Residency Requirement and Research Credit section below.

  • six chemistry graduate courses (or approved external courses)
  • TATT 600 + 605
  • JPE 600 + 605 + 610
  • CHEM 597: Proposal/Library Course

New Scholar Enrollment

Course Registration for Continuing Scholars

All scholars should meet with their advisor to decide on necessary coursework. Scholars must register themselves online via OPUS with assistance, as needed, from the Graduate Program Coordinator. Scholars are responsible for ensuring that they are enrolled prior to the enrollment deadline each semester. 

Registering for Non-Chemistry Courses


Courses are graded as Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) or on a letter grade basis (A, A-, B+, B, B-, C, or F). Courses that offer a letter grade must be taken for a grade if they will be applied towards the requirements for candidacy.

Petitioning for Course Credit or a Course Waiver

Scholars may petition to receive course credit for graduate courses taken at another institution or a course waiver for a maximum of 9 credit hours. The scholar should submit the Petition for Course Credit and/or Waiver form to the Graduate Program Coordinator. Petitions will be forwarded to the Graduate Committee for review. Transfer credit requests must also be approved by the Laney Graduate School Dean (see Box 8.A).

Coursework petitions must be submitted by the end of the first semester of coursework and will be accepted as early as the first graduate committee meeting of the semester.​​​​​​​

What is the difference between transfer credit and a waiver?

Course credit may be given only for courses that were not used to satisfy the requirements of any previous degree. Transfer credit may also reduce the number of courses required at Emory by an equivalent amount—a waiver. A course waiver alone may be requested to reduce the usual six-credit course load required for candidacy but the courses themselves will not be reflected on the Emory transcript.

Scholars wishing to use non-chemistry coursework as part of a transfer or waiver request should include a rationale from their advisor indicating the relevance of the course to the chemistry degree. This should be signed by the advisor.

All requested waivers and petitions will be reviewed. However, scholars should be advised that in most cases, it benefits the scholar to take a full slate of courses at Emory.​​​​​​​

Coursework Residency Requirement and Research Credit

All scholars in the graduate program are required to maintain a full course load consisting of at least 9 units during the fall, spring and summer semesters. Scholars should carefully review the Research section of the handbook to understand how to pair required coursework with research credit to fulfill this minimum.

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Next: Research

Committee Selection

section II, article 4

The Group Exploration Period and rotations help lay the foundation for committee selection. Make sure to explore the research in the department broadly to ensure you connect with the faculty who can best support your research.

In consultation with their advisors, scholars should begin the process of asking faculty to join their committee no later than the start of their second year. Scholars may begin these discussions at any time. However, committee assignments are not finalized until DGS review in the second year as described in the Committee Selection Timeline.

Committee Membership

The chemistry graduate program relies on Laney Graduate School guidelines to define committee membership.

Expectations for Committee Members

In addition to acting as a resource for advice throughout the PhD, the committee will:

  • Serve as the scholar’s Annual Report Committee 
  • Contribute to any other required progress reports
  • Serve as the scholar’s dissertation committee

Expectations for Scholars

Scholars are expected to take an active role in managing their relationship with their committee members. This includes:

  • Providing regular reports of research progress, including, but not necessarily limited to, the annual report and milestone requirements. 
  • Responding to email from the committee in a timely manner—within 24 hours on regular working days.
  • Taking responsibility for scheduling of activities that require the committee to collaborate, including reserving rooms and providing at least one week’s notice when the committee needs to meet.

Committee Selection Timeline

September 30 of the Second Year: Scholars submit committee selections to the Graduate Program Coordinator by email. The DGS will review and finalize committee requests, with possible adjustments to ensure distribution of responsibility across the faculty. 

October 15 of the Second Year: Scholars will receive a formal letter finalizing their committee.

Note: Scholars should submit the Laney Graduate School Dissertation Committee Signature Form when they apply for candidacy. This form must be submitted as soon as possible but no later than September 15 of the Fourth Year. See the Candidacy section of this handbook for details.

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Next: Section III: Core Requirements