Graduate Program


Philosophy / Opportunities / Degrees / Admission / Financial Support

Those interested in graduate degrees in biochemistry may also want to consider the Ph.D. in Biochemistry & Biophysics, offered by the Biochemistry Program, a joint program between the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Division of Biological Sciences.


To become successful as a chemist, one must not only be broadly based in the fundamental facts, theories and techniques of chemistry but also be able to apply these capabilities imaginatively to new chemical problems.

The graduate program in chemistry at The University of Montana is built on the philosophy that students can best achieve these important goals by interacting closely with faculty who are practicing chemists as well as good teachers. For a typical student, this interaction begins in the classroom. Class sizes are generally small (3-8 students) allowing for lively discussion. Faculty are accessible to students for consultation. The range of course offerings in chemistry educates students well in the fundamentals of all major areas of chemistry as well as in highly specialized research areas close to the frontiers of knowledge.

The crux of graduate education, however, is participation in research, where a student further develops fundamental skills while learning to apply them to solving chemical problems. The close interaction between faculty and students begun during course work continues in research groups. Faculty and students often work side by side in the laboratory. Formal and informal group meetings are frequent. However, students are expected to become increasingly independent in their research as their skills and confidence develop.

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The size and location of the University of Montana create an ideal environment for the cross-fertilization of ideas between related areas of science. The Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry has granted Ph.D.'s resulting from collaboration with faculty in geology, biological sciences, pharmacy, mathematics, physics and forestry. Such individually tailored programs are jointly supervised and administered by the departments involved, although the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry retains control over interdisciplinary programs leading to a degree in chemistry. A student interested in establishing a specific interdisciplinary program should make inquiries to the appropriate department.

The Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry is developing a number of interdisciplinary programs, and the Department encourages students to undertake interdisciplinary research under more than one professor. Several collaborations in environmental chemistry have been established by Professors Smith, Rosenberg, and DeGrandpre. Professors Sugden, Priestley, Bowler, Ross, and Rosenberg collaborate with biochemists and pharmacists. The department has a formal relationship with the Intermountain Fire Science Laboratory, a division of the U.S. Forest Service in Missoula, and with the NIH Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Hamilton, MT. Students interested in atmospheric chemistry-- for example, the chemistry of smoke--may work both on and off campus in collaboration with Bob Yokelson at the Fire Sciences Laboratory. RML offers students with suitable interests the possibility of financial support, use of facilities, and interaction with their research staff even as Ph.D. advisors. The Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry office furnishes details on both of these possibilities.

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Doctor of Philosophy

The Doctor of Philosophy degree is offered in inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, physical chemistry and analytical/environmental chemistry.

The Ph.D, a research degree, is the highest offered by American universities. It is never awarded simply upon the completion of a prescribed course of study but only when a student has demonstrated mastery of the fundamentals of chemistry, and the ability to make original contributions to his/her field.

The precise requirements for the Ph.D. degree at the University of Montana are tailored to the student's particular background, needs and interest by an advisory committee. Interdisciplinary programs are encouraged.

Master of Science

The Master of Science degree is also offered in inorganic, organic, physical chemistry and analytical/environmental chemistry. The course program consists of a broad core program plus electives approved by an advisory committee. Thesis and non-thesis options are available, although the thesis option is usually preferred.

Master of Science for Teachers

The Master of Science for Teachers degree is designed to be a flexible opportunity for certified teachers of chemistry to improve command of their subject matter. Work in related areas, including education, is possible under some options. Students design their own course of study in collaboration with a faculty advisor. Students attending summer session may work for credit in a faculty research program. Both thesis and non-thesis options are available. Two semesters and a summer are usually required for completion of the degree.

            Master of Arts

The Master of Arts degree is designed for students who have interests in applying advanced knowledge in chemistry to careers in education, marketing, business, laboratory management, scientific journalism, or public policy. 

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Any graduate of an accredited college or university may apply for admission to the Graduate School of the University of Montana. Contact Graduate Admissions, The Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, The University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812, for application materials required for admission and financial aid including teaching and research assistantships, which cover tuition and most fees and living expenses.

Please fill in our online form to request program information. You can also request information via email at chemistry@umontana.edu or apply to Graduate School online.

Undergraduate preparation should be equivalent to the requirements for the Bachelor of Arts degree in chemistry at the University of Montana. However, a student deficient in undergraduate preparation but who exhibits potential as a graduate student may be admitted on a provisional basis. Such a student may make up deficiencies after starting the graduate program, but doing so will lengthen the time necessary for completing the degree. Graduate students with provisional status are eligible for financial aid.

All applicants must take the Graduate Record Examination, and we also require the TOEFL and Test of Spoken English for non-native speakers. (The UM ETS Code number is 4489. The Department numbers are Organic, 304; Physical, 306; Analytical, 302; General, 301; Chemistry, 399; and Inorganic, 303.) A prospective student must also submit a completed application form, a 100-300 word personal statement, two official transcripts of all previous college work and three letters of recommendation from persons qualified to judge the applicant's potential as a graduate student in chemistry. All entering students must take a medical examination to be recorded on University health forms.

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Financial Support

The majority of graduate students in chemistry receive either a teaching assistantship (TA) or research assistantship (RA) during the academic year plus a summer stipend to support research.

Job opportunities often are available for spouses of graduate students at the University or locally. These include teaching positions, government work, and work in the Missoula business community. The University also offers full-time employment information through the Office of Career Services, located in the Emma B. Lommasson Center, Room 154.

Teaching Assistantships

Most entering graduate students are supported initially through Teaching Assistantships. The normal teaching load is about eight contact and 15 total hours per week. TA duties may include leading a discussion or laboratory section, meeting with students in tutorials, proctoring exams and grading. These appointments also cover tuition and most fees.

Research Assistantships

Most students switch from teaching to research assistantship support after one or two years. RAs are available from research grants and contracts awarded by government agencies or private organizations. An RA often pays a student for the research leading to the M.S. or Ph.D. degree, greatly increasing the time a student may spend on research. RA stipends are similar to the TA stipend and cover tuition and most fees.

Summer Research Assistantships

Students are normally expected to work full time on research during the summer. Summer RA support is nearly always available to support students during this period. A beginning graduate student occasionally may obtain an RA the summer before he or she enters the graduate program. Such appointments are arranged between the student and individual faculty members.

Fellowships and Grants

The Department receives announcements of many fellowships/traineeships and grants for graduate students. These are described in the weekly departmental announcements collected by the administrative assistant. Bertha Morton fellowships are offered yearly by the University. Federal agencies (e.g., DOE, NASA, NSF, and NIH ) offer very attractive fellowship.

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