First Year of PhD Program


Two weeks before the beginning of fall semester.

TA Training

First week before the beginning of fall and spring semesters.

Rotations & Group Joining

Three research group rotations, completed by early November.


Required coursework varies by path (see here: Required Coursework). All graduate students are required to complete the 2 or 3 core courses required by their path and are required to complete a minimum of 3 lecture courses totaling 8 or more credits to satisfy the breadth requirement.  Coursework is typically completed by the fall semester of the second year, but must be completed before obtaining dissertator status in the third year. The minimum number of credits for the fall and spring semesters is 8 and the maximum number of credits is 15. In the summer term most students register for 2 credits.

Course Breadth Requirements

In spring 2022, the “minor” requirement was replaced by a “breadth” requirement and the minor agreement form is no longer required to be completed. To fulfill the breadth requirement, students need to complete a minimum of 3 courses with a minimum of 8 credits.

  • Only STEM courses count toward the breadth requirements. Students in the chemistry educational path should consult with their PI to decide on the breath courses, although 2 STEM courses are encouraged. Students can take additional courses to broaden their skills, such as business or science communication courses, but these courses will not fulfill the breadth requirement for the chemistry graduate degree.
  • Undergraduate mid- or upper-level STEM courses (300-500 level) will count toward the breadth requirement if these are approved by the PI, however graduate-level courses (600-900 level) are highly encouraged for graduate students to take.
  • The Department of Chemistry only counts repeatable STEM courses once, such as courses for traineeships and RCR courses, toward the breadth requirement. However, special topics courses that have different sections can be counted more than once.
  • Courses in which students received a grade below a C do not count toward the breadth requirements.
  • Chem 607 (safety), Chem 901 (first-year), Chem 980 (group meeting), and Chem 990 (research) do not count toward the breadth requirement.
  • If a path lists multiple core courses, once the 2 or 3 core-course requirement is satisfied, the additional core courses can count toward the breadth requirement.

Enrollment Credit Requirements

See the Registrar for deadlines related to course enrollment.

Non-dissertators (maximum 15 credits; minimum 8 credits; fall and spring semesters)

  • Lecture Courses to satisfy the core and breath requirements or of general interest
  • 1-12 credits research (Chem 990: section 001 in the fall and the section of your PI in the spring semester)
  • 1 credit group meeting (Chem 980, section of your PI) in the spring semester
  • 0 credits seminar (analytical – Chem 920; chembio – any; chem educ res – any; inorganic – Chem 900; materials – Chem 920; organic – Chem 940; physical – Chem 960)

Non-dissertators (2 credits; summer term)

  • 2 credits research (Chem 990, section of your PI)

More Information

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Transfer Credits

A graduate student can receive departmental conferment for up to 12 credits from another institution toward the UW-Madison Ph.D. requirements. These courses will not appear on the UW-Madison transcript nor count toward the graduate career GPA. Coursework earned ten or more years prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

To confer credits, you will need to fill out the Chemistry Course Waiver Form and:

  1. Identify a graduate course at UW-Madison that is similar to the course taken at another institution.
  2. Identify a faculty member who has taught the UW-Madison course.
  3. Email the faculty member asking for credit for the similar course. Include the following:
    • UW-Madison course number and number of credits
    • Course name, instructor, number of credits, grade, a short description, and syllabus of the course taken at the other institution
  4. Once the form is signed by the UW-Madison faculty (with permission granted and the number of credits) deposit the form here.

Incomplete Course Grades

Students who are unable to complete coursework by the end of the semester due to extenuating circumstances may request from the instructor the assignment of the temporary grade of “I” (Incomplete). Graduate students are allowed the subsequent semester of enrollment to complete the coursework and should work with the instructor to determine a plan for completion of the coursework during that time period. If the work is not completed after this period, the Graduate School will place the student on academic probation and a hold will be put on their account preventing the student from enrolling in the next semester. Students with outstanding incomplete grades cannot receive dissertator status or be granted a degree.

At the end of the subsequent semester, the department recommends that course instructor change the Incomplete grade to the appropriate letter grade or change to a Permanent Incomplete (PI)*.

The Graduate School policy for incomplete grades is here.


*Students may be allowed to receive a Permanent Incomplete (PI) for the course, if the work is no longer relevant, the instructor of a course is no longer at the university, or a change of program makes completion of the work unnecessary. The student can graduate with PI’s on their transcript.