The Ph.D. in Chemistry

Our graduate program is focused on research in the chemical sciences. The goal of our program is to train graduate students to apply modern tools and techniques in chemistry, develop creative solutions to major scientific problems, and discover new science. Students in our graduate program develop deep knowledge and focused expertise in their chemical discipline, while being exposed to the breadth of chemistry needed to solve problems. The Iowa State University motto is Science with Practice, and this motto is realized in the Chemistry Graduate Program.

Our Ph.D. program offers majors in the four traditional fields of analytical, inorganic, organic and physical chemistry plus a customizable interdisciplinary “chemistry” major in which a course sequence is designed by the student and their major professor. Additionally, we offer specializations in Materials Chemistry, Industrial Chemistry, Biomolecular Science, Chemical Instrumentation, Forensic Chemistry and Chemical Education.

Pursuing a Ph.D. is a very exciting experience and the most intellectually rewarding opportunity in science. In the first year students choose a research advisor, begin their first research project, work as a teaching assistant and take courses. Most coursework is completed by the fall of the second year, at which point students are focused on their research, developing their ideas, and becoming skilled, creative, and confident scientists in preparations for the preliminary oral examination. Most students present their work at national conferences and virtually all contribute their work for publication in scientific journals. On average, it takes 5.5 years to complete the Ph.D.

Financial Support


The Department of Chemistry recognizes the need for adequate financial support during the period of graduate study and offers competitive stipends to all admitted students. Financial aid for first year students is normally available for 12 months; a 9 month teaching assistantships and 3 month research assistantship. Beyond the first year, continued support is provided through the major professor’s group in the form of research assistantships or through the department in the form of teaching assistantships. Support will continue as long as the student remains in good standing in both academics (3.0 GPA) and in research.

Tuition waiver

All students in good standing receive a tuition waiver for all semesters in which they are enrolled.

Health insurance

The cost of health insurance for the student is covered. Coverage for additional family members is available for an additional cost. Dental coverage may also be purchased. See the Students and Scholars Health Insurance Program for complete information.

Cost of living in Ames

The affordable cost of living in Ames makes us an ideal choice for small city living. Our stipend for Fall 2016 is $25,200. The equivalent of our stipend in Chicago would be $31,835; in Minneapolis $28,450. The Cost of Living calculator at breaks out the major expenses for you.


The interdisciplinary nature of Chemistry allows our students the opportunity to work within several unique facilities on the Iowa State campus.

Gilman Hall

Home to the Department of Chemistry. Gilman Hall houses the bulk of the teaching and research facilities for the department. Additional research and office space is housed in Spedding and Wilhelm Halls.

Hach Hall

Hach Hall opened in August of 2010. The $74.5 million dollar building houses state-of-the-art classrooms, laboratories, and instrumentation.

Ames Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy

Ames Laboratory began as part of the Manhattan Project. The project developed an entirely new technology for the conversion of uranium ore to high-purity uranium metal and then used that technology to produce more than 2 million pounds of uranium by the end of World War II. Today, Ames Lab provides a unique collaborative opportunity for researchers, particularly in the general areas of materials, catalysis, environmental management and computational science.

Center for Catalysis

The Center for Catalysis, or CCAT, at Iowa State University is dedicated to the development of useful, practical catalysts and sustainable green chemistry methods. Our scientists investigate the application of catalysis and green chemistry methods to agricultural, industrial and environmental science.

Materials Preparation Center

The Materials Preparation Center (MPC) prepares specialized high-purity metal compounds and alloys for research and engineering uses. Since its inception in 1981, the MPC has supported materials research and development programs at the Ames Laboratory and other government laboratories, and within academia and industry as a specialized, unique source for the preparation, purification, fabrication, and characterization of high-purity rare earth and metallic elements, metal alloys, and metallic compounds on a cost recovery basis.

The Plant Sciences Institute

The Plant Sciences Institute is an umbrella organization over a group of centers, each focused on specific areas of the plant sciences. The research initiatives undertaken within the Institute include Genomics, biopharmaceuticals, nutrition, biorenewables, and crop protection. More than 225 faculty members from across the University are affiliated with PSI.

Who are our graduate students?

Iowa State is home to more than 26,000 students from all 50 states and 110 countries. The Department of Chemistry currently has approximately 150 students in various stages of the degree program. Our students represent the US, Canada, China, Taiwan, India, Korea, Poland, Turkey, Jordan, Romania, Serbia, Yugoslavia, Russia, the Philippines, Mexico, and Costa Rica.

Recent Ph.D.’s: Where are they now?

Here is a sampling of where our Ph.D. students have been employed:

2015 Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
2015 3M
2015 University of Wisconsin Marathon County
2014 Intel Corporation
2014 Oxford University UK
2014 Estee Lauder Cosmetics
2013 Phillips 66
2013 Rice University
2013 Siegwerk, Inc.
2012 Cetero Research
2012 Energy Biosciences Institute
2012 UC Santa Barbara
2011 Exxon Mobil
2011 SUNY Stonybrook
2011 Shell Global Solutions
2011 Max-Planck Institute for Solid State Research
2010 Penn State University
2010 Clemson University
2010 The Scripps Research Institute
2009 SLAC National Accelerator Lab
2009 University of Wisconsin-Madison
2009 Schering-Plough
2009 University of Delaware
2008 Rutgers
2008 Kenyata University
2008 Lexicon Pharmaceuticals

Questions? Feel free to contact our Graduate Admissions office at 800-521-2436 or send us an email at