Program Category: PhD Programs
Chair: Laura Kaufman
Director of Graduate Studies: Gerard Parkin
Email address: [email protected]
Degree Programs: Full-Time: MA, MPhil, PhD

For more than a century, the Columbia Chemistry Department has played a major role in the development of the study of chemistry in the US. Until World War II, Columbia University dominated the academic scene by numbers, graduating more PhDs and staffing more academic posts in chemistry than any other US university. Since the 1940s, graduate programs have grown and expanded at many other institutions, and now Columbia is known more for quality than for quantity. The department runs one of the best graduate research and training programs in the country, famous for its lively intellectual atmosphere and for the intensity of effort put forth by its faculty and students.

The first year of graduate study is largely given to course work, the course requirements for each student being determined individually in accordance with previous training and interests. To some extent during the first year, and increasingly thereafter, students are engaged in research for the doctoral dissertation. Research is the most important part of the graduate program, and the selection of a sponsor to guide the research is the most important decision a student makes. To help with this decision, every faculty member discusses his or her research at colloquia held during the first term. Students choose a sponsor only after attending all these meetings and talking privately with at least three faculty members. All students are expected to complete the degree requirements and defend their dissertations within five years of entry into the program. The system works well; the percentage of entering students who complete the program is very high, and about twenty-five PhD degrees in Chemistry are awarded by the university each year.

Columbia offers a remarkable variety of seminars in all areas of chemistry as part of the graduate program, and the department maintains comprehensive support services and the wide array of complex instrumentation necessary to modern chemical research. The department is housed in three connected buildings: Havemeyer Hall, a magnificent limestone and brick structure built in 1897 and recently renovated into modern labs in a manner that respects the dignity of the original structure; Chandler Laboratories, named for the famous Columbia chemist and founder of the American Chemical Society; and Havemeyer Addition, a well-designed combination of teaching and research labs completed a number of years ago.

Fellowships are awarded in recognition of academic achievement and in expectation of scholarly success. Teaching experience is considered an important aspect of the training of graduate students, so all graduate fellowships include some teaching apprenticeship.

Special Admissions Requirements

Columbia does not offer an MA program in chemistry; therefore, the department can consider applications only from prospective graduate students who intend to pursue a PhD degree. The basic requirements for admission are substantial undergraduate training in chemistry; because outstanding students with a variety of backgrounds and interests apply to Columbia, the first requirement is interpreted liberally and flexibly.

In addition to the requirements listed below, all students must submit one transcript showing courses and grades per school attended, a statement of academic purpose, a personal statement, and three letters of evaluation from academic sources.

We are not accepting GRE scores for the 2023-2024 admissions cycle. We understand that successful students come from widely varying backgrounds and our review process considers the context of each applicant’s record. No negative assumptions will be drawn if GRE scores are not included with applications.

All international students whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate degree is from an institution in a country whose official language is not English must submit scores of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or IELTS.

For more information, refer to our Admissions Information and Frequently Asked Questions pages.


MD/PhD available

*GSAS will accept up to four recommendations, regardless of the number required by your program of interest. However, to be eligible for admission at GSAS, at least TWO letters must be submitted by academic recommenders.