Information for graduate students

Pursuing a graduate degree in theoretical chemistry requires considerable amounts of hard-work, talent, focus, and dedication. It is perhaps the most difficult subdiscipline of chemistry to work in since the field is rich with hard-working and talented individuals competing for small number of jobs and resources. Theory students must not only have an excellent grasp of Physical Chemistry, but must also posess highly developed mathematical and computational skills. I requre all my students to take at least one advanced course in physics and take a course in Mathematical Physics before taking their oral progress examination. The UH Chemical Physics program provides probably the best programmatic match between course work and research skills needed for a theoretical thesis.

Joining My Group

Effective Fall 2014, all PhD students who wishing to join my group will agree to take their ORP exam in the Fall of their second year. Note, that this is higher standard than the Department of Chemistry's current requirement since students will be expected to perform at the same level as students taking their exam in their 5th-long semester. Students who find this to be unreasonable are free to join other groups with lower standards.

Progress Reports

One you have joined my group and have completed your course work, you will be enrolled in what ammounts to dissertation research. Since there is no formal course associated with this, every term you will need to file a General Petition with the statement:
Research in Theoretical Chemistry leading to PhD in Chemistry. Student will submit either a written report or published papers at the end of the semester.
Your report should include a title for your project along with a brief abstract or summary. One suggestion is to have this be a cumulative document where each term you add sections describing your progress that term and where you think the work is going. You should conclude with a proposal of work to be done over the next year and a time-table for completion. Also, you should list any published papers, talks, and posters you present. You may write this in LaTeX and send me a PDF version. Latex is the standard for all documents produced by the group since it's easier for including mathematics and figures. Alternatively you can use the group Wiki page or use Google Documents. A copy will be added to your academic file.

Funding: TA vs. RA

Funding for your research is contingent upon my available research grants and your progress and productivity. I prefer to fund as many students as possible through Research Assistantships off my various grants. These are contingent upon my available research grants. Typically, students in my group receive Teaching Assistantships their first two years or until they pass their Oral Progress Exam. TA support is awarded by the Graduate Chairman.

Defining a Research Problem

Einstein is quoted as having said that if he had one hour to save the world he would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution. This quote does illustrate an important point: before jumping right into solving a problem, you need to should step back and invest time and effort to improve your understanding of it. Over your first year as a graduate student you should carefully read as many research papers as possible related to the area in which you want to work. You should also meet regularly (i.e. weekly or more) with your PhD advisor during this time to iterate towards a thesis topic and plan a course of research.
  • Continuously rephrase the problem.
  • Expose and Challenge Assumptions
  • Look at the bigger picture.
  • Break things down into small pieces.
  • Read the literature.
You also need to gather as many facts and details about the systems you are dealing with. Develop a database of papers you have read and develop a system for cataloging your notes. My recommendation is to use the program " BibDesk" for keeping track of journal articles and papers. Eventually you will need to write your own papers and your thesis and you'll need to properly cite every paper you have read that pertains to your work. There may be other programs available (e.g Endnote), however, I have found BibDesk to the best especially when working with LaTeX documents.