PhD Program

Courses and Core Competencies

As a graduate student at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME), you have the opportunity to customize your PhD experience to reflect your interests and aspirations.

In the Pritzker Molecular Engineering PhD program, you are expected to fulfill the following course requirements*:

  • Three PME Core Courses
  • Four In-Depth Courses (related to your chosen research field)
  • Two Broad Elective Courses

*In order to be eligible for candidacy, students must complete all Core and In-Depth Courses by the end of Winter Quarter of the second year. Students are strongly urged to complete at least half of their course requirements in the first year.

Our molecular engineering courses provide an education in the foundations of molecular engineering. These classes—which include Introduction to Polymer Science, Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics, Quantum Engineering, and Quantitative Immunobiology—combine problem-solving skills with practical expertise in a range of engineering disciplines. This gives you a broad analytic and disciplinary background as you prepare to collaborate on research projects and advance your career.

In addition to engaging in rigorous curriculum and meaningful research experiences, you will develop core competencies in science communication, teaching and mentoring, leadership and management, and career development. These competencies are fostered in targeted workshops and supplemental programming, as well as in the classroom and the laboratory.

Science Communication

Oral and written communication skills allow you to convey the substance and importance of problem-based research to various audiences, like other researchers, K-12 students, and the general public.

The PME Science Communications Program develops and enhances students’ ability to communicate science effectively to a wide variety of audiences, distill their research into a clear message, and understand their audiences so they can spontaneously tailor the scope and content of their presentation to their needs and interests. Two capstone events, a demo activity at a public science event and a classroom learning activity, help students incorporate community-based scholarship and public engagement into their professional practice.

Some of our oral communication opportunities include delivering science presentations to K-12 students, training with GRADTalk, and practicing your conference talk through the PME’s Student Seminar Series.

You can develop your written communication skills through programs including UChicagoGRAD’s Writing Program, and by getting individualized feedback on your candidacy statement, dissertation, research papers, and curriculum vitae via one-on-one advising and specialized workshops.

Teaching and Mentoring

Teaching and mentoring skills, such as setting goals and expectations, providing guiding and feedback, managing the work of a group, and creating inclusive learning and working environments, are essential in both the classroom and the lab, as well as in industrial job settings.

To build teaching and mentoring techniques, PME offers a range of opportunities, such as completing the PME Workshop on Teaching Fundamentals, earning your College Teaching Certificate, or taking individual seminar and courses.

You can gain teaching experience by becoming a teaching assistant in a PME course, a Graduate Teaching Consultant, or a CCT Teaching Fellow. You can also become a mentor or find a mentor through programs like our After School Matters program and the National Research Mentoring Network.

Leadership and Management

Researchers who demonstrate initiative and influence in a variety of ways are essential in an interdisciplinary research environment where discovery, innovation, and entrepreneurship are at the forefront.

PME students can take advantage of University or PME workshops and presentations on professional ethics and responsible conduct of research, outreach and community engagement, teaching and mentoring as leadership, disciplinary and departmental leadership, and entrepreneurship. At the same time, our students learn about lab management and teamwork by working with fellow researchers and faculty in labs. There are also many options for student to get involved in student leadership at PME.

Students also gain valuable skills through our Training in Responsible Conduct of Research certificate program, which they are required to complete before the beginning of their second term. Information on how to complete the training is provided to students during their first term.

Career Development

Regardless of where you are in your graduate degree or postdoctoral appointment, the PME’s suite of career exploration and preparation skills offer a solid foundation for any career path. Key components of this competency include exploring career options, building a network, developing career preparation skills, and honing your job application process. 

Opportunities at the PME include events and one-on-one consultations with career advisors from UChicago GRAD, pursuing a graduate student summer internship, making connections through the University’s Alumni Directory, and developing a curriculum vitae, resume, and cover letter targeted for specific jobs.

Once you decide on a specific career path, the University can help you with specialized resources. For example, students interested in pursuing academic careers can explore the Chicago Center for Teaching and the Higher Education Administration (HEA) Internship Program. Students interested in non-academic careers can network and launch a venture through the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, a PME partner. Another PME partner is myCHOICE, a program that helps students translate their strong research experience into careers in business, education, industry, innovation, research, and the public sector.