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Master of Chemical Sciences

Course Description

Penn’s Master of Chemical Sciences is designed for your success
Chemistry professionals are at the forefront of the human quest to solve ever-evolving challenges in agriculture, healthcare and the environment. As new discoveries are made, so are new industries — and new opportunities. Whether you’re currently a chemistry professional or seeking to enter the field, Penn’s rigorous Master of Chemical Sciences (MCS) builds on your level of expertise to prepare you to take advantage of the myriad career possibilities available in the chemical sciences. With a faculty of leading academic researchers and experienced industry consultants, we provide the academic and professional opportunities you need to achieve your unique goals.

The Penn Master of Chemical Sciences connects you with the resources of an Ivy League institution and provides you with theoretical and technical expertise in biological chemistry, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, physical chemistry, environmental chemistry and materials. In our various seminar series, you will also regularly hear from chemistry professionals who work in a variety of research and applied settings, allowing you to consider new paths and how best to take advantage of the program itself to prepare for your ideal career.

Preparation for professional success
If you’ve recently graduated from college and have a strong background in chemistry, the Master of Chemical Sciences offers you a exceptional preparation to enter a chemistry profession. In our program, you will gain the skills and confidence to become a competitive candidate for potential employers as you discover and pursue your individual interests within the field of chemistry. Our faculty members bring a wealth of research expertise and industry knowledge to help you define your career direction.

For working professionals in the chemical or pharmaceutical industries, the Master of Chemical Sciences accelerates your career by expanding and refreshing your expertise and enhancing your research experiences. We provide full- and part-time options so you can pursue your education without interrupting your career. You can complete the 10-course program in one and a half to four years, depending on course load.

The culminating element of our curriculum, the capstone project, both tests and defines your program mastery. During the capstone exercise, you will propose and defend a complex project of your choice, that allows you to stake out a new professional niche and demonstrate your abilities to current or prospective employers.

Graduates will pursue fulfilling careers in a variety of cutting-edge jobs across government, education and corporate sectors. As part of the Penn Alumni network, you’ll join a group of professionals that spans the globe and expands your professional horizons.

Courses and Curriculum

The Master of Chemical Sciences degree is designed to give you a well-rounded, mechanistic foundation in a blend of chemistry topics. To that end, the curriculum is structured with a combination of core concentration courses and electives, which allow you to focus on topics best suited to your interests and goals.

As a new student in the Master of Chemical Sciences program, you will meet with your academic advisor to review your previous experiences and your future goals. Based on this discussion, you will create an individualized academic schedule.

The Master of Chemical Sciences requires the minimum completion of 10 course units (c.u.)* as follows:

Pro-Seminar (1 c.u.)
Core concentration courses (4-6 c.u., depending on concentration and advisor recommendations)
Elective courses in Chemistry, such as computational chemistry, environmental chemistry, medicinal chemistry, catalysis and energy (2-4 c.u., depending on concentration and advisor recommendations)
Optional Independent Studies (1 c.u.)
Capstone project (1 c.u.)
Pro-Seminar course (CHEM 599: 1 c.u.)
The Pro-Seminar will review fundamental concepts regarding research design, the scientific method and professional scientific communication. The course will also familiarize students with techniques for searching scientific databases and with the basis of ethical conduct in science.

Concentration courses
The concentration courses allow you to develop specific expertise and also signify your mastery of a field to potential employers.

The number of elective courses you take will depend upon the requirements for your area of concentration, and upon the curriculum that you plan with your academic advisor. These concentration courses allow you to acquire the skills and the critical perspective necessary to master a chemical sciences subdiscipline, and will help prepare you to pursue the final capstone project (below).

You may choose from the following six chemical sciences concentrations:

Biological Chemistry
Inorganic Chemistry
Organic Chemistry
Physical Chemistry
Environmental Chemistry
Independent Studies
The optional Independent Studies course will be offered each fall and spring semester, giving you an opportunity to participate in one of the research projects being conducted in one of our chemistry laboratories. During the study, you will also learn analytical skills relevant to your capstone research project and career goals. You can participate in the Independent Studies course during your first year in the program as a one-course unit elective course option. (CHEM 910: 1 c.u. maximum)

Capstone project (1 c.u.)

The capstone project is a distinguishing feature of the Master of Chemical Sciences program, blending academic and professional experiences and serving as the culmination of your work in the program. You will develop a project drawing from your learning in and outside of the classroom to demonstrate mastery of an area in the chemical sciences.

The subject of this project is related to your professional concentration and may be selected to complement or further develop a work-related interest. It's an opportunity to showcase your specialization and your unique perspective within the field.

Your capstone component may be a Penn laboratory research project, an off-campus laboratory research project or a literature-based review project. All components will require a completed scientific report. It is expected that the capstone project will take an average of six months to complete. Most students are expected to start at the end of the first academic year in the summer and conclude at the end of fall semester of the second year. Depending on the capstone option selected, students may begin to work on the capstone as early as the spring semester of their first year in the program.

All capstone project proposals must be pre-approved by your concentration advisor, Master of Chemical Sciences Program Director and if applicable, your off-campus project supervisor. If necessary, nondisclosure agreements will be signed by students securing projects with private companies. Additionally, students from private industry may be able to complete a defined capstone project at their current place of employment. All capstone projects culminate in a final written report, to be graded by the student's concentration advisor who is a member of the standing faculty or staff instructor in the Chemistry Department.

*Academic credit is defined by the University of Pennsylvania as a course unit (c.u.). Generally, a 1 c.u. course at Penn is equivalent to a three or four semester hour course elsewhere. In general, the average course offered at Penn is listed as being worth 1 c.u.; courses that include a lecture and a lab are often worth 1.5 c.u.

Visit the Master of Chemical Sciences page on the University of Pennsylvania website for more details!

Entry Requirements

The typical student in the Master of Chemical Sciences program will hold an undergraduate degree in chemistry, engineering, mathematics or the equivalent. An adequate undergraduate background will vary, depending on area of concentration and will include some combination of coursework in chemistry, biology, mathematics, physics and/or engineering.

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