FAQ ANYL 1styr

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  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Analytical, Environmental, and Atmospheric Division Graduate Students. This started as a page with resources for 1st year students, but has grown to include resources for students in later years, and also some for prospective students. A shortcut to this page is http://tinyurl.com/ANYL-1st.


Questions for Prospective Students

Should I go to grad school? Is CU CHEM right for me? What should I factor in my decision?

We have a great program, but the answers to those questions are very personal. This blog post from our recent PhD graduate Jordan Krechmer has some useful pointers on the topic.

Do you have some information on the faculty I could work with there?

Department-Level Questions

What rules apply to Graduate Students in the ANYL division at CU-Boulder?

  • Two sets of rules apply to the Graduate Programs at CU-Boulder:
    • The Dept. of Chemistry has adopted these graduate rules and keeps links to all the rules and forms here.
    • The Graduate School has adopted these rules.
    • A Department can only make rules more stringent than the Graduate School, never less. Thus for topics discussed in the Chemistry rules, those rules apply. For topics not discussed in the Chemistry rules, the Grad School rules apply.

Does the CHEM Dept. maintain a similar list of FAQs?

  • Yes, see this link (see links menu on right).

Should I Take TA'ing Seriously?

  • Yes! We do take TAing very seriously and we expect you to put your best effort into it.
  • Your experience reviewing general chemistry basics will build a stronger foundation for the knowledge you are expected to have during your oral exam.
  • From past experience, there is a strong correlation between a good work ethic and performance when TA'ing and a good work ethic and performance on your thesis research. The Analytical faculty are kept informed of the performance of the TAs from the Analytical division. If you don't take TAing seriously, potential advisors will generally hear about it and worry about your work ethic, and this may discourage potential advisors from taking you for their research groups.
  • Later in your PhD you may need a TA position due to a hiccup in funding etc. There are often more non-1st-yr students who would like a TA position than positions available, and if your TA performance in your 1st yr was not good, you will have lower priority for a position.

What are the Dept. Rules for Assigning TA Positions?

The department policy for assigning TA positions, based on Executive Committee decision, is as follows:

  • 1) First year graduate students who are in good standing (first year students who are not in good standing drop to category #4 below).
  • 2) Graduate students in their second year and beyond who are in good standing and making good progress towards their Ph.D. and who work for departmental faculty.
  • 3) Non-departmental graduate students working for departmental faculty.
  • 4) On a case-by-case basis: Students who are not making adequate progress or who have formally dropped into an MS track (even if they keep the Ph.D. track on their record); students who do not have an advisor; departmental students working for faculty outside the department or for national lab scientists with only a formal advisor in the department.
  • 5) Students who have not fulfilled their TA duties adequately. This will be determined by the Chair based on the advice of faculty and staff.

Please note that these are guidelines and that the department reserves the right to make exceptions to these orderings on a case-by-case basis. For example, the Department may take into consideration the total requests from a particular research advisor and whether or not an advisor has funds to support a student on RA rather than TA.

ANYL Division Questions

So What is a "Division" Anyway?

  • A division in the CU Chemistry Dept. is a group of professors and research groups with related interests who organize course offerings, preliminary & oral exams, seminars, etc. The Graduate Rules of the Chemistry Dept. apply to students in all divisions.
  • Analytical, Environmental, and Atmospheric Chemistry ("Analytical" or "ANYL" for brevity) is an official Division of the CU Chemistry Dept.
  • Atmospheric Chemistry by itself is not an official Division for historical and practical reasons, and there are professors working on atmospheric chemistry also in the Physical Chemistry Division (especially Veronica Vaida and Steve Brown, and also partially Bierbaum and Hynes. Note that Bierbaum and Hynes are not taking students currently). Thus if your primary interest is in this area you may want to explore opportunities in the Physical Chemistry Division as well.

Which Professors are Part of the Analytical Division?

Which Professors are Active in Atmospheric Chemistry?

What is the Role of the Analytical Division Advisor?

  • The analytical division advisor (Rainer Volkamer for 2019-20) is available for discussing any relevant issues with the 1st year analytical students during the year. Just email him at rainer.volkamer@colorado.edu, call (303-492-1843), or drop by (EKLC M325).
  • There is also a meeting at the beginning of every Fall semester, typically after the first analytical seminar, with all first year students and all analytical faculty. This is a good opportunity to ask further questions.

Finding a Research Advisor

What Should I Focus on my First Semester?

  • The most important thing that you have to do in your first semester (in the long run) is to choose a research advisor.

How do I go about Finding an Advisor?

  • This decision should not be taken lightly. The most important factor, of course, is your research interest, but you may also consider factors such as working style, funding, size of the group, and working style (e.g. more individual vs more team-oriented or collaborative projects). Many internet resources exist to help guide your decision; a few of the many resources to help you shape the questions you may ask are here, here, and here.
  • Attend the 30 min seminars given in the Fall semester by all faculty. The purpose of these seminars is to present the research carried out in their groups as well as specific opportunities for 1st year students.
  • Talk to all of the faculty you are interested in working for. Not everyone will have time or funding to take you on, so identify several professors whose research groups you would be interested in joining.
  • Talk to the students, postdocs, and recent graduates of the groups you are interested in.
  • Attend at least one group meeting of the groups that interest you in order to get a feel for how the group works. Attend several meetings if you can.
  • Note that in principle you can work for any professor in the department, although most students tend to stay within their division.
  • As a 1st year in the analytical division, you are required to make a decision by Thanksgiving of your first (Fall) semester. At that time, you will email the analytical advisor with your first 3 choices for research groups, in order of preference. We will do our best to accommodate everyone in their first choice, although this is not always possible.

I have been admitted by a different CHEM Division, can I switch to ANYL?

  • About 10% of the incoming students switch divisions typically, in both directions. Students admitted by PCHEM and ORG have switched to ANYL in recent years, and students admitted by ANYL have switched to PCHEM.
  • In terms of the mechanics:
    • (a) If you come in and start in another division (taking those classes, which are different from the ANYL ones), then you can still talk to ANYL faculty etc. during the Fall semester. The key is to join an ANYL group at the end of the Fall semester. Most of your remaining classes would be on ANYL afterwards.
    • (b) If before the start of the Fall semester, you knew that you wanted to switch and enter through the ANYL program and not the division that admitted you, then the ANYL faculty has to discuss and agree to that beforehand. This is typically not difficult, but it is a step we need to take since we have a responsibility first to the people we admitted into ANYL. Then you would start taking ANYL classes in the Fall and go from there.

Can I work for Faculty in Other Departments?

  • It is certainly possible to work for faculty in other departments. The main requirement is that you still need a chemistry professor who is willing to act as your in-house supervisor. The purpose of the in-house advisor is to ensure that all the rules and requirements as they apply to PhD candidates housed in the Department of Chemistry are followed and that the expected level of mentorship is provided, which prevents negative surprises down the road. An example of the situations that we are trying to avoid is that a student can fall in an 'advising black hole' in which they are not getting much attention from their advisors or making much progress in their thesis research, but nobody in CHEM knows about it until several years have been partially wasted. This has actually happened in the past, although most experiences are positive.

Can I do my Ph.D. Research Working for a Scientist in a Local National Lab?

  • It is also possible to do yout PhD research with researchers at the local national labs (NOAA, NCAR, NREL), and typically about ~15% of the Analytical students follow this route. However this needs to be set up carefully to ensure that all the CHEM PhD rules are followed. You also need to find a group at one of the National Labs that is interested in hosting you. Analytical faculty may be able to provide you with contacts with relevant scientists in the National Labs).
  • This route also has both important advantages (e.g. exposure to a national lab and many professional scientists, more resources...) and important disadvantages (e.g. isolation from CU and other students, no time for tinkering around with an experiment, potentially lack of sufficient mentoring...), and thus you should think hard about whether this is what you want to do and then very carefully examine the opportunities you may have in this direction. Important questions are: how available will your national lab advisor be? Have they supervised PhD students before, and if so, what was their experience? Are there regular group meetings?
  • Talk to the analytical advisor if you are interested in exploring this route.
  • You will also need a chemistry professor that is willing to act as your in-house supervisor.

Who has advised ANYL PhD students in recent years, other than the ANYL faculty?

  • To the best of our knowledge since 2004 the non-ANYL advisors (who continue to be research-active and might be interested in taking additional students) have been:
    • Gaby Petron at the NOAA Global Monitoring Division (student: Ingrid Mielke-Maday 2013)
    • Dr. Steve Brown at the NOAA Chemical Sciences Division, also Prof. Adjoint in CU CHEM Physical Chemistry Division (student: Erin McDuffie 2013)
    • Prof. Joe Ryan in CU Civil & Environmental Engineering (student: Alison Craven 2007)
    • Prof. Fernando Rosario-Ortiz in CU Civil & Environmental Engineering has expressed interest in taking ANYL students
  • Note that you are not restricted to these non-ANYL advisors, rather this list may be useful since these people have advised students in our program and will be familiar with the background and skills of our students, exams and procedures, admin. system etc.
  • Additional advisors who have graduated ANYL PhDs, but are no longer taking students include Veronica Vaida (CU PCHEM), David Fahey (NOAA ESRL), and Tom Bruno (NIST)

When Will I be Expected to Start Doing Research?

  • You will officially join a group after Thanksgiving of your first (Fall) semester.
  • While students usually do not have time to work on research full time until the summer, most advisors expect students to begin reading the appropriate literature and to attend group meetings during the Spring semester of their first year.
  • Also, most advisors expect students to begin doing research as soon as their classes and TAing duties are over (~ May 9th), not on the 1st of June.

What Constitutes a PhD Thesis?

  • In most of the ANYL groups, a PhD Thesis is defined as first-author 3 papers published in high-quality peer-reviewed journals. Normally, the first two have to be published and the 3rd one has to be submitted in order to be able to schedule a defense. In some groups, those details can be different, although the amount of work that constitutes a PhD thesis is similar. 3 papers is a lower limit, and you can greatly enhance your career prospects in research by publishing more than that. For further details you should discuss with your advisor.
  • Additional publications in which you are a coauthor, but not the first author cannot be part of your PhD Thesis, although of course they may be very useful for learning and for your career.


Am I Required to Attend Analytical Seminar?

  • Yes, all current students (not just 1st year students) are required to attend the Analytical Seminar every week.

Is the Analytical Seminar a Course?

  • Yes, it is a course (CHEM-6101) for registration purposes. First year students should register for it for both Fall and Spring. Even though 2nd and later year students are not registered, they are still required to attend the seminar every week per ANYL Division Rules.

How do I find out the ANYL Seminar Schedule?

  • ANYL Seminars take place on Mondays at noon during the academic year. Pizza and coffee are provided (except if the seminar is not in Ekeley S274, due to room restrictions).
  • See the detailed seminar schedule in the Wiki here and the abstracts here.
    • To make changes to the seminar schedule (e.g. to schedule your 1st or 3rd year talk, or your thesis defense), email Anne Handschy.
    • The schedule is also available as a Google Calendar. It is a public calendar, meaning that you can add it to your personal calendar and it will display the seminars at the right time and will the relevant details (speaker, title, room, link to schedule and abstracts). To do this, just enter the following Calendar ID under "Other Calendars --> Add a friend's calendar" to the left of your Google Calendar: qm8k9heqc27sauteit0p01kpjg@group.calendar.google.com. (If the Wiki and GCal don't agree, the Wiki should be correct, but please let us know if this happens).
  • Since we are a small division, not all seminar slots during the academic year may be filled. However, when seminars are scheduled, all members of the division (students, postdocs, and faculty) should attend.

Is there an Email List for ANYL Seminar Announcements?

  • Email announcements and reminders are sent to the ANYL seminar email announcement list, <anyl-env-seminars@googlegroups.com>.
    • You can add yourself by following this link.
    • If you have problems adding yourself with the above link, email Anne Handschy and ask her to add you. Be clear about which list you want to be added to.

What are the Guidelines of the ANYL Seminar Program?

  • You can find them here

How do I Suggest Speakers to Invite for ANYL Seminar?

  • During each AY, each faculty member in the ANYL division, in consultation with their research group, should plan to invite and host one outside speaker. The costs associated with these speakers will be paid for by the Dept. of Chemistry.
  • Faculty members who wish to invite additional outside speakers should contact CIRES or the Environmental Program about support for these speakers.
  • Faculty members can also invite local scientists as speakers, but they should attempt to choose speakers whose research would be interesting to most of the people who regularly attend the seminars.

Do I need to give an Analytical Seminar during my first semester?

  • Yes, all 1st year students give a 30-minute seminar (including questions) during the first semester (two students per 1-hr seminar slot), before Thanksgiving. The subject matter is usually on research you have completed before coming to graduate school.
    • The analytical advisor should sign you up for a seminar during the advising meeting before the start of the Fall semester.

Do I need to give an Analytical Seminar during my 3rd year?

  • Yes, as a 3rd-year ANYL student, you will give a full-length seminar (including questions) on the research you have completed until this point.
    • These seminars normally take place in the Spring semester. It is your responsibility to reserve a time slot when most faculty relevant to your research are present (this is marked on the seminar calendar with symbols). Do not chose slots late in the semester.
    • You will present your research during an official ANYL seminar slot, followed by Q&A from the general audience.
    • Then the general audience is excused and the ANYL faculty plus any external committee members continue for an informal feedback session. This is NOT an exam, but rather an opportunity for a wider group of faculty to provide feedback on your research accomplishments to date and on your plans towards graduation. It was established at the request of the ANYL graduate students for more structured feedback on their thesis progress.

Do I need to give an Analytical Seminar on my 2nd and 4th years?

  • No

Should my PhD Thesis Defense be an Official ANYL Seminar?

  • Yes, all ANYL PhD Thesis Defenses are official ANYL seminars and should be listed in the seminar schedule.
  • In a PhD Defense seminar, the student will give a 40-50 minute public seminar followed by a closed session with the members of their thesis committee.
  • If possible, your Defense should be scheduled in a regular ANYL seminar slot. If that is not possible a different day or time may be chosen, but those should be added to the ANYL seminar schedule.

Are there other Seminar Series at CU or Boulder that I should attend?

  • Likely yes. In fact there are probably more seminars of interest that you will have time for.
  • A list of related seminars is here
    • If you know of others, or if the link, location etc. changes for the above, pls update that list directly or let Jose know.

How do I sign up to go for lunch or meet with a seminar speaker?

  • If you are interested in either of those, let your advisor and/or the faculty host for that specific seminar know.
  • If you are going to join lunch with the speaker, normally we keep the schedules at this link.

Advancing to Candidacy

What are the Requirements for Advancing to PhD Candidacy?

There are 4: pass the preliminary exam, submit a fellowship or research proposal, submit a research proposition for the oral exam, and pass the oral exam. Details on each of these are below.

  • CHEM maintains all the rules and forms here, and in particular the graduate rules are here. These are the official documents, if you notice any differences between this page and those documents, it is the documents that apply (but let us know so that we can make this page more accurate).

What is the Preliminary Exam, and how do I pass it?

  • Students should meet with the initial advisor from Scholastic Committee and discuss courses
    • Must have courses in 3 of 4 as undergrad or grad: Analytical, Organic, Inorganic/Materials, Physical
  • Students should find a Research Group
  • End of First Semester: Prelim “exam” is 3 faculty in division, without student, evaluate: performance in graduate coursework, seminar participation, acceptance into a research group, and teaching effectiveness 
    • i)The student has satisfied the Preliminary Examination requirement.
    • ii)Remedial work is recommended for this student.
    • iii)Remedial work is recommended, and the student is not encouraged to continue graduate study. 
    • iv)Students who have not maintained a GPA of at least 3.0 in formal graduate courses in Chemistry will be notified that they are on Departmental Probation and at risk of failing the Preliminary Examination. 
  • End of Second Semester: For any student whose evaluation falls into categories ii-iv, the recommendation is only advisory, but the student will be re-evaluated at the end of the second semester of graduate study. If normal progress is being made at that time, then the student will be certified as having fulfilled the Preliminary Examination requirement. At the end of the second semester, students who have not found a thesis advisor and maintained a GPA of at least 3.0 in an approved program of formal graduate courses are not making adequate progress and will ordinarily be deemed to have failed the Preliminary Examination.

What is the proposal requirement?

  • Each student shall submit a research proposal to the two members of the examination board who were not members of the oral examination committee. The proposal may have been submitted as part of a graduate fellowship application, may be written as a part of any graduate course in the Department where written proposals are required, or may be written as a part of a group meeting activity. The proposal must obtain the approval of both the members of the research proposition committee. In the event of a dispute between the two members, the proposal will be referred to the full examination board for a decision. 

What ORAL Qualifying Ph.D. Exams do I Have to Take?

  • All students take their oral comprehensive exam in their 4th semester in the program (e.g. if you start in Fall 2013, you will take the orals in Spring 2015), unless there are unusual circumstances.
  • The oral exam is a 2-hr period with 3 faculty (typically 2 from ANYL and 1 from a different division), not including your research advisor. Commitees are typically assigned in December.
  • At least one week before the oral examination date, students will present a short thesis research proposition (approximately 5 pages) of their thesis research plan to each committee member. This overview will outline clearly the direction of the student's thesis, will provide the committee with some advance idea of the thesis research area, and will describe promising research results (if any). Students might be asked at the time of the exam to describe and defend alternate experimental approaches to their research goals. 
  • During the oral exam you will be asked probing questions aimed at determining whether you understand the fundamentals well enough to figure out the questions that will arise in your research, and whether you can think on your feet and incorporate new information etc.
  • It is a good idea to rehearse the oral exam a couple of times with older students, as often stage fright is a problem for students taking the orals.
  • There are three possible outcomes: pass w/o condition, pass w/ condition (with the condition determined by the orals commitee), or fail. If you pass with condition, the oral exam is considered passed when your committee chair certifies that you have met the condition. If you fail the exam, you may request a retake to the Graduate Director. If you fail the oral exam a second time, the examining committee (all 5 members) can recommend that you pursue a Master's degree. That is infrequent (but not unheard of) in ANYL as we try to only admit strong students that should not have serious problems with the orals.

Do I get a raise after passing the orals?

  • Students who advance to Ph.D candidacy receive higher RA pay (RA-II level) (TA pay does not change). This represents about a hundred dollars a month! Often students forget and go for months or years without this pay raise. To be admitted into candidacy you must have passed your preliminary and oral exams, and your proposal must have been approved by your advisor and one other faculty member. Then you have to fill in this form and give it to the CHEM Graduate Coordinator.


A great resource on this is the CGSC Portal

(Sometimes rules can change slightly and the Graduate Coordinator (chemgrad@colorado.edu) will typically have the most updated information)

How Many Credits Should I Register for in my 1st Year?

  • It is important to complete 18 total credits in your first academic year at CU.
  • Most students have not joined a research group yet at the start of the Fall semester. Those students typically register in the Fall for 2 courses (6 credits) and Analytical Seminar (1 credit). Then in the Spring they need to register for 11 credits, normally 2 courses (6 credits), Analytical Seminar (1 credit) and 4 research credits. You can try to take 3 courses during either semester, but the workload tends to be too high and few students chose to do that.
    • For the research credits you need to register in CHEM-6901 (Special Topics in Chemistry), noting that there is a different section of this course for each research advisor. Register for a letter grade rather than pass/fail.
  • More infrequently, students may join a research group from the start of the Fall semester. Those students should register as above, expect adding 2 credits of research (CHEM-6901) in the Fall, and then only registering for 4 credits of research in the Spring, and still reaching 18 credits at the end of the first academic year.
  • See the CHEM Graduate Coordinator if you have questions on which section of CHEM 6901 to sign up for, especially if you have not yet joined a research group.

How Many Credits Should I Register for in my 2nd Year?

  • Complete any additional coursework needed to have a MINIMUM of 15 credits of coursework. Note that Analytical (and other) seminars and courses less than 3 credits usually do not count towards the departmental requirement of 15 formal coursework hours.
  • Either 5 credits of CHEM 6901 in each semester (Fall and Spring), or coursework and enough CHEM 6901 to total 6 credits for each semester. You should have 30 credits completed by the end of your second academic year at CU, ideally 18 from your first year plus 12 from your second year.

How Many Credits Should I Register for in my 3rd and later years?

  • A MINIMUM of 5 credits of CHEM-8991 (Doctoral Dissertation in CHEM) EVERY FALL & SPRING. Note that there is a different section of CHEM-8891 for each research advisor.
  • You can register for additional coursework that is useful for your research, and most advisors will encourage doing this in moderation. However, you will be charged the extra tuition, which you or your advisor (if you are on an RA) or the Department (if you are on a TA) will have to pay for. Due to both the time commitment and the extra tuition cost, you need to discuss this with your advisor and the Graduate Coordinator.
  • If you do not take 5 credits of CHEM-8991 each semester after passing the comprehensive exam, then the Graduate School requires you to redo your exam.

Do I need to Register in the Summer?

  • There is usually no requirement to be registered in the summer.
  • However you must be registered in any semester in which you take an exam or defend. If you defend in the summer (after the start of the Summer term to the day before Fall classes start) you must register for 5 credits of CHEM 8991. If you defend before the Summer term you will not need to register for summer, even though you will graduate in August.


A great resource on this is the CGSC Portal

How Many Courses do I Have to Take? What Courses are Allowed?

  • You have to complete at least 5 courses (15 credits).
  • Only courses at the 5000-level or higher count towards the 5-course requirement.
  • Any lower level undergrad courses (including computer programming) do not count towards the 5-course requirement. However, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't take them if they are useful to your research.

How Should I Choose my Courses?

  • The choice of the courses should be guided by:
    • (1) most importantly, your research topic,
    • (2) what you need to take to pass the preliminary and orals exams,
    • (3) what you are interested in.
  • 4 of these courses need to be in Chemistry. Taking courses outside of CHEM is fine, as long as your advisor approves them, and as long as your Chemistry training is sufficient for passing the oral exam. (This is a change since 2018, it used to be possible to take more courses outside of CHEM, but the rules were changed then)
  • 5 courses total is typical of Chemistry programs, but is a low number of courses compared to graduate programs in many other areas, so you should certainly consider taking a few more courses if they would be useful to your research.

What Grades am I Required to Achieve in my Courses?

  • You need a grade of B- or better in each course. If you have a lower grade, then the course does NOT count towards the 5-course requirement.
  • In addition, your average coursework-only GPA (not including seminars or research credits) must be 3.0 (B) or better at all times.
  • If your GPA falls below a 3.0 or if you receive a grade lower than B- (which will most likely pull your GPA to below 3.0), then you will be placed on academic probation.
    • While on probation, you have lower priority for TA positions.
    • If you don't rectify the grades that led to probation within a specific time frame, you may be dismissed from the program.

Which Courses Should I Take in my first (Fall) and second (Spring) semesters?

  • These are the recommended courses for 1st year analytical students (although they may not be offered every year)
  • During your second semester the options are broader and will be tailored to your research, so you should discuss this with your advisor.
  • Note that sometimes the online catalog is not up to date, so don't assume that a course is not offered if it is not listed there (and conversely). Check with the professor or department to confirm.

What Other Courses Are Often Taken by ANYL Grad Students?

  • If you find out about other good courses, or if some of these courses are no longer offered, please let Jose know or update this list directly.
  • It is always a good idea to search the Online Course Catalog, as course offerings are constantly changing.
  • Other Chemistry Courses:
    • CHEM-5501: Advanced Topics in Physical Chemistry (aka PChem Boot Camp).
    • CHEM-5531: Statistical Mechanics.
    • CHEM-5591: Advanced Molecular Spectroscopy. This course is quite different from CHEM-5161 in that it focuses on the fundamentals of spectroscopy, (i.e. why do molecules absorb light at a certain wavelength, what can we learn about their energy states, etc.), whereas the focus of CHEM-5161 is the practical measurements that can be done by taking advantage of the fact that molecules absorb light at certain wavelengths, etc.
    • CHEM-5201: Atmospheric Aerosol Discussions. (Only offered once in 2006, unclear whether it'll be offered again).
  • Courses Relevant to Atmospheric Chemistry Groups:
    • In ATOC (Atmospheric Sciences):
      • ATOC-5235: Introduction to Atmospheric Radiative Transfer & Remote Sensing. Follows Petty's book and Kliger's book.
      • ATOC-5300: The Global Carbon Cycle
      • ATOC-5540: Mathematical Methods
      • ATOC-5810: Planetary Atmospheres. Goes over a lot of atmospheric physics and is a less-in-depth combination of several ATOC classes on this list. (Ask Greg Schill who has taken it and liked it a lot).
      • ATOC-7500: Instrumentation
    • In MCEN (Mechanical Engineering):
    • In CVEN (Civil and Environmental Engineering):
    • In CHEN (Chemical Engineering)
      • CHEN-5838: Preparation for a Faculty Position (John Falconer and Chris Bowman)
  • Courses to Strengthen your Background in math, statistics, and computer programming:
    • CSCI-1300: Introduction to Computer Science (Undergraduate course, as discussed above) (May be required for the Jimenez group if you don't have background on computer programming.)
    • APPM-4570: Statistical Methods
    • ATOC-5540: Mathematical Methods in Atmospheric Sciences, see above.
    • EMEN 5005: Introduction to Applied Statistics. (Prof. Jeffrey Luftig, EMEN) (Check with Jimenez group student Amber Ortega, who took it in Fall 2011.)
    • CHEN 5128: Applied Statistics in Research and Development (Check w Megan Harries, who took it Spring 2015)
    • There are quite a few more applied math and statistics courses, some of which are not so useful for our students. Let us know if you know of one that would be useful to list here.
  • If you are interested in teaching:
    • MCDB-5650: Teaching and Learning Seminar. (Jenny Knight) (Check w/ Jose-Luis Jimenez, he loved it.)

Do you Recommend Taking a Course in Computer Programming?

  • If you have not had a serious undergraduate course in computer programming, or significant (more than 3 months full time) programming experience, we strongly recommend that you take a computer programming course during your 1st year at CU. I.E. if you don't know how to quickly use a for loop or an if statement (or especially if you don't know what those are) then you need this background.
  • Prof. Browne offers a fall course (specifics TBD) that covers introduction to computer programming, using Labview & Igor, that are used in all the atmospheric chemistry groups. Prof. Jimenez also uses Igor in his courses.

Thesis Committee and Defense Questions

What is a Thesis Committee?

  • Your Thesis Committee is a group of 5 faculty (your research advisor plus four others) who provide feedback during your PhD and evaluate your PhD thesis and thesis defense.

Who can be a member of a Thesis Committee in CHEM?

  • CHEM students must have at least one committee member who is not a Chemistry department faculty member
  • The other four members can be faculty in Chemistry
  • Faculty in other departments or faculty from other universities or researchers with a PhD (typically from national labs such as NOAA, NCAR, NREL) often serve in thesis committees.
    • However before non-CU faculty can serve in your committee they need to be appointed as Faculty of the CU-Boulder Graduate School. To do this, their CV needs to be submitted to the Graduate Program Coordinator.

Are the faculty on my Oral Exam Committee automatically in my thesis committee?

  • No, although there is often some overlap.

How often does my thesis committee meet?

  • We recommend meeting annually either with the whole committee or with each member individually, although this is unevenly applied. We suggests telling your advisor that this is important to you. This form should be used to document the meeting(s).

How do I schedule my thesis defense?

  • Working with your advisor, identify your four additional committee members, including at least one outside the Chemistry department. Check the rules for other graduating departments.
  • Check the CU academic calendar for the thesis defense deadline for the semester in which you’d like to graduate (e.g. generally around the middle of November for the fall semester)
  • Send a Doodle poll to your committee members with several options. All members must be able to be present for a 2 hour slot (1 hr. public talk and 1 hr. closed). It may take more than one round of polling to find a date that works for everyone before the defense deadline
  • If you have a committee member who is not CU faculty (e.g. NOAA or NCAR employee), ask for their CV. Send the CV to your department administrator and they will arrange for the committee member to be certified by the graduate school
  • After you have settled on a date and time with your committee, contact the CIRES main office to book either the CIRES Auditorium or Ekeley S274 for your defense. Book a 2 hour time slot

Financial Support Questions

What Fellowships Should I Apply For?

Note that several fellowships are due in November, so look through these links earlier rather than later, and discuss with potential advisors whether you should apply in your first year.

  • NSF Fellowship: The National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship covers tuition, fees, insurance, and your stipend for three of the five academic years following the award. Applications are due in early November and require a two-page research proposal, a two-page communication on your previous research experience, a two-page communication on outreach that you have done or would like to do, three to four letters of recommendation, and official transcripts from all undergraduate schools. Generally applicants are only eligible in their senior undergraduate and first year of graduate school. You should only apply if you have already chosen a research adviser by early October. Awards are usually announced in early April. http://www.nsfgrfp.org/
  • NASA Fellowship (FINESST): The NASA Fellowship covers $35,000 a year for up to three years (renewal required) to be applied towards tuition, fees, insurance, and stipend. It has a deadline in early February and requires an online cover page, a six-page research proposal, a schedule of your graduate career, a one-page student CV, a one-page adviser CV, a budget, a letter of recommendation from the adviser, and unofficial transcripts from both graduate and undergraduate schools. Awards are usually announced in May. Current Solicitations are found here.
  • CIRES Fellowship: The CIRES fellowship is open to graduate students whose advisers are members of CIRES (R. Volkamer, M. Tolbert, P.J. Ziemann, J.L. Jimenez, and R. Sievers). This is a one-time fellowship and can cover from one semester to one year. Only 1 student per research group can apply for this fellowship. The fellowship requires a one-page personal statement, a CV, publications, a graduate transcript, and a sealed envelope with a one-paragraph statement from the adviser. See this page for details.
  • Ford Foundation Fellowship
  • CIRES Graduate Student Travel Award "Program to help CIRES graduate students attend scientific conferences. Individual awards, $750 for domestic travel or $1500 for international travel, will be granted twice during the academic year. "
  • Graduate School Dissertation Completion Fellowship This fellowship is intended to provide outstanding PhD candidates with financial support to assist in the process of completing their doctoral dissertations. The fellowship consists of full support for one academic semester.
  • Graduate School Student Travel Grant The Graduate School offers partial funding for graduate students to present research findings at meetings or conferences outside Colorado. The Graduate School provides a travel grant of $300 for domestic conferences and $500 for international conferences. Funds will be applied directly to the student's tuition account AFTER the dates of travel have passed.
  • Colorado Graduate Grant
    • The Colorado Graduate Grant is a funding source that many graduate students are eligible for. Not everyone gets it, and those who do may find it varies from year to year, it depends on your financial situation. CU's website on graduate grants talks about it a little at the top. You apply by filling out a FAFSA, awards are usually ~$1,500 per semester from the state.
    • The FAFSA for next year goes live on 1st October, and recipients generally hear back in February. If received, it appears as a credit from the Bursar's office, and there are no restrictions on its use.
    • Apply here: https://fafsa.ed.gov/
    • 1st-year out-of-state students often won't get it because the school "runs out" of grants by the time they process the in-state tuition waivers....no matter how quickly you get them in.
    • It is based on household income from two years ago. So, any single grad student should qualify based on our salary. HOWEVER, if you're married (even if you file taxes separately) FAFSA considers your spouse's income as money available to pay for education, and therefore one may be disqualified
  • Other Graduate School grants are available, such as:
  • There are other fellowships available (EPA, DoE, minority fellowships). Talk to your adviser and older graduate students for recommendations.
  • Other lists of Fellowhsips: List 1 / List 2 / List 3 / List 4 (the last one is sorted by deadline, but mixes all subjects together)

How often will I TA?

  • Every incoming student TAs the first two semesters
  • Typically a student may TA one every 3 or 4 semesters during their PhD. In detail this depends on the group, finances, project status etc.
  • Typically after 5 or 5.5 years, students may be asked to TA while they finish their thesis, to encourage people to graduate in a timely manner.

Publication, Presentation, and Reviewing Questions

Do you have tips for writing papers?

I am interested in reviewing papers (or proposals), how do I get started?

  • Reviewing papers is an integral part of being a scientist. It helps you view the other side of the process that all of your important work will go through in its way to publication, and you will learn a lot by doing it.
  • You should read this article in Nature with advice to new reviewers and this set of Ethical Guidelines for Publication and Peer Reviewing
  • You should mention this to your advisor or other experienced scientists in the field. When they get requests to review and don't have time for them (which is very common), they can suggest you as an alternative reviewer. In some cases you may work with them in a particular review. You can also let editors of relevant journals know that you are interested in reviewing, sending them an email stating your interest, along with the topics you are qualified to review and your CV.
  • For proposals again you can work through your advisor. To be asked to review proposals directly, the best way is to write to the program managers of the different funding agencies, who are often desperate to find good & timely reviewers. You do need to have published a few papers in the area to be considered.
  • Journal Editors and Program Managers complain bitterly of how hard it is to get people to agree to provide reviews and then to actually get them to submit the reviews the promised, so if you do a good job in the first few, you will quickly have more papers/proposals to review than time! Conversely if you don't do a good job or are slow, the well will dry very quickly.

How do I respond to the reviews of a paper?

Do you have any tips on writing proposals?

Do you have any tips for presentations?

Do you have any tips for job interviews?

Computing Questions

Do I need a personal Laptop?

  • Most likely you will need a laptop for your coursework during the first year. Several classes use computer-based assignments using Igor, Labview, and other tools.

Should I get a PC or Mac Laptop?

  • Labview is a key piece of software for most ANYL groups, and it is problematic and limited in Macs. The same is true with many other pieces of software used for coursework or research, many are only available for Windows. For these reasons we strongly recommend a Windows laptop (with Windows 7 as of Fall 2013). If you have a Mac laptop, you may have to borrow a laptop for the Labview coursework, which is cumbersome and limits the time in which you can practice that programming. Then you will have the same limitation later on.
  • An alternative, if you have a Mac, is to install a Windows Partition using Bootcamp. That way you can use your computer as a PC or a Mac and you avoid the problems with Labview and other PC-only or PC-better software. A couple of people in our program are doing this (as of Fall 2013) and are happy with it.

What Electronic and Literature Resources are Available at CU?

  • The CU libraries are excellent and they subscribe to most important electronic resources.
  • The single most useful electronic resource is Web Of Science. It is a database in which you can search for journal articles using author names, keywords, etc. Most importantly, it has a list (with links) to the articles that cite or are cited by a given paper. This is an extremely useful feature, especially when researching a new subject. You can also create "Citation Alerts" for certain papers, so that you get an email every time a new paper cites a paper for which you have an alert. This is an excellent way to keep on top of the literature in some specific areas.
  • We recommend following the journals of most interest to your research using Feedly. This program organizes RSS feeds provided by the journals, and acts like an "inbox" for new papers that you can check at regular intervals.
  • A reference management program such as Mendeley or Endnote is essential to keep track of the references when writing papers and reports. Good free options include Mendeley and Endnote Web which can take references directly from Web of Science and are free.
  • To find the electronic versions of most journals, go to http://libraries.colorado.edu and search for the periodical title.
    • You can find a list of journals relevant to atmospheric chemistry here.
  • To access Web of Science and journal sites from off-campus, you need to set up VPN (Virtual Private Network) in your computer.

Is there a Recommended Software Package for Data Analysis?

  • Most groups in the ANYL Division use the Igor Pro software. It is comparable to Matlab or IDL in terms of programming, but superior to those in graphing capabilities. This software is also used in several graduate classes, and the CHEM Dept. has a teaching license that allow free installation in any computer for teaching purposes.

How do I create an email list?

How can I do conference calls with multiple people?

How can I share screens with collaborators etc?

  • CU largely uses Zoom for this as of 2020.

What is the easiest way to create a web page?

How do I connect to CU VPN from an Android Phone or Tablet?

Miscellaneous Questions

What Do I Need to Do For In-State Residency?

  • Unless you have lived in Colorado and done your undergraduate work in Colorado, you will not be eligible for in-state residency until the fall semester of your second year (i.e. students starting grad school in Fall 2008 were eligible for in-state residency in Fall 2009).
  • You need to be able to prove that you have lived in the state of Colorado for a year and have made reasonable steps towards making Colorado your (semi)permanent home. To do this, you need:
    • Lease: Make sure you have signed a lease before classes start for the semester. If you stay in a hotel around this time prior signing a lease, save your receipts.
    • State ID: For most students, this is a driver's license. These are issued at the Boulder DMV, located at 2850 Iris Avenue, #F (inside a small shopping mall), and is open from 8 am to 5 pm, Monday-Friday. For all IDs, note required documents you must bring.
      • If you have a driver's license currently valid in another state, see instructions for getting a Colorado license here.
      • If you have a driver's license in another country, see instructions for getting a Colorado license here.
      • If you do not have a driver's license, you can still get a state ID. See information here.
    • Register to Vote: You can register to vote at the DMV when you get your license.
    • Register Your Car: If you are bringing your car from out of state, please see the information here. To register your car, you must go to a different location: 1750 33rd St. from 8 am to 4:30 pm Monday-Friday. The cost of registering your car depends on age, make, and model and can vary from $20 - $300. Paying by cash or check is the least expensive.
    • Taxes: You will need to submit a copy of your taxes from the previous calendar year (and the year before that if you filed CO taxes) with your in-state residency application. Make sure you print out an official copy of your return for federal, CO, and any other state taxes.
    • Petitions for residency for the fall semester open up in March and should be filed by mid-May.
    • For more information and forms see the Registrar's page on this topic.

What About General Financial Information?

  • The local bank is Elevations Credit Union. They have an office and ATMs on campus. However, a local bank is not required for residency status and most of your financial dealings will be done electronically so you are not required to have an account with Elevations.
  • Your pay arrives by direct deposit. You will need to select a bank account for your paycheck to be deposited into. Hopefully this was taken care of before or at orientation; if not talk to the CHEM Graduate Coordinator in Cristol 100.
  • When you TA (generally your first year and later if necessary), the department covers your tuition and ~90% of your insurance.
  • Your pay as a TA is low. You need to pass orals for the RA-II which is higher pay (usually starts the third year).

Can I bring my pet to school?

  • Under the Use of University Facilities Policy, animals (including reptiles and amphibians) are NOT permitted in any Facility, except:
    • Service Animals (including Service Animals in training). Service Animals in training may not reside in University Housing unless a resident has received specific approval from the Executive Director of Housing and Dining Services, or his/her designee.
    • Assistance Animals in University Housing that have been approved by the appropriate ADA Coordinator.
    • Animals used in research, instruction, official University business, or as part of an Event.
    • Fish in aquariums
  • Although bringing pets into the buildings may seem like a neat idea, it actually can create more of a hazard, especially in a lab environment. In addition, there are people who have animal allergies and are extremely sensitive and it can create unnecessary health issues for those individuals. So, unless you have a service animal, please leave your pets at home.

Do you know of other general resources for the 1st year of grad school?

  • This blog post was reported to be quite useful by current students.
  • This "Cheat Sheet" was put together by ANYL grad students, and has a good collection of resources for quick reference. You'll need to log in with your identikey to view it.
  • The CGSC Portal is very useful.

My Question is not in this List

  • Email or contact the analytical advisor, Rainer Volkamer in 2019-20 (rainer.volkamer@colorado.edu).

Timeline Checklist for 1st Academic Year

  • This timeline is adapted from a 2010-11 document prepared by Eleanor Waxman and Kyle Zarzana. Pls let us know of any items that need to be added, updated, or removed.

July/August of Year 1

____ Moving: Make sure you are moved in to an apartment in Boulder and have signed a lease by August 23. This will allow you to have residency status for Fall of Year 2. If you stay in a hotel around this time, SAVE YOUR RECEIPTS! Your fees cover a bus pass good from mid-August through the end of May, so housing on a bus line that goes to campus is convenient.
____ Bank Account & Direct Deposit: set up your TA pay to be directly deposited in your bank account.
____ Deal with the paperwork needed for establishing in-state residency (above).
____ Register for Fall courses (see above for options) and pay attention to the credits. If you do not, your candidacy salary raise of ~$100 (RAs only) may be delayed for a semester or more
____ Pay for ~10% of health insurance (~$175/semester). Be sure to pay it early so you do not get hit with late payment charges!
____ E-mail lists: There are four e-mail lists you should be on. They are the general Chemistry list (talk to the graduate coordinator), the ANYL seminar e-mail list (talk to Anne), and the UGGS e-mail list. For people in atmospheric chemistry, also the Aerosols-CO list.
____ Have your CU ID coded for after-hours/weekend access to Cristol and Ekeley (email chemproctor@colorado.edu, unless the graduate coordinator indicates a different procedure to do this)

September of Year 1

____ Sign up for your ANYL seminar presentation, a 20 minute talk + questions (30 min. total) on some research you did in undergrad. If you did not do research, you can present on a paper that you have read.
____ Prepare your ANYL seminar presentation, before you start having exams and large projects in the classes you are taking, midterms you have to grade as a TA, etc.
____ NSF Fellowship application: NSF Application: If you know who you are going to work for and do not already have a fellowship, consider applying for the NSF fellowship. This is generally only open to graduate students in their first year. The deadline is in early November and it requires: a research proposal, a discussion of your prior research, and a discussion of outreach you’ve done or want to do (2 pages each); official transcripts from all undergraduate schools; three or four letters of reference. It provides funding for three years with no renewal required. See http://www.nsfgrfp.org/.
____ Start talking to potential advisors and their students, decisions are due by Thanksgiving.

November of Year 1

____ NSF Fellowships due
____ CU takes the whole week off for Thanksgiving- there is no other fall break- so go home for Thanksgiving! You may have to work over break in later years, so enjoy your break now!
____ Register for Spring classes. Pay attention to the credits to avoid a delay of a semester or more on your candidacy raise (~$100 a month, only for RAs).
____ Send your research group preferences to the ANYL graduate advisor by Thanksgiving.

December of Year 1

____ Confirm the group that you will be joining by talking to the graduate advisor and the professor.
____ Be prepared to pay for health insurance in January so don’t spend all your savings over break (see Jul/Aug).
____ Go home for break! You’ll have to work for part or all of it until you graduate so enjoy it now!

January of Year 1

____ Prepare NASA Earth Sciences Fellowship if applicable
____ Prepare CIRES Fellowship if applicable
____ Pay your student fees
____ Start thinking about filing taxes and get the necessary paperwork organized.
____ If necessary, fill out FAFSA paper work. http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/

February of Year 1

____ Get in the lab and start working on research. Once you get settled in to your new classes and new TA assignments and have finished fellowship applications, you should get started in the lab working as much as possible. You aren’t usually expected to get a ton done this semester, but a good goal is to have enough experience that you can make rapid progress once summer starts.

March of Year 1

____ File your taxes. You will need your tax returns to apply for in-state tuition. The university provides free tax help, which can be useful if you have to file out-of-state taxes as well as Colorado ones.
____ Fill out your application for in-state tuition. Information can be found here. To get residency, you will need the petition form, a copy of your lease that you signed in August and if necessary any hotel receipts to prove you have been residing in Colorado since at least August 23 of Year 1, a copy of your driver’s license, a copy of your voter registration if you did that separately from getting your license, a copy of your vehicle registration, and a copy of all of your taxes (and your previous year taxes if you were a resident or part-time resident of Colorado in 2009). The petition form is long but most of it does not apply to graduate students. The petition opens in March and should be turned in by May 13th for the fall semester of your 2nd year (Detailed information on deadlines here). You can turn it in later, but the petition may not be processed before bills are sent out.

April of Year 1

____ Hear back from the NSF if you applied.

May of Year 1

____ Register for Fall classes for Year 2 (pay attention to credits, see above, to avoid delaying your candidacy salary raise).
____ Hear back from fellowships if you applied for any.
____ Turn in your residency petition by (approx.) May 13th. If you submit it later than that, you may not get in-state tuition for Fall of Year 2.
____ Start working in lab. Classes end in early May, and professors expect that you begin research as soon as classes end.
____ You made it through the most complicated part of grad school, congratulations!

Resources for later in the PhD process

Improving These FAQs

How do I edit directly this page in the Wiki?

  • Ask Jose to create a login for you
  • Then follow the easy instructions here


  • This page was created and is currently (Spring 2021) maintained by Jose-Luis Jimenez. Many thanks to Otha Barrow, Cora Fagan-Edminster, Kyle Zarzana, Eleanor Waxman, Raea Hicks, Maggie Tolbert, Greg Schill, Aroob Abdelhamid, Christopher Lee, and many others for providing information and helping improve this page. If you find something confusing, outdated, or want to suggest information or links to be added to this page, let Jose know.