Jul 16, 2024  
2023-2024 Catalog 
2023-2024 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Chemistry, M.S.

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Graduate Program Coordinator:
Sajith Jayasinghe, Ph.D.



The Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement – Graduate Level (GWARGL) content has been removed from the Chemistry, M.S. program, as this is no longer a requirement.

Program of Study

The fields of biochemistry and chemistry aim to increase our molecular understanding of the organization of matter in natural and artificial systems and thereby provide solutions to problems of great importance to society. The primary goal of the M.S. in Chemistry is to produce experienced, motivated, and highly independent researchers with the critical thinking skills required for industrial research positions, careers in chemical education, or entry into Ph.D. programs. Faculty research interests within our program span a wide range of topics, in the following broad categories: organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, analytical chemistry, physical chemistry, biochemistry, and chemical education. Our program provides students with both the freedom to explore diverse topics as well as a highly structured “hands-on” research training environment where they can work one-on-one with faculty to systematically learn how to effectively and efficiently develop, plan, test, and present scientific hypotheses, investigations, and results. Through these explorations, students gain exposure to, and mastery of, a wide range of advanced techniques, such as: nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, single molecule fluorescence spectroscopy, circular dichroism spectroscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy and laser-based polarimetry, and experience with high-end instrumentation including a Bruker Avance  400MHz Nuclear Magnetic Resonance instrument; Fourier Transform Infrared spectrometers; Ultra Violet and Visible spectrophotometers; Gas Chromatography systems; High Performance and Fast Performance Liquid Chromatography systems; a Liquid Chromatography mass spectrometer; a Gas Chromatography mass spectrometer; an atomic absorption spectrometer; a circular dichroism spectropolarimeter; a fully equipped machine shop; a Rigaku Miniflex X-ray diffractometer; three Fluoromax Fluorimeters; and a broad spectrum of molecular biology instrumentation.

The M.S. in Chemistry is distinguished by the flexibility it offers students to select courses of study that align best with their individual interest (see concentrations below), and major career objectives (see culminating experience options below).

Program Student Learning Outcomes

Students graduating with an M.S. in Chemistry will be professional and knowledgeable scientists in their area of specialization, who are able to:

  1. Demonstrate through their course work and thesis defense, a graduate-level understanding of chemistry and an advanced level of understanding in at least one of the following subfields: analytical, biochemical, inorganic, organic, or physical.
  2. Communicate scientific information to a variety of audiences.
  3. Recommend solutions to scientific issues through the critical analysis of scientific literature.
  4. Evaluate, design, and conduct independent chemical research in their chosen area of specialization.

Admission Requirements and Application

Applicants must meet the following qualifications to be considered for program admission:

  1. Applicants must meet the general requirements for admission to graduate studies at California State University San Marcos. These are described in this catalog under Graduate Studies  in the section titled “Admission Requirements for Graduates and Post-Baccalaureate Students.”
  2. The applicant must have earned a bachelor’s degree with a major in chemistry, biochemistry, biology, biotechnology, or related field. Students with majors in other areas may also be accepted contingent upon their satisfactory demonstration of competence in either chemistry or biochemistry depending on which option they intend to pursue.
  3. The applicant must have maintained a minimum overall GPA of 2.8, and a minimum major GPA of 3.0. Conditional admission may be granted to applicants who do not meet this requirement.
  4. The applicant must have completed the following prerequisite courses (or their equivalent): one year of Calculus, CHEM 202L , CHEM 275 , and CHEM 401 . In addition, applicants who wish to pursue the chemistry option should have completed CHEM 402 , CHEM 404 , and CHEM 416 , and those who wish to pursue the biochemistry option should have completed BIOL 210  and CHEM 351  (or CHEM 341 ). Applicants who received either their bachelor’s degrees two or more years prior to their expected entry into the program, or who received a grade of less than B in any of the prerequisite courses listed above, may be accepted to the program contingent upon their demonstration of competence within each sub-field by passing the appropriate ACS placement exams, or GRE subject tests, either before or during their first semester in the program. Students failing to show competence in this manner will be required to take and pass (with a minimum grade of B) an appropriate undergraduate-level course.
  5. All applicants, regardless of citizenship, who do not possess a bachelor’s degree from a post-secondary institution where English is the principal language of instruction, must satisfy the English language proficiency requirement as described in this catalog under Graduate Studies  in the section titled “English Language Admission Requirements for Graduate and Post-Baccalaureate Applicants.”
  6. All applicants are required to complete the general test of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). GRE subject tests in either Biochemistry, Cell & Molecular Biology, or Chemistry are recommended but not required.

Applicants must submit the following items to the CSUSM Graduate Admissions Office:

  1. A university application (available online through Cal State Apply, www2.calstate.edu/apply).
  2. The application fee ($55).
  3. One set of official transcripts from all colleges/universities attended with indication of graduation.

Applicants must also submit the following items directly to the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry:

  1. A completed departmental application for the M.S. in Chemistry.
  2. One set of official transcripts from all colleges/universities attended with indication of graduation (if not in English, certified English translations must be included).
  3. Official transcripts of GRE and, if applicable, TOEFL results.
  4. Three letters of recommendation acknowledging the applicant’s academic capabilities. Two of these letters should come from individuals capable of commenting on the applicant’s potential for graduate-level research in chemistry/biochemistry. The last letter can be from an individual outside the applicant’s chosen field of study.

Send application materials directly to the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the address below:

Administrative Coordinator
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
California State University San Marcos
333 S. Twin Oaks Valley Road
San Marcos, CA 92096-0001

Application Deadline

Complete applications, including test scores and recommendation letters, should be received in the program office by March 15th for admission into the Fall semester. However, applications will be accepted as long as space allows until June 30th. There is no Spring admission.

 Review and Acceptance

All files received by the March 15th deadline will be reviewed by the Graduate Studies Committee for potential acceptance. Applicants who meet all CSUSM and prerequisites set by the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry (see above) will be admitted as classified graduate students. In addition, promising applicants who have deficiencies in specific admission criteria (i.e. missing one or more preparatory courses or minor GPA deficiencies) that can be remedied by additional preparation or coursework (see above), may be considered for admittance with conditional classification status. The procedure for removing the acceptance conditions will be detailed by the review committee in the acceptance letter. Please contact the Graduate Advisor for more information.


Graduate students must maintain an overall GPA of 3.0 and earn at least a C (2.0) in each course. Students who are conditionally classified because of GPA deficiencies may not earn less than a B (3.0) in the courses on their approved program of study. Any student whose overall GPA falls below 3.0 for two semesters, or who receives more than three grades of C (2.0) or lower, will be dropped from the program. A full-time graduate student should be enrolled in at least nine (9) units per semester. Full-time students serving as teaching assistants or graduate assistants should be enrolled in at least six (6) units during the semester of service. In addition, except in unusual circumstances, a completed thesis must be submitted and defended not later than eight semesters following advancement to candidacy, and not later than five years after entry into the program. The student must be registered in CHEM 696A -CHEM 696F , CHEM 698A -CHEM 698F , or CHEM 699A -CHEM 699F  when the completed thesis is granted final approval.

Advancement to Candidacy

To be eligible for advancement to candidacy for the Master of Science degree, a graduate student must fulfill all acceptance conditions to attain classified status, constitute their thesis or project committee, obtain approval from the graduate advisor for their program of study, and present their thesis or project proposal to their committee. Each student must initially obtain the permission of a tenured or tenure-track faculty member in the department of Chemistry and Biochemistry to serve as the chair of his or her thesis or project committee. The thesis/project committee chair and student will then recommend two additional members for the thesis/project committee. A student’s research supervisor need not be a member of the faculty in the department of Chemistry and Biochemistry but must be a member of the thesis/project committee. The Chemistry Graduate Studies Committee must approve the composition of the student’s committee. The thesis/project committee chair will assist the student in establishing a program of study and in developing a research proposal. A formal written proposal will be orally presented to the thesis/project committee no later than the beginning of the second year of full-time study, or after twelve (12) units of graduate coursework have been completed. A classified student will be advanced to candidacy after the official program of study has been approved by their committee, their written thesis or project proposal has been presented to their committee, and their thesis committee has approved the proposal.

Degree Requirements

The following requirements must be met within five years to earn the degree of Master of Science in Chemistry at California State University San Marcos:

  1. Advancement to Candidacy. In order to be considered for advancement, graduate students must have a) obtained approval of their program of study by their advisor, b) developed a thesis or project proposal, and c) presented the proposal to their thesis or project committee. On approval of their thesis/project proposals, classified graduate students will be advanced to candidacy for the Master of Science degree.
  2. A Completed Program of Study. This program requires at least 30 units of graduate-level work including the following subsets of course requirements: core courses (6 units); additional seminars, colloquia, teaching experience and research (17 or 16 units for the thesis and project options respectively; and electives (7 or 8 units for the thesis and project options respectively). Students must complete the selected set of courses with a 3.0 GPA, and earn at least a grade of C in each course.
  3.  A Final Defense of the Thesis or Project. Students in the “thesis-based” culminating experience option must publicly defend their thesis through an oral presentation to the faculty and students of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department. Students in the “project-based” culminating experience will orally present the results of their research to an audience, which, at a minimum, must include their project committee members as well as at least two individuals from the collaborating industry organization.

Course of Study

The Master of Science in Chemistry requires a minimum of (30) semester units of study.  Students must complete the selected set of courses with a 3.0 GPA, and earn at least a grade of C in each course.  Students must complete the required semester units in accordance with the specific requirements of the chosen culminating experience option.

Students may select from among two culminating experience options:

Thesis-based Option:  The traditional “thesis-based” option involves the preparation and publication of a master’s thesis detailing scholarly research resulting in one or more original and unique contributions to the fields of chemistry, biochemistry, or chemical education.

Project Option:  The “project-based” option is most appropriate for students interested in industry research careers, and who wish to carry out collaborative academia-industry research projects.

Required courses for the Project Option (12 units)

Students participating in the Project Option will take 12 units from the following courses:

Electives (6-8 units)

Students should, in consultation with the graduate advisor, select elective courses from the list below (except those that are taken as part of the required core courses), to gain an in-depth knowledge in the concentration of their choosing.  With consent of the graduate advisor, students may apply up to five (5) units of coursework at the 400-level toward their degree, and up to three (3) units of coursework from outside the department.

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