ACS Presidential Commission on Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences

The Commission was charged by ACS President Bassam Z. Shakhashiri with addressing two overarching questions: 

  • What are the purposes of graduate education in the chemical sciences?
  • What steps should be taken to ensure that graduate education addresses important societal issues as well as the needs and aspirations of graduate students?

Working Groups


Seven working groups explored the following themes:

* Is the current structure of different types of departments in the chemical sciences (chemistry, chemical engineering, chemistry and biochemistry, chemistry and chemical biology, chemical and biomolecular engineering, etc.) a strength or a weakness with respect to graduate education?

* What are the employment issues for graduate students in both industrial and academic settings? Are we providing the right educational opportunities?

* What are the financial support mechanisms for graduate education in the chemical sciences?  Is the current mix the best one?

* Is the current profile of our graduates the correct one, not only in terms of domestic vs. international, but in terms of diversity along other axes as well? Do they have the proper background for the type of graduate education we want them to attain?

* What are the expectations of graduate students, are our educational institutions meeting them, and what promises do they make to students, both explicitly and implicitly?  In particular, what should be the lengths of the graduate student program and any subsequent postdoctoral training?  And why is the attrition rate for Ph.D. students in the chemical sciences as high as it is? (Only 62% finish within ten years.)

Commission Members


  • Larry Faulkner (Chair), President Emeritus, University of Texas at Austin
  • Paul Houston (Executive Director), Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Bill Banholzer, Dow Chemical
  • Jacqueline Barton, California Institute of Technology
  • Stacey Bent, Stanford University
  • Ron Breslow, Columbia University
  • Gary Calabrese, Corning
  • Pat Confalone, DuPont
  • Michael Doyle, University of Maryland
  • Marye Anne Fox, University of California San Diego
  • Joe Francisco, Purdue University
  • Chad Mirkin, Northwestern University
  • Larry Overman, University of California Irvine
  • Hunter Rawlings, Association of American Universities
  • Geraldine Richmond, University of Oregon
  • Richard Scheller, Genentech
  • Gary Schuster (Consultant), Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Joel Shulman, University of Cincinnati
  • Peter Stang, University of Utah
  • Matt Tirrell, University of Chicago
  • George Whitesides, Harvard University
  • Mark S. Wrighton, Washington University in St. Louis