Academic Programs

Financial Support

Most graduate students in the department receive some form of financial support. If otherwise eligible, students in the M.S. program may receive teaching assistantships for 2.5 academic years after the date of their admission to graduate school. For Ph.D. students, eligibility extends five academic years after admission.

Teaching Assistantships

Graduate teaching assistants have responsibilities for teaching laboratory sections, recitations, and tutoring. The teaching load varies from semester to semester, but generally involves six to 10 contact hours per week. In the summer, the hours are arranged so teaching assistants can devote most of their time to research.

Teaching assistantships are generally given for a 12-month period. The stipends are competitive and are awarded based on the applicant’s experience and qualifications. All teaching assistantships include a waiver of tuition, but recipients are responsible for the payment of university fees. Teaching assistants must maintain good academic standing to retain their appointments. Applications for teaching assistantships should be made as early as possible to ensure the availability of a position.

Students whose native language is not English must submit results of the TSE (Test of Spoken English) and TOEFL examinations when applying for a teaching assistantship. To be eligible for consideration, a minimum score of 40 is required on the new format of the TSE, and a score of 250 on the TOEFL is desired.

Research Assistantships

Funds for research assistantships most often come from external agency grants to individual faculty members. Qualified students working (or interested in working) with a faculty member who has appropriate external funding may apply for a research assistantship from that faculty member. The terms of the appointment will depend on the faculty member’s needs, Graduate School regulations, and the applicable conditions of the granting agency that provides the funding.


Graduate School Fellowships are awarded each year on the basis of departmental nominations and university-wide competitions. For students beginning their studies in the fall, applications for admission, with supporting materials required for the fellowship application, should arrive well before the February 1 deadline in order to be considered by the department for nomination.

The Graduate School also sponsors Dissertation Completion Awards each year. These competitive grants are furnished to candidates for doctoral degrees who are in their final year of study. A formal application and nomination by the student’s department is required in order to be considered for this award.

The Office of Sponsored Projects maintains a Graduate Student Grants and Fellowships Office to assist graduate students seeking financial assistance from outside the university. This office has information and applications available for a variety of external granting agencies, and is located in Lowden Hall. Their telephone number is (815) 753-9283.

Minority Student Programs

Minority students are encouraged to apply for awards from the National Science Foundation, the Illinois Consortium for Educational Opportunity Program (ICEOP), and/or the Illinois Minority Graduate Incentive Program (IMGIP) through the NIU Graduate School. Students returning application forms and credentials are automatically considered by the department as potential nominees for fellowships under the Patricia Roberts Harris Graduate and Professional Opportunities Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education; for the Jeffrey Lunsford Fellowship; for the Carter G. Woodson Scholars Program; and for the Rhoten A. Smith Assistantship Program.

The latter three programs are components of NIU’s commitment to increasing the entry of minorities into academic and professional positions. Both the Harris and the Woodson programs are limited to students seeking doctoral degrees. Application information for all of these programs is available from the Graduate School or from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Our graduate students have proven very successful in obtaining these awards in recent years.

Most of the programs have an application deadline of February 1. If you are considering applying for one of them, it is advisable to make your application and supporting materials available early.

Departmental Awards

Each year, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry presents the Kevin Cull Memorial Teaching Awards to the best graduate teaching assistants in the department, as determined by teaching evaluations and nominations for the awards submitted by undergraduate students and faculty members to a departmental committee. These awards are made from an endowed trust established by his family and friends to honor this former graduate student.

Academic excellence of a graduate student formally entering the Ph.D. program is recognized by the John D. Graham Memorial Graduate Student Award. The endowed fund that supports this award was created by the family members, colleagues, and friends of this former chemistry faculty member.