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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Montana State University
Po Box 173400
Bozeman , MT 59717
Tel: (406) 994-4801
Fax: (406) 994-5407

Interim Department Head
Professor Bern Kohler


  • Joan B. Broderick; bioinorganic chemistry, mechanisms of metalloenzyme-mediated reactions, mechanisms of biological radical reactions, bioremediation.
  • Patrik R. Callis; physical chemistry, quantum chemistry, biophysical chemistry, electronic structure and photophysical processes in molecules, solvent-solute interactions.
  • Mary J. Cloninger; bioorganic and macromolecular Chemistry, organic synthesis.
  • Valérie Copié; biophysical chemistry, protein structures and dynamics as probed by nuclear magnetic resonance.
  • Trevor Douglas; Biomineralization, bio-materials and nano-materials chemistry.
  • Edward A. Dratz; biophysical chemistry, biochemistry, NMR, mass spectrometry, and molecular modeling studies of membrane receptors and protein-protein interactions.
  • Paul A. Grieco; natural products total synthesis and medium effects in organic chemistry.
  • Bern Kohler; ultrafast laser spectroscopy, DNA photophysics and photochemistry, solar energy conversion and photocatalysis.
  • C. Martin Lawrence; membrane protein structure and function, protein/RNA interactions, macromolecular X-ray crystallography, structure assisted design of ligands and inhibitors.
  • Thomas Livinghouse; applied organometallic chemistry, homogeneous catalysis, organic synthesis.
  • Timothy K. Minton; physical chemistry, gas-surface interaction dynamics, surface modification, and photochemistry via molecular beam methods.
  • John W. Peters; enzyme structure and mechanism.
  • David J. Singel; physical and biophysical chemistry, high field EPR and DNP biochemistry of NO, laser materials.
  • Robert A. Walker; optical spectroscopy in hard to see places; nonlinear optical studies of liquid interfaces and high temperature vibrational spectroscopy in high temperature electrocatalytic devices.

Associate Professors
  • Brian Bothner; proteomics, protein dynamics, supramolecular comple
  • Lee Spangler; physical chemistry, molecular and materials spectroscopy
  • Robert K. Szilagyi; synchrotron-bases spectroscopic and computational studies of bioinorganic and organometallic systems
  • Martin Teintze; Biochemistry of membrane proteins, protein-protein interactions, protein engineering, HIV vaccines.

Assistant Professors

  • Trevor Rainey; organic synthesis
Research Professors

  • Donald A. Bryant; Physiology, biochemistry, genetics, and genomics of photosynthetic bacteria
  • David M. Dooley; metalloprotein structure, function & mechanism

Associate Research Professors

  • W. Berk Knighton; chemical ionization mass spectrometry

Assistant Research Professors

  • Mary Cloud Ammons
  • Eric Boyd
  • Phillip Sullivan
  • Brian Tripet
  • Masaki Uchida

Degrees Offered

  • M.S. in Chemistry
  • M.S. in Biochemistry
  • Ph.D. in Chemistry
  • Ph.D. in Biochemistry

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry offers research-oriented programs culminating in the Doctor of Philosophy degree. The faculty in the department have expertise in a broad range of specialty areas including synthesis, structure, spectroscopy, and mechanism. In each of these fields, the strength of MSU Chemistry and Biochemistry Department has been recognized at the international level. MSU is a growing and dynamic university of 14,000 students. MSU is rapidly increasing in research prominence and is now ranked among the nation’s 100 leading research universities by the Carnegie Foundation. The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has the largest and best-funded doctoral program on campus. Our doctoral students receive world-class mentoring in a spectacular northern Rocky Mountain setting and graduate to superb career opportunities.

Graduate programs in chemistry and biochemistry are designed to provide students with a solid and broad foundation on which to base their careers. An appropriate combination of coursework and independent investigation is planned with individual faculty advisors. In consultation with their graduate advisor, graduate students can tailor their program to their own needs and interests. We believe that at the conclusion of their graduate education at Montana State University, students should have a professional command of the fundamentals of their disciplines. We cultivate the ability to think independently and to critically analyze scientific problems that span disciplinary boundaries. A high level of creativity and originality in research is expected of candidates for the Ph.D.

Admission (M.S. and Ph.D.)

An entering graduate student is expected to have had a solid chemistry background, including general, analytical, organic, and physical chemistry courses; Mathematics through calculus; and college level physics. A student less well prepared may be provisionally admitted provided he or she can attain an acceptable background proficiency within one year. Applicants are strongly encouraged to take the GRE subject test appropriate to their area.

Applicants must be formally admitted to the Graduate School. See the Admission Policies and Application Requirements sections for additional information at  However, please note that, although you can apply through the MSU Graduate School, we prefer that you send your application directly to the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. This saves time in the review process and allows us to waive the $60.00 application fee. Please visit to apply online. Along with your application form, you'll also need to arrange for your GRE scores, three letters of recommendation and an official transcript to be sent to the address given above.  International applicants must also submit an iBT or IELTS score report and the International Student Financial Certificate (ISFC) along with the documents required on the ISFC.  Please see our website ( for more information.

Program Requirements

All entering graduate students are required to demonstrate proficiency in three of the six chemistry areas (analytical, inorganic, biological, organic, structural and molecular biology, and physical) within the first year. The exams are offered during August, November, February and April of the academic year. A student is permitted three attempts in each area.
During the first semester, each student selects a major advisor, who assists the student in selecting other faculty members for the student's graduate committee. This committee will offer the major guidance and direction to the student's degree program and bears the prime responsibility for decisions that affect that program. Attendance and participation in the departmental seminars are required of all chemistry graduate students. All students will register for BCHM/CHMY 594 each semester.

For the Doctor of Philosophy in chemistry or biochemistry, students must satisfy the proficiency requirement, complete a core program of coursework, advance to candidacy by passing the comprehensive examination, and write and defend a dissertation based on the student’s research.

The comprehensive examination consists of written and oral parts. Most students satisfy the written examination by writing an original proposal describing the candidate’s planned dissertation research. The second part of the comprehensive examination is an oral defense of the proposal.  The student is admitted to Ph.D. candidacy upon successful completion of the written and oral portions. The Graduate Handbook available on the Department’s web site ( has full details and the latest requirements.

For the Master of Science Plan A in chemistry or biochemistry, the minimum requirements are twenty (20) credit hours of appropriate courses, ten (10) credit hours of thesis (BCH/CHMY 590) and an acceptable thesis based on the student's research and a satisfactory oral defense of the thesis. Plan A candidates must present a seminar in addition to the final thesis defense, which constitutes the comprehensive examination. For the Master of Science Plan B in chemistry or biochemistry, the requirements are thirty (30) credit hours of appropriate courses, a seminar, and satisfactory performance in an oral comprehensive examination during the last term of residency for the degree.

Course Requirements

To earn a Ph.D. in chemistry or biochemistry, a student must successfully complete at least six three-credit courses, maintaining a "B" average or better.  Four of these must be Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry courses and at least three must be in the student's area of specialization.

The Graduate Program Committee will advise entering students on course selection.  The listed courses can provide guidance in planning the first year's courses.


BCHM 524

Mass Spectrometry

3 credits

BCHM 526

NMR Spectroscopy

3 credits

BCHM 543


3 credits

BCHM 544

 Molecular Biology

3 credits

BCHM 545

Advanced Physical Biochemistry

3 credits

BCHM 547

Bioinorganic Chemistry

3 credits.

BCHM 550

X-ray Crystallography

3 credits


CHMY 515

Structure and Bonding in Inorganic Chemistry

3 credits

CHMY 516

Mechanisms and Dynamics in Inorganic Chemistry

3 credits

CHMY 547

Bioinorganic Chemistry

3 credits


CHMY 523

Organic Reaction Mechanisms

1-3 credits

CHMY 533

Physical Organic Chemistry

3 credits

CHMY 535

Reagent Chemistry

3 credits

CHMY 540

Organic Synthesis

3 credits

CHMY 554

Organometallic Chemistry

3 credits


CHMY 557

 Quantum Mechanics

3 credits

CHMY 558

Classical and Statistical Thermodynamics

3 credits

CHMY 559

 Kinetics and Dynamics

3 credits

CHMY 564

Advanced Quantum Chemistry

3 credits

*Students can take a 400 level course provided that it is outside of their specific area of interest. (For example, students may be served well by CHMY 421 (Instrumental) or one of the 400-level organic classes). 

Research Facilities

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Montana State University provides students, faculty, and staff with access to the state-of-the-art instrumentation that is required to stay at the forefront of research. We have the region’s best mass spectrometers for proteomics, metabolomics, chemical composition, and imaging. Chemists and biochemists benefit from excellent NMR Instrumentation, which includes 600, 500, and 300 MHz NMR spectrometers. These instruments are used in routine analysis of small molecules and also protein structural determination. Current MS techniques that are ideal for many projects in chemical biology include ultra high pressure LCMS, ion traps with CID and ECD, chip and standard nanoflow ESI, MALDI-TOF-TOF, and ultra-high resolution Q-TOF MS/MS. Our instrumentation for dynamic light scattering, zeta potential, isothermal titration microcalorimetry, cryogenic electron microscopy, and stopped flow spectrophotometry is also state of the art. Two protein crystallographers have all the necessary equipment for macromolecular crystal structure determination. Protein-protein interactions can be studied using surface plasmon resonance (Biacore 1000), with quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation (Q-Sense), and using a fluorescence lifetime microplate reader.

The department has some of the nation’s most advanced facilities for time-resolved laser spectroscopy on time scales from femtoseconds to seconds. Multiple Ti:sapphire-based ultrafast laser systems provide tunable laser pulses from UV to mid-IR wavelengths, enabling a rich array of transient absorption and emission spectroscopies. Investigations of high-energy gas-phase and gas-surface molecular interaction are conducted using a molecular beam apparatus that was originally designed by Nobel Laureate, Y. T. Lee, for crossed-beam studies of elementary reaction dynamics. Other advanced instrumentation includes CW and pulsed multifrequency EPR, Raman, FTIR, circular dichroism and fluorescence spectrometers.

In addition to the equipment housed in our department, campus microscopy capabilities include transmission electron microscopy (TEM), scanning electron microscopy with cryogenics (SEM), atomic force microscopy (AFM), confocal imaging, and laser micro dissection and capture.

The National NSF Center for Biofilm Engineering is located at Montana State University. Several faculty and students have collaborative research projects with staff associated with this Center and those listed below.

Center for Computational Biology (CCB)

The CCB is an interdisciplinary academic unit supporting research, training and technology transfer in the general area of Computational Biology, combining state-of-the-art experimental techniques with state-of-the art computer-based analysis and modeling capabilities. The research and training environment in the CCB encourage partnerships between experimentalists, theorists and engineers in diverse fields, providing opportunities to establish genuine research partnerships between students and scientists at many different institutions around the world. For more information, please visit

MSU Optical Technology Center (OpTeC)

OpTeC is an interdisciplinary center with research groups from three university departments: Physics, Chemistry & Biochemistry, and Electrical & Computer Engineering. Each of the ten research groups is led by a faculty principal investigator and specializes in a different area of optical research. Collaborating teams profit from a multidisciplinary approach to problems. The primary goals of OpTeC are to foster collaboration with local industry and economic growth of the state. OpTeC promotes research on optical materials, lasers and optoelectronic devices, sensors, micro-optical systems, holography, and coherent optics. For more information, visit

Thermal Biology Institute

The Thermal Biology Institute conducts and promotes research and education focused on the biology and interrelated physical and chemical processes of geothermal environments in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.  For more information visit

Center for Bio-inspired Nanomaterials

The Center for Bio-Inspired Nanomaterials (CBIN) at Montana State University is a multidisciplinary research and education center focused on utilizing and expanding our fundamental understanding of the formation and hierarchical construction of biological materials such as viruses, cells, and biominerals (bones, teeth, seashells etc.). One extension of this fundamental work is the use of biological macromolecular assemblies as templates for the construction of novel functional nano-materials. However, the goal of the Center is to study a wide range of materials, beyond those of biological origin, to achieve unique physical properties by design.  For more information visit

NASA Astrobiology Biogeocatalysis Research Center (ABRC)

The major research theme of the ABRC is in the area of prebiotic chemistry and specifically the role for iron-sulfur mineral motifs in the transition between the non-living and the living world. The project has three major thrusts including 1) iron-sulfur mineral catalysis, 2) iron-sulfur enzyme catalysis, and 3) biomimetic approaches to bridging iron-sulfur mineral and iron-sulfur enzyme structure and reactivity. These projects are highly integrated and the characterization of the unique iron-sulfur centers of nitrogenase and hydrogenase provide the inspiration to examine the structure determinants for effective nitrogen reduction and reversible hydrogen oxidation catalysis. For more information visit

Molecular Biosciences Program

The Molecular Biosciences Program offers numerous graduate research and training opportunities in Basic and Applied Life Sciences.  Internationally recognized interdisciplinary research programs and Research Centers of Excellence provide students excellent career development opportunities.

The MB Program provides students with the opportunity to view faculty involved in life science research divided into research areas.  The new approach should be easier for the prospective student to find a faculty conducting the research of most interest to them.  For more Information visit

Financial Assistance

Graduate students in the program are supported continuously throughout their studies by stipends that average between $22,000 and $24,000 per year and by tuition waivers. First-year students are supported as graduate teaching assistants, while most students in their second and later years are appointed to grant-funded projects as graduate research assistants. Funding per investigator in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry is at a very high level found at only a small number of departments nationwide.

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