​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​CHEMICAL SCIENCE PROGRAM - ACADEMICS

The Chemical Science Program (ChemS) was established in 2010 to provide a modern, research oriented education in Chemistry. Leveraging the outstanding facilities at KAUST, the program distinguishes itself by a clear focus and strong emphasis on current research challenges related to catalysis and materials. Within these two main interdisciplinary research thrusts, the following distinct research orientations are currently addressed:

​Micro- and mesoporous materials​Hetero- and homogeneous catalysis
​Metal-organic material​Biocatalysis
​Polymeric and Supramolecular material​Photo- and electrocatalysis
​Computational and modeling​​Computation and modeling



View Online Program GuideSee MoreCourse List & SyllabiSee More


Master's Assessment Test

  • ​Students are admitted to KAUST from a wide variety of programs and backgrounds. In order to facilitate the design of an appropriate study plan for each individual student, all MS and MS/PhD incoming students will be required to take an assessment during orientation week. There is no grade for the assessment. ​The purpose of the assessment is to determine whether students have mastered the prerequisites for undertaking graduate level courses taught in the program. The Advisor uses the results of the assessments to design, if necessary, a remedial study plan with a list of courses aimed at addressing content areas that may impede a student from successful completion of the degree requirements. 

    Students are encouraged to prepare for the assessment by refreshing the general knowledge gained from their undergraduate education before arriving at KAUST. 

    ​​Chemical Science Assessment Test Subjects

    Chemical Science students will be tested on the following subjects:
    • Basic Principles of General Chemistry
    • Basic Principles of Physical Chemistry
    • Inorganic and Organic Chemistry

    1. Basic Principles of General Chemistry​

    Topics included in the General Chemistry assessment test:
    • Physical and Chemical Properties of Matter 
    • Principles of atomic structure 
    • Periodic variation in physical and chemical properties of the elements
    • Chemical bonding: Formal charge and Lewis structure, Polarity, Molecular geometry and hybridization of atomic orbitals
    • Intermolecular forces
    • Chemical Kinetics & Equilibrium
    • Acids and bases
    • Electrochemistry
    • Stoichiometry

    Recommended References:
    Sample questions from previous tests.

    2. Basic Principles of Physical Chemistry

    Topics included in the Physical Chemistry assessment test:
    • The properties of gases
    • Thermochemistry (Calorimetry, standard enthalpy of formation and reaction)
    • Principles of equilibrium and thermodynamics including enthalpy and entropy changes 
    • Phase diagrams
    • Equilibrium electrochemistry
    • Quantum theory and the electronic structure of Atoms (Atomic and molecular orbitals, emission and absorption spectra, wave function interpretation)

    Recommended References:
    • Atkins, P. W., and Julio De Paula, Atkins' Physical Chemistry, Oxford University Press, 2014. (any other edition will do)
    • Online reference: Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, Chemistry LibreTexts, Libretexts, 21 July 2016. 

    3. Inorganic and Organic Chemistry

    Topics included in the Inorganic and Organic Chemistry assessment test:​
    • Lewis and resonance structures
    • Electronegativity
    • Functional groups reactivity and transformation
    • Hybridization and molecular shapes
    • Molecular structure and bonding
    • Molecular symmetry

    Recommended References:

Master's with Thesis

  • ​A minimum of 12 credits of Thesis Research (297) is required. Students are permitted to register for more than 12 credits of M.S. Thesis Research as necessary and with the permission of the thesis advisor. The selected thesis advisor must be a fulltime program-affiliated Assistant, Associate or Full Professor at KAUST. This advisor can only become project-affiliated for the specific thesis project upon program level approval. Project-affiliation approval must be completed prior to commencing research.

    M.S. Thesis Defense Requirements 
    An oral defense of the M.S. Thesis is required, although it may be waived by the Dean's Office under exceptional circumstances. A requirement of a public presentation and all other details are left to the discretion of the thesis committee. 
    A written thesis is required. It is advisable that the student submits a final copy of the thesis to the Thesis Committee Members at least two weeks prior to the defense date

    • Students are required to comply with the university formatting guidelines provided by the library CLICK HERE​

    • Students are responsible for scheduling the thesis defense date with his/her thesis committee

    • A pass is achieved when the committee agrees with no more than one dissenting vote, otherwise the student fails. The final approval must be submitted at the latest two weeks before the end of the semester.

    M.S. Thesis Defense Committee

    The M.S. Thesis Defense Committee, which must be approved by the student's Dean, must consist of at least three members and typically includes no more than four members. At least two of the required members must be KAUST Faculty. The Chair plus one additional Faculty Member must be affiliated with the student's program. This membership can be summarized as:​






    ​Within Program



    ​Within Program


    ​Faculty or Approved Research Scientist

    ​Outside Program


    ​Additional Faculty

    ​Inside or Outside KAUST​​


    • ​​Members 1 – 3 are required. Member 4 is optional.
    • Co-chairs may serve as Member 2, 3 or 4, but may not be a Research Scientist.
    • Adjunct Professors and Professor Emeriti may retain their roles on current committees, but may not serve as chair on any new committees
    • Professors of Practice and Research Professors may serve as Members 2, 3 or 4 depending upon their affiliation with the student's program. They may also serve as co-chairs.
    • Visiting Professors may serve as Member 4.

    View a list of faculty and their affiliations: HERE​

    Submitting the Thesis 

    The division recommends that the student submit the Thesis to the examining committee no later than two weeks prior to the defense. However, the committee chair sets the final requirement for the submission timeline.  ​

    Thesis Defense Date

    The deadline to defend the Thesis is no later than two weeks before the last day of the semester. The student must set the date of the Thesis Defense inline with the committee member’s schedules. At the time the student submits the Thesis Committee Formation form, the defense has to be scheduled. 

    Booking a Venue of the Thesis Defense

    It is the student’s responsibility to book a room and make the necessary IT arrangements for the Thesis Defense. Room booking is done thru the student portal under Service Request Management. 

    Thesis Defense Announcement

    The student must submit to their GPC the title and abstract of his/her Thesis a week before defense date. The GPC will announce the Thesis defense to program members. The time and location of the defense must be included in the email.  The student is required to check their program guides for further instructions related to their defense format. 

    An oral defense is required however the Dean can waive this requirement. The requirement of a public or private defense is left to the discretion of the committee.
    ​As a general guideline the defense is expected to be a 45-minute presentation followed by 15 minutes of general Q&A then a closed-door Q&A session with the committee. 

    Thesis Defense Evaluation

    A pass is achieved when the committee agrees with no more than one dissenting vote otherwise the student fails. The final approval must be submitted no more than three days after the defense.
    After examination/defense, you will receive one of the following outcomes:

    • Pass: The student will be given one week to apply any corrections required by the committee members. During the following week, the student is required to upload the final draft of Thesis document to Blackboard for format check and to start the submission process

    • ​Fail: The student must notify the program GPC immediately of the committee decision.  The student is required to submit MS Thesis Approval form within two days after the Thesis defense regardless of the outcome.

    Thesis Submission

    Once the post-examination corrections are made, the student must do the following:

    • ​Upload the final draft of the Thesis document to Turnitin through Blackboard under the course titled (“Year”_”Semester”_THES) available on the list of Courses: Quick View.

    • Inform your GPC when this has been done.

    • Submit the M.S. Thesis Final Approval form to GPC.

    • Submit the Copyright form available on KAUST Library website to GPC.

    The GPC will check for format errors and plagiarism

    • A Turnitin Plagiarism report will be sent to the Thesis Supervisor to confirm the authenticity of the Thesis document. If citation corrections need to be made, the supervisor will let you know and you must re-upload the Thesis after corrections are made.

    • The GPC will inform the student of any format corrections required in accordance with KAUST Thesis and Dissertation Guidelines.

    • If there are no formatting or plagiarism errors, the GPC will submit the final draft of the Thesis, the M.S. Final Approval form, and the Copyright form to the Library Archive.

    • The library will send the tracking number of the Thesis document to GPC.

    • GPC will add the tracking number to the M.S. Thesis Final Approval form.

    • GPC will send the M.S. Thesis Final Approval form to officially notify the Registrar Office and confirm the completion of the M.S. Thesis degree requirements. A copy of the email will be sent to the student.

    • ​The registrar office will start the graduation and exit processes at this stage.​ ​​​​​

Program Courses and Descriptions

  • ​ChemS 101 - Basic Principles of General Chemistry
    A course covering: basic concepts of Atomic numbers, masses, isotopes, stoichiometry, atomic orbitals. Bonding in molecules: Lewis structures, resonance structures, Types of bonding interactions, Bond polarity and dipole moments, Hydrogen bonds, VB theory, hybridization, MO theory, isoelectronic molecules, aromaticity, VSEPR model. Acids, bases and solutions: Bronsted acids and bases, Lewis acid theory, Introduction to coordination complexes, stability of complexes. Reduction and oxidation: Standard reduction potentials E0, Concentration effects, complexation and precipitation vs. E0, Disproportionation. Basic spectroscopy techniques (UV/Vis, IR, NMR, X-Ray, MS).

    ChemS 102 - Basic Principles of Inorganic & Organic Chemistry
    A course covering periodicity and molecular symmetry: Atomic/ ionic radii, Electron affinities and electrone gativity, Symmetry operations and elements, Point groups and character tables, Chirality. General groups' properties: Alkali metals: Group I, Earth alkali metals: Group 2, Earth metals: Group 13, d- block chemistry. Coordination and Organometallic Chemistry: Ligand field theory, Jahn-Teller effect, Common types of ligands, Carbonyl complexes, Isolobal principle. Functional groups and their transformations: Alcohols and alkyl halides, Aldehydes and ketones, Carboxylic acids and esters, Amines and amino acids, Lipids. Common Organic Reactions and their mechanism: Condensation reactions, Elimination reactions, Substitution reactions, Radical reactions.

    ChemS 104 - Basic Principles of Physical Chemistry
    A course covering basic concepts of thermodynamics and kinetics. Ideal gas law and its application; First law of thermodynamics: heat, work, heat capacity, Born-Habor cycle and its application; Second (and third) law of thermodynamics: entropy and its application; Helmholtz and Gibbs energies, spontaneity of reaction, standard Gibbs energy and its application; Chemical potential and phase rule; Fundamental equation of chemical thermodynamics and phase boundary; Raoult's and Henry's law; Phase diagram and distillation; Equilibrium, exothermic and endothermic reactions; Rate law: First order and second order reactions and simple examples (catalysis); Isotherm (Langmuir) and its application; Example of rate equation; Basic spectroscopy techniques relevant to thermodynamics and kinetics.

    ChemS 210 - Material Chemistry I
    Prerequisite: An understanding of the material covered in basic inorganic and organic chemistry.
    Presents students with a descriptive overview of Materials Chemistry with particular emphasis on the correlation between materials structure and their properties. This course will cover the following topics: molecular symmetry; basic crystallography; band theory; porous materials; nano-structured materials and some material characterization techniques including powder X-ray diffraction and physical adsorption.

    ChemS 212 - Spectroscopy Analysis
    An introduction to the theory, application, and interpretation of four (4) major types of spectroscopy: absorption, infrared, and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and mass spectrometry. It will focus heavily on interpretation of spectra and application of these tools to address questions of structure and reactivity of organic, organometallic, and inorganic materials. A training session of two (2)-dimensional nuclear magnetic resonance (COSY, NOESY, HSQC, HMBC, etc) will be offered

    ChemS 214 - Nano-Catalysis
    An introduction to basic concepts of nanochemistry including various synthesis methods (nanofabrication by scanning probe instruments, lithography, sol-gel, hydrothermal, self-assembly, crystal growth etc), advance synthesis and modifications of nanomaterials (organic functionalization, metallic, bi-metallic, coreshell, shape and morphology controlled synthesis etc), tools to characterize nanomaterials (scanning probe microscopy like AFM, STM, MRM and electron microscopy like SEM, TEM). This course will also cover green nanochemistry, nanotech & environment and finally applications in various fields with special emphasis on nano-catalysis. This course will empower the students to understand the scientific importance and technological potential of nanotechnology and students will be able to perform three (3) important activities related to Nanochemistry, i.e. synthesis, functionalization and application of nanomaterials.

    ChemS 215 - Polymers and Polymerization Processes
    The preparation, reactions and properties of high-molecular-weight polymeric materials of both natural and synthetic origin. Physical and organic chemistry of polymers for persons with a basic training in chemistry, physics or engineering. The course is a survey of preparative methods of polymers; step growth polymerization, radical polymerization, ionic polymerization, ring-opening polymerization, polymerization by transition metal catalysts and methods of characterization (nuclear magnetic resonance, Raman, infrared, intrinsic viscosity, differential scanning, calorimetry, gel permeation chromatography) and scattering (light, x-rays).

    ChemS 218 - Photo and Electro Catalysis
    Fundamentals of Photo and Electro catalysis presented with a novel approach for industrial applications

    ChemS 220 - Organometallic Chemistry
    The course aims to cover current aspects of research in the field of organometallic chemistry. It is assumed that students taking this course are already familiar with general organometallic chemistry at the undergraduate level. The course materials can be divided into two (2) parts. We will cover topics relating to general organometallic chemistry to function as a refresher but with a practicing researcher's bent and some special topics with focuses on catalysis and its applications.

    ChemS 240 - Supramolecular Chemistry
    Most of the crucial biological processes, such as antigen-antibody recognition and DNA replication, rely on non-covalent bonding and self-assembly. Taking lessons from Nature, chemists have crafted artificial systems capable of specific molecular recognition. Some of these fascinating molecules, such as crown ethers, cucurbiturils and calixarenes, are pervasive in contemporary chemical literature. This course will examine the topics of non-covalent bonding, molecular recognition and self-assembly.

    ChemS 250 - Material Chemistry II
    Prerequisite: ChemS 210 or consent of instructor.
    An introduction to electron microscopy based techniques: Scanning electron microscopy (SEM), Transmission electron microscopy (TEM), Electron diffraction (ED), Scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM), Energy-filtered TEM (EFTEM), Energy dispersive X-ray analysis (EDX) and Electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS). On-site demonstration of the electron microscope will be given.

    ChemS 296 - Lab Rotation
    MS students are expected to go through a lab rotation their first fall semester. The objective of this course is to help students in identifying their future research advisor by exposing them to different research areas. MS students are expected to complete 3 rotations their first semester (3 weeks per rotation). A student upon the approval of the advisor may choose to spend 3 rotations in one (1) lab; this advisor will be the chosen research advisor. Students will choose, at the end of their first semester, the possible advisor(s) that they would like to work with. A faculty committee will then meet and place students according to mutual advisor/ student agreement. The nature of the rotation may vary from one (1) lab to another depending on the advisor; thus some rotations can be research focused and others can involve more literature and background work

    ChemS 297 - Thesis Research (variable credit):
    Prerequisite: Approval of Thesis Advisor.
    MS Thesis Master-level research leading to a formal written thesis and oral defense.

    ChemS 298 - Chemical Sciences Graduate Seminar:
    M.S. level seminar focusing on special topics within the field.

    ChemS 299 - Directed Research (variable credit):
    Prerequisite: Approval of Advisor.
    Master-level research.


The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree is designed to prepare students for research careers in academia and industry. 

It is offered exclusively as a full-time program.

There is a minimum residency requirement at KAUST of 3.5 years for students entering with a B.S. degree and 2.5 years for students entering with an M.S. degree. A minimum GPA of 3.0 must be achieved on all Doctoral coursework. Individual courses require a minimum of a B- to earn course credit.

Students pursuing Ph.D. degree are required to complete the following degree requirements to earn the degree:


Ph.D. Course Requirements

  • ​The required coursework varies for students entering the Ph.D. Degree with a B.S. Degree or a relevant M.S. Degree. Students holding a B.S. Degree must complete all Program Core/Mandatory Courses and Elective Courses outlined in the M.S. Degree section and are also required to complete the Ph.D. courses below. Students entering with a B.S. Degree may also qualify to earn the M.S. Degree by satisfying the M.S. Degree requirements; however, it is the student's responsibility to declare their intentions to graduate with an M.S. Students entering the Ph.D. Degree with a relevant M.S. Degree must complete the requirements below, though additional courses may be required by the Dissertation Advisor. 

    Ph.D. Courses • 

    At least two 300-level courses 

    • Graduate Seminar 398 (non-credit): All students are required to register and receive a Satisfactory grade for every semester the program requires they attend. 
    • Winter Enrichment Program: Students are required to satisfactorily complete at least one full Winter Enrichment Program (WEP) as part of the degree requirements. Students who completed WEP requirements while earning the M.S. Degree are not required to enroll in a full WEP for a second time in the Ph.D. Degree. 
    Students entering the program with an M.S. Degree from KAUST may transfer unused coursework toward the Ph.D. program requirements subject to program level approval. Students transferring from another university's Ph.D. program may receive some Dissertation Research and Coursework credit on a case-bycase basis for related work performed at the original Institution upon approval by the Dean. However, such students must still satisfy the Qualifying Exam and Dissertation Proposal Defense requirements at KAUST. ​​

Dissertation Committee Formation

  • ​The Dissertation Committee must include the following members:

    • First member: Dissertation Advisor who acts as committee chair

    • Second member: Program or Program-affiliated faculty member

    • Third member: KAUST faculty member from another program

    The Dissertation Committee must be approved by the Program Chair and the Dean.  Once constituted, the composition of the committee can only be changed with the approval of both the Dissertation Advisor and the Dean.

    The Dissertation Committee form must be completed and submitted to GPC for approval two weeks prior to the Ph.D. proposal defense​

Designation of Dissertation Advisor

  • ​The selected Dissertation Advisor must be a full time program-affiliated Assistant, Associate or Full Professor at KAUST. The student may also select an advisor from another program at KAUST. This advisor can only become project-affiliated for the specific thesis project with program level approval. Project-affiliation approval must be completed prior to commencing research. To view the list of Chemical Science faculty members and faculty members affiliated with ChemS click here​ and scroll down the page to faculty members.​

    The student may also select an advisor from another program at KAUST. This advisor can only become project-affiliated for the specific dissertation project with program level approval. Project affiliation approval must be completed prior to commencing research.

    To select a non-affiliated faculty members for a project base affiliation the following documents must be submitted to the program's GPC for the program approval: Change of Advisor form.

    Research proposal submitted by the supervisor providing an over-all research project summary and explaining how the project relates to the student's home program.

    This application is subject to approval by the student's home project faculty members. The student and supervisor will be informed of the decision by the GPC.  ​​

Ph.D. Qualifying Exam

  • The purpose of the qualifying exam is to test the student's knowledge of the subject matter within the field of study. All students entering the Ph.D. program with a BS degree must take this examination no later than the first semester of the third year. Students admitted to the program with a MS degree must take this exam no later than the first semester of the second year. Students may take the exam earlier, provided their Advisor approves.

    The qualifying exam consist of an oral presentation of an original proposal, which can be related to the candidate's area of research, but not the exact work done in the lab. The student presentation will be followed by a question and answer session regarding both the proposal and general chemistry knowledge.

    Scheduling the Qualifying Exam:

    Once the Dissertation Committee is constituted, the student shall schedule the examination at a time acceptable to the committee. The faculty members will make every reasonable effort to make themselves available for the examination.

    The Examination:

    This written proposal is a brief document, modeled after a standard funding agency (example: National Science Foundation, NSF) proposal. It should be no more than 15 pages in length including figures, with references in addition. It might be organized as suggested below:

    1. Summary 

    A brief overview of the proposed work with emphasis on the intellectual merit and the broader impacts (1 page).

    2. Background and Significance

    This section should answer the question: Why is the proposed work important?

    Briefly sketch the background to the present proposal, critically evaluate existing knowledge, and identify gaps in our present understanding. This section may need to occupy as many as 3-4 pages.

    3. Specific Aims

    This section is intended to answer, in very specific terms, the question: What do you propose to do?

    No background or other narrative material belongs in this section; it is not meant to stand alone, nor to provide details about the experimental system, but rather to provide a succinct and specific summary of the planned research. It is probably most helpful to write this section after writing the rest of the proposal. It should occupy no more than one page.

    4. Experimental Design and Feasibility

    This section should parallel the Specific Aims section and should answer the question: How will you do the proposed work?

    Describe each experiment you propose to conduct and how you will analyze the data and interpret the results. Provide appropriate calculations or cite literature data to support the feasibility of the experiments you propose. Supporting evidence that comes from unpublished work must be clearly identified as such and specifically attributed. Discuss potential drawbacks of any proposed experiments that lack clear precedent, and propose alternative approaches to achieve the aims. This section may need to occupy as many as 3-4 pages.

    5. References

    The list of references must include complete citations, including all authors and the titles of research articles or book chapters.

    Evaluation of Ph.D. Qualifying Exam:

    There are four possible outcomes from this Dissertation Proposal Defense:


    A pass is achieved when the committee agrees with no more than one dissenting vote, otherwise the students fails.

    Pass with conditions

    In the instance of a Pass with Conditions, the entire committee must agree on the required conditions and if they cannot, the Dean decides. The deadline to complete the conditions is one month after the defense date, unless the committee unanimously agrees to change it.

    Fail with retake

    In the instance of a Fail with retake, the decision of the committee must be unanimous. The deadline to complete the retake is six months after the defense date, unless the committee unanimously agrees to reduce it.

    Fail without retake

    Students who fail the Dissertation Proposal Defense, or who fail the Retake will be dismissed from the University.

    Student must submit PSE Ph.D. Dissertation Proposal Evaluation form to program GPC within 48 hours after their presentation, regardless of outcome of the qualifying exam.​​

    After the evaluation and recommendation by the committee members, the final documents of the Research Proposal should be submitted to Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC).

Ph.D. Dissertation Proposal Defense

  • ​The Dissertation Proposal Defense is the second part of the qualification milestones that must be completed to become a Ph.D. Candidate. The purpose of the Dissertation Proposal Defense is to demonstrate that the student has the ability and is adequately prepared to undertake Ph.D. level research in the proposed area. This preparation includes necessary knowledge of the chosen subject, a review of the literature and preparatory theory or experiment as applicable.

    Ph.D. students are required to complete the Dissertation Proposal Defense within one (1) year after passing the qualifying exam. The proposal defense date will be determined by student and his/her advisor. Ph.D. students must request to present the Dissertation Proposal Defense to the Proposal Dissertation Committee by submitting the Dissertation Committee Formation Form two weeks prior to the Ph.D. proposal defense date. 

    The Dissertation Proposal Defense includes two aspects: a written research proposal and an oral research proposal defense. 

    The written research proposal document should be 3000 words (+/- 10%).

    The oral defense should be 1.5 hours long (30 min presentation, 60 min questions)

    Ph.D. Proposal Defense Evaluation

    There are four possible outcomes from this Dissertation Proposal Defense:

    • Pass: A pass is achieved when the committee agrees with no more than one dissenting vote, otherwise the student fails.
    • Pass with conditions: In the instance of a Pass with conditions, the entire committee must agree on the required conditions and if they cannot, the Dean decides. The deadline to complete the conditions is one month after the defense date, unless the committee unanimously agrees to change it.
    • Fail with retake: The deadline to complete the retake is six months after the defense date, unless the committee unanimously agrees to reduce it.
    • Fail without retake: In the instance of a Fail without Retake, the decision of the committee must be unanimous. Students who fail the Dissertation Proposal Defense, or who fail the retake, will be dismissed from the University.

    The Dissertation Proposal Evaluation form  must be submitted within 48 hours after presenting the dissertation proposal.

    Upon passing the Proposal Defense, student must submit the written research proposal document and the change to Ph.D. candidate status form to Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC).

Dissertation Defense and Submission

  • ​Ph.D. Dissertation Defense

    The Dissertation Defense is the final milestone of the degree. This part requires acceptance of the Dissertation and the passing of the final defense. The final defense is a public presentation that consists of an oral defense followed by questions.

    To complete this part Ph.D. student is required to complete the following:

    • Form Ph.D. Dissertation Committee and petition for Ph.D. dissertation Defense examination.
    • Defend the dissertation and submit the results.
    • Submit Ph.D. Dissertation and the Final Approval form.

    Fall 2017 Submission Deadlines

    Deadline to submit the Ph.D. Petition for Dissertation Defense Examination form is August 31, 2017.

    Deadline to submit the Ph.D. Dissertation Defense Examination Result form is November 9, 2017.

    Deadline to submit the Ph.D. Dissertation and Final Approval form is December 3, 2017.


    Students must follow the KAUST Thesis and Dissertation Guidelines available on the library website when they write their dissertation.

​​frequently used forms