Chemistry PhDs: progression from a first degree

I decided to post this following a discussion on Twitter with two Chemistry colleagues, from Liverpool and York respectively (@SimonHiggins_60 and @Dr_PaulC). It started with a Twitter advertisement for a PhD position, where a person with an MChem was sought to fill the position. I picked up on this because at Keele we don’t do MChems, but at the same time, our students go on to do PhDs at universities all over the UK, at no apparent disadvantage to those who have an MChem. I commented on this issue in an earlier post, which was in response to an EndPoint article by David Phillips.

The point for discussion is essentially this. Does doing an MChem make a significant difference to a student’s ability to do a PhD? Yes, I agree they will get a bit more research experience, and (depending on the course), some more chemical ‘knowledge’ (which may or or not be useful in their PhD). But from my experience with our students over many years, it makes no diference at all in the end. Comments, agreements and disagreements are very welcome!

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3 thoughts on “Chemistry PhDs: progression from a first degree”

  1. I think it depends what you compare it to. Compared to an MSc, I don’t think you can call it, they are meant to be equivalent qualifications, although theory exams tend to be less demanding at my University, however this is because of the diproportionate amount of overseas students that do an MSc, whose mother tongue tends to not be English, most home students go for an MChem.

    Compared to a BSc, an MChem offers a student a project participating in similar or the same research as PhD students, become part of a research group for 6 months if you will. It is “novel” research.
    BSc courses offer projects in less demanding circumstances, i.e. project supervisors will know where the project will most liekly go wrong, or you do optimisation work for current PhD’s and post-docs.
    Add that to an extra year of theory, usually more specialised an you might consider an MChem graduate over a BSc graduate.

    This is just my opinion.

    -@steeley_phil

  2. At my institution, final year students do research projects that are as demanding as the ones you refer to as being done by MChem students. They work with PhD students in research groups, and if they take a 30 credit project, the project lasts 6 months.

    I accept the point about an extra year of theory, but remain to be convinced how relevant this is, and in particular, how useful it is for a PhD project.

    However my point remains that our students are accepted onto PhD courses at other Universities, and they do fine. And some of those Universities insist that their own students have MChems before they will take them on to do PhDs. So you get a situation where 2 students might start a PhD course, one with an MChem and one with a BSc. My experience suggests that the MChem students doesn’t have a particular advantage, and certainly not one that is worth a full further year of study (and tuition fees).

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