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The Chemistry Department, housed in the Roy & Diana Vagelos Laboratories building, will accept Ph.D. applications from Oct. 1 to Dec. 1 for fall 2021. 

Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

One day after School of Arts and Sciences Dean Steven J. Fluharty announced that school-funded Ph.D. admissions would be canceled for the 2021-2022 academic year, the Chemistry Department posted on its website that it will continue to accept new Ph.D. students. 

While the Chemistry department must endure the same budget cut as the other SAS departments, Chemistry Ph.D. students are typically supported by research grants from government agencies such as National Institute of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, and pharmaceutical and chemical companies, Roy and Diana Vagelos Professor in Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department Chair David W. Christianson wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian.

The Chemistry department is, therefore, able to structure the budget cut over a period of years, allowing it to continue accepting students to its Ph.D. program, Christianson wrote. The fall 2021 cohort, however, will be smaller than usual, according to the department website.

"The cuts in our graduate program are a tremendous blow for the U.S. chemistry workforce at a time when discovery and innovation are reaching unprecedented news heights," Christianson wrote. "We can only hope that the SAS financial position will improve soon."

Associate Dean of Graduate Studies Beth S. Wenger confirmed that a few graduate programs, particularly in the natural sciences, will be able to continue to accept a "limited number" of Ph.D. students into its programs thanks to external funds.

Students can submit Ph.D. applications to the Chemistry department from Oct. 1 to Dec. 1 for fall 2021 admission. Graduate Record Examinations, commonly known as GRE, scores are not required for this application cycle, according to the website.

Christianson took to Twitter earlier today to address the confusion surrounding Ph.D. admissions. 

“To correct erroneous information that is circulating in the Twitterverse: @PennChemistry will be admitting Ph.D. students in the coming year, although our entering class will be a bit smaller,” he wrote. “Our exciting journey of discovery continues…” 

Fluharty and Wenger wrote in an email to SAS standing faculty and graduate students on Tuesday that the decision to pause admissions for school-funded Ph.D. programs was made as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the school’s finances. 

“While we recognize that this news is disappointing, we also believe that this is the most responsible course of action in these unsettled times,” Fluharty and Wenger wrote. "We hope to accept applications in the fall of 2021 and welcome a new cohort of graduate students in the 2022-23 academic year."

In the coming weeks, Fluharty and Wenger will meet with graduate and department chairs to create a program that will provide funding to current Ph.D. students who require extra time to complete their degrees.

"Our graduate students fuel the fires of discovery in Penn Chemistry, and ultimately in the academic and industrial labs that they join after they graduate," Christianson wrote.

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