Skip to main content

Chem 692R - Current Topics

There are six sections of CHEM 692R, each with a different theme:

  • Biochemistry
  • Synthesis and Chemical Biology
  • Catalysis or Functional Materials
  • Instrument and Method Development
  • Spectroscopy
  • Bioanalytics

Each student (under the supervision of their advisor and committee) should register for one of the sections each semester based on the current topic of their research. Themes could change annually.

GS Year Fall - 692R Winter - 692R Spring Summer
1st LP APR - August
2nd LP APR
3rd APR - 3rd year proposal LP
4th APR
5th and beyond Graduate student needs to coordinate with committee to schedule an APR IF they do not defend within the academic year

LP - Committee Chair in attendance, 2/week can be scheduled if necessary
3rd-year proposal - entire committee must be in attendance
APR - entire committee must be in attendance

Assessment: This course is graded on a pass/fail basis. To receive a passing grade in the course, students must accomplish each of the following goals

  • Receive a passing grade on 70% of the literature quizzes
  • Maintain an overall attendance of 75%, including literature presentations and progress reports. This means attending 9 presentations per semester.
  • Receive a passing grade on your literature presentation and written summary if you present in the semester.


To prepare for this assignment, student presenters should choose a significant paper in an area of interest to them or the Chem 692R section chosen topic. The chosen paper pertaining to the chosen topic must be from the primary literature (not a review article), should have been in a high-impact journal, and ideally should have been from the last couple of years or so. The student's advisor will need to approve the paper before it is sent to the professor of the students' section. Across all the Current Topic sections, students will be required to submit their faculty reviewed journal article and quiz one week prior to their assigned presentation date. This is a hard deadline. If a faculty-approved quiz and article are not submitted by 5:00pm a week prior, the class will be canceled for the following week and the student will receive a failing grade. The student will have to take the class again and pay for the class using their own funds.

The student will be evaluated on their presentation on a pass/fail basis by the faculty present in the class and must pass one presentation per year. Students are invited to come to class with insightful, stimulating questions about the paper. As part of each class, up to three individuals can receive credit for a quiz if their questions are judged by the faculty present to be high quality and among the top three questions generated by the students.

The presenting student assignment involves three key items:

  • The quiz--- The student presenter will write a quiz to evaluate how well peers have read the paper the presenter chose. The quiz should contain 3-5 questions and have a total value of 10 points. The student should write the quiz so that their peers who have carefully read the paper can answer questions correctly in 5 minutes or less. The section professor will need to review a draft of the quiz one week before the student's presentation. Once approved, the student should send a request, via email, to the chemistry department secretary ( to print the quiz. This email request should include a copy of the quiz (in .docx or .pdf format), along with the relevant printing details (how many copies; paper color; and ink color---usually black and white). The student will then distribute the quiz to peers at the beginning of class and collect the quizzes at the end of the allotted 5 minutes. After class, the student will grade the quizzes; then the student will give them to the section professor so that the professor can assign pass/fail grades to each quiz and record the grades on Learning Suite. The student should return the graded quizzes to the section professor no later than the Friday after the presentation.
  • The written literature summary---due at the beginning of class on the day of your presentation
    • Format: 1 page, single-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point font, approximately 400 words in length.
    • Content: The student presenter will choose two additional papers related to their presentation paper. One can be a review, but at least one should be from the primary literature. Write a mini 1-page literature review based on these additional papers and presentation paper. At the end of the summary, list the three papers in a bibliography (ACS or other common formats in your discipline). Section professors will be looking for a coherent, well-written, and engaging summary (not just a list of observations). It must also be evident that the student has actually read the papers instead of just skimming the abstracts. Successfully written summaries will first give an overview of the research problem (the gap), then provide a summary of how the gap has been filled—providing methods and technical details when needed. Since space is limited (1-page maximum), it is critical that students distill out the most important discoveries and connect them together in a way that makes sense.
    • Grading:  Section professors will grade the presenting students' written literature summary on a pass/fail basis. It is imperative that the student develops excellent writing skills as a graduate student, whether their future path leads them to industry, to academia, or to other endeavors. Accordingly, section professors will hold students to high standards as they evaluate each student's literature summary. The professor will ask the presenting student to rewrite their summary if its content is deficient, if it contains a significant number of spelling or grammatical errors, and/or if the writing is incoherent.
  • The presentation:
    • Format: PowerPoint slides or equivalent. The ideal presentation should last 30–40 minutes. Include literature references on slides, especially where using figures directly from the paper.  The format of the presentation should be that of a seminar presentation, but questions are posed and addressed during the course of the presentation. 
    • Content: Tell the story of the paper chosen. Identify the corresponding authors and their institutions, along with the broader area of research each pursues. Explain the problem the authors were trying to solve, along with any necessary content and background. What limitations in current approaches led the authors to pursue the line of research described in the paper? Then summarize the advances described in the paper in sufficient detail as to be understandable by a first-year graduate student. Provide a critical assessment of the significance, innovation, scope, and limitations of the advances described in the paper. Identify possible future applications or new research directions that could grow out of the proposed work.
    • Grading: The faculty in attendance will grade your presentation on a pass/fail basis, based on our assessment of how well your presentation accomplished the goals described above.

READING THE LITERATURE (non-presenting students):

During Fall and Winter semesters, a student presenter (under the supervision of their advisor) selects a recent article (last 3 years) from a journal of their choice. They send this article to the students and faculty in the class at least one week prior to the class. Everyone is expected to read it prior to class. Non-presenting students must pass 70% of the quizzes each semester to receive a passing grade in the class.


During Fall and Winter semester, students give their annual progress reviews. For annual review requirements, go to the annual reviews webpage. The committee members of the students are expected to attend.