Skip to Content

My Chem/Biochem

Frequently Asked Questions

Quick Links

Graduate Student Handbook
College of Arts and Sciences
Career Center at USC

Current Students

The Graduate Director is Sheryl Wiskur.

Office: GSRC 431 

For the first semester at USC, every graduate student will receive a Curriculum Guide [pdf] (please note: PDF information is subject to change) that maps out your 4 years of graduate study.  We have an electronic Graduate Studies Handbook found on the chemistry website.  This will provide you with all the necessary information on what is required for your program.

All offers receive a stipend.  You will be on either a teaching assistantship (you get paid to teach) or a research assistantship (you get paid from your advisor's grant) for the time you are in grad school here.  The exception to this is if you have another kind of fellowship that you earned on your own.  Good academic standing and satisfactory progress toward the degree is required to receive stipend yearly.

All first-year graduate students will likely teach their first two semesters.  Once you arrive, you will receive a form to complete to indicate your class schedule, research area and teaching interests.  Approximately one week prior to the start of classes, you will receive an email with your teaching assignment.  Teaching assignments typically include three 1-credit hour lab sections, one 2-credit hour lab section or 4 lecture recitation sections.  The lab supervisor for the course you are assigned will contact you with details about your assignment.

For first-year students, you register for classes after you are advised at August orientation.  You will register under Self Service Carolina (SSC).

Payroll is covered in chemistry orientation, the week before school begins in August.  In the chemistry department, the Student Services Program Coordinator is in charge of payroll and she can help assist you with hiring procedures.  You will need a photo ID (i.e. driver's license or passport, social security card) when you meet with the Coordinator for completing your hire paperwork.  This office is located in GSRC 113 F.

Payroll falls on or near the 15th and last day of each month.  All pay is direct deposit so you need to have a local bank account.  IT IS MANDATORY TO HAVE A CHECKING ACCOUNT!  Some local banking institutions are Carolina Collegiate Federal Credit Union, Bank of America, TD Bank, Wells Fargo, Regions Bank. Consult the payroll schedule for more detailed information.

You will receive your first paycheck at the end of the first complete pay period from when you started with the program.  (i.e. If your appointment begins Aug 16. your first paycheck would be Aug. 31.)  The University Payroll Department is located on the 7th floor of the 1600 Hampton Street Tower, at the corner of Hampton and Pickens streets in downtown Columbia.  The payroll reception area is located in Room 721. Office Hours are from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M., Monday through Friday.  The payroll department can answer any additional questions you have.

In August there is a cookout and party hosted to welcome incoming graduate students.  There is a holiday luncheon in December.  Attendees bring a prepared dish to share.  During the first week of May, all spring and summer chemistry graduates are recognized at a reception, as well as any student or faculty receiving awards.  Retiring faculty and staff are also recognized at this event.

Information about seminars can be found on the departmental website.  The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry seminar schedule can be found on our calendar.

SACS stands for the Society for the Advancement of the Chemical Sciences.  Primarily, we provide representation for the chemistry graduate students both within the department as well as at the university level.  Additionally, we are involved in enhancing the scientific community at USC for graduate students by hosting departmental seminar speakers and conducting a weekly, informal, graduate student luncheon with the weekly departmental speaker on Fridays.  SACS monthly meetings are decided upon at the start of each semester and meeting times will be announced via email and the announcement board in the chemistry hallway.  Graduate students create T-shirt logos and have shirts printed as a fundraiser.  They are sold to faculty, students and staff in the department and each year's shirt is unique for USC's chemistry department.

The timeline for Ph.D. students within the chemistry department is 4-5 years depending on the completion of research objectives.  The goal is for all students to complete their degree within five years, although a few students take longer.  This expected time-to-completion is something the student decides with the advisement of their major professor/advisor and the thesis or dissertation committee.

All first-year students are required to complete the departmental qualifying exams, which are ACS-certified tests given in August after orientation.  Incoming students take five graduate chemistry courses over the two semesters and must maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher to continue in the program.  

All keys are distributed by someone in the main office 113

The stockroom is located in John M. Palms Center for Graduate Science Research (GSRC) Room 109 (phone: 803-777-4459/2396).  The biology department shares a stockroom with the chemistry department.

The shipping address is:

University of South Carolina
631 Sumter Street
GSRC Room 109
Columbia SC 29208

Mail received is only for university official business.  No personal packages or mail are to be received at the chemistry address.

Every graduate student has a mailbox on the first floor of GSRC 110, in the room by the administration office (113).  It is used for university official business incoming mail, campus mail, and work that your students may want to drop off for you.

Please contact the stockroom manager. The stockroom stocks many gases.  You can come by the stockroom or contact the manager or assistant and they can let you know what they have in stock and what gases would be a special order.  We receive deliveries on Tuesday and Thursday. 

Please contact the graduate program coordinator:

Phone: 803-777-2579

The department's copier is located in GSRC 112B.  If you are copying tests, etc. for your teaching assignment, you will need a copier code.  Ask your professor for this.  Printing is available from the printer in the copier room.  Only chemistry-related printing is allowed.

Please contact your faculty advisor for a copy code.

You are required to have your own computer, however, there are computers available for you to use for research purposes.  There is a computer in GSRC 112B for graduate students to use for research-related purposes.  There are also computers at the library for student use and most labs have at least one computer that graduate students have access to.

To make the reservation once a room is located and is found available, the student or their faculty advisor can request the room reservation by filling out a Room Reservation Request Form.

Graduate forms are found on the Graduate Students section of My Chem/Biochem.  A list of the forms will be displayed.

All students must be certified by USC in lab safety.  The August orientation schedule will list when first-year chemistry graduate students take the class.  You will receive an email on day, time and location during orientation.  Find the scheduled training dates on the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Safety Class Schedule [pdf]. Dr. Morgan ( can answer questions regarding safety training.

The International Student Services (ISS) office is located at 1705 College Street Suite 650, Close-Hipp Building (803-777-7461).  If you are an international student, there are a number of services to help you get settled. They can also help you with paperwork you will need to complete as an international student.

Return to Top

Questions about the University

The Thomson Student Health Center is located across from the Russell House.  Immunization records are required for enrolling in classes.  Visits are free if you have the USC health insurance.  It usually helps to make an appointment rather than walking in without one.  They have a general medicine department, a women's health department, and a pharmacy (803-777-3175).  There is also a counseling department, and graduate students get 10 free visits each academic year (803-777-5223).

Yes, all graduate students are required to have health insurance.  You can either have health insurance through the University, or chose to have an outside provider at your own expense.

Contact Student Health and Well-Being for answers to all your insurance questions.

Payroll deduction to pay for your health insurance is available: Call Payroll at 803-777-4227.

Read about USC's mandatory insurance requirement, or if you have your own insurance, how to waive this requirement.

Before you register, you will need to access your VIP account to obtain your username and password.  Then you will go into to register for classes.  Funds to pay your tuition will be made available about a week before school starts each semester.  During August chemistry orientation, tuition procedures will be reviewed.   Tuition and fees are normally covered by the department if you are teaching or by your advisor if you are being paid from a grant.  You can also visit the Bursar Office for further information.

The Thomas Cooper Library is a short walking distance from the chemistry building, John M. Palms Center for Graduate Science Research (GSRC).  Science journals are located on the 4th floor.  Study rooms are available if you need a quiet place to study – your ID is required to use these rooms, and you can rent a carrel each semester.

The Russell House has a bookstore for buying textbooks and supplies.  Google maps shows the building location.

The Graduate Student Association will give you information on how to get involved with the USC campus as a graduate student.  Campus Recreation can assist you with getting involved in intramural sports.  To obtain access to the gym (Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center or Blatt PE), you will need your USC ID. For information on activities and fees, you can call campus recreation at 803-576-9375.

The athletic event fee is an optional fee (under optional athletic event fee) for graduate students who wish to get student priced tickets for campus events, such as football and basketball games, concerts, etc. This fee may be paid at the time you pay your tuition or any time at the Bursar's Office at Petigru.  Students who will need to pay this fee are those who are taking between 6 and 11 hours of coursework.  If you are taking more than 11 hours the fee is included in your tuition.

Parking Services is located at 1501 Pendleton St., phone: 803-777-5160.  Students providing documentation of their enrollment as a graduate student may purchase a Graduate Student (GS) parking permit.  GS permits are valid at any time in "Student" and "Any Decal" parking lots.  In addition, GS permits are valid in Faculty/Staff lots after 2 p.m.  Vehicles with GS permits may not park in reserved spaces or garages at any time.  Vehicle Management and Parking Services has a map for parking on and around campus.

You can get your student ID (CarolinaCard) from the CarolinaCard Office on the basement level of the Russell House. Bring a picture ID (license, passport). 

Enrollment: 33,590  (Columbia campus, Fall 2022 )

Faculty: Approximately 1,842 (full-time, Columbia, fall 2021)

This office is located at 1705 College St., Suite 552 (Close-Hipp Building, located on the Hipp side of the Building, 777-4243).  You may need to locate this building at some point for paperwork for the university.

The University Payroll Department is located on the 7th floor of the 1600 Hampton Street tower, at the corner of Hampton and Pickens streets in downtown Columbia.  Office Hours are from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M., Monday through Friday.

The University calendar contains holiday dates and class begin and end dates.

Parking services has all this information for you.

The university has an interactive map of USC campus.

The Graduate School hosts resources for finding and applying for University-related graduate student grants and awards.  The Graduate Student Travel Award Application   form needs to be completed to be considered for departmental graduate travel grants.

 All graduate school forms can be found at The Graduate School.

Return to Top

Questions about Columbia, SC

Columbia is the state capital and largest city in the state of South Carolina.  As of July 1, 2016, the city's population was estimated to be 134,309 (U.S. Census Bureau, July 2016 release).  The city is the center of a metropolitan statistical area of 817,488, the largest within the state.  Located 13 miles (21 km) northwest of South Carolina's geographic center, Columbia is the primary city of the Midlands region of South Carolina, which comprises several counties in the central portion of the state.  The city lies at the confluence of two rivers, the Saluda and the Broad, which merge at Columbia to form the Congaree River.

The Columbia, SC Wikipedia provides a nice list of events throughout the year, (under Arts and Culture events.)

Most of the graduate students with the chemistry department live in the Shandon/Rosewood neighborhoods.  These neighborhoods are close to campus and provide a nice environment for graduate student living.  Some students live in the Forest Acres, Cayce, West Columbia and Irmo neighborhoods; though these neighborhoods can be further from campus, they may be less expensive.  There are many apartment complexes near campus as well. Off-Campus Student Services provides an off-campus housing locator to help find housing in and around USC Columbia.  

Ahh, food... and all these places you can walk to for lunch!

Cool Beans: Located on College St.  Neat little coffee shop with good atmosphere.  Great place for wraps, sandwiches, Rice Krispie treats, and cake.  They have super nice people that work there.

College Grounds Café: Located in the same building as Cool Beans, just downstairs.  Has a healthy and tasty variety of sandwiches, salads, soups and such.

Beezers Gourmet Sandwich Shop: Located on Sumter St.  Bunch of sandwiches on sub rolls.  They boast they have the "best buns in the business."  Open very late (3 a.m.)!

Carolina Café: Located on the corner of Sumter and Pendleton.  They make yummy bagel sandwiches, salads, soups, and smoothies.

Tios: Mexican restaurant located between Beezers and Carolina Café on Sumter St.

Immaculate Consumption: Located on Main St next to the Nickelodeon Theatre (a great, cozy little place for movies). A very nice coffee shop with excellent coffees, lots of salad and sandwich options, a variety of breads, and really good pasta, cookies and brownies.

Hibachi House: Next to Immaculate Consumption on Main St. Japanese cuisine – sushi, hibachi and salads.  Good prices, and friendly staff.

Green Olive: Located across the street from Immaculate Consumption on Main St.  Mediterranean cuisine and music (not live).

Which Wich: Superior Sandwiches on Main St.  Choose from a wide variety of sandwich toppings.

Hunter-Gatherer: Located on corner of Main St and College St.  It has a great menu and they brew their own beer. Great for happy hour.  Open Mon -Thurs and Saturday at 4 pm. Friday, only open for lunch at 11:30 a.m.

Firehouse Subs: Located on corner of Main and Devine St.  Tasty sub sandwiches and large portion sizes.

Al Amir Downtown: Located on Main St next to Firehouse Subs.  Mediterranean cuisine with some good lunch deals.

Moe's: Located on Main St near Al-Amir.  Healthy food of the southwest.  Big burritos, salads, fajitas, and such.

Wendy's: Located on Assembly and Greene St.  Typical fast food establishment, if you're into that sort of thing.

Russell House: The center of campus on Greene St, there are a number of places to eat in here.  There is a cafeteria with different daily meals, as well as Chick-fil-a, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Einstein Bagels, Santorini's (Greek), Pandini's (Italian), and Marble Slab Creamery.

McCutchen House: Located on the Horsehoe and manned by our very own students majoring in Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management.

Maddio’s:  Located on the corner of Main St and Blossom St.  Create your own pizzas here.

Columbia Museum of Art; corner of Main and Hampton 803-799-2810
SC State Museum; 301 Gervais St 803-898-4921

Koger Center for the Arts; 1051 Greene St 803-777-7500
Trustus Theatre; 520 Lady St 803-254-9732
Workshop Theatre of SC; 1136 Bull St 803-799-4876
Township Auditorium; 1703 Taylor St 803-576-2356

Bars/Local Music:
5 Point Area- Located on/around Harden St.  Variety of bars and clubs in this area.  Five Points after Five provides concerts during the spring months, and a huge St Patrick's Day celebration is held here.
The Vista- Located on/around Gervais and Lady St. area.  A slightly more sophisticated crowd than the 5 Points area; home to a variety of bars, dance clubs, and good restaurants.  Host of Vista Lights in November and Artista Vista in the spring.

Outdoor Activities:
Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens; I-126 and Greystone Blvd 803-779-8717
Adventure Carolina; 1107 State St, Cayce 803-796-4505
Congaree National Park; 100 National Park Rd, Hopkins 803-776-4396
Riverfront Park; 3 mile strip of greenway that flanks the Congaree River and the Columbia Canal.  Great for running, walking, or cycling.

The USC gyms offer equipment and space for many sports; there are also intramural teams you can join.
USC football, basketball, soccer, and baseball games and other athletic events are open to students who pay the activity fee.
The Inferno hockey team plays at the Coliseum – tickets are affordable.

There are a number of other activities in the Columbia area that are often highlighted in the Free Times. This is a weekly publication that gives information about events in Columbia and surrounding areas.

Return to Top

Prospective Students

  1. How would you rate your advisor overall?
  2. What are your advisor's best attributes?
  3. What attributes of your advisor could be strengthened?
  4. What is the best way to meet with your advisor?
  5. What expertise exists outside your lab or department?
  6. How do you fund your research? Does your advisor provide or help you obtain funding? Has funding been a problem in your lab for either your advisor or graduate students?
  7. How is authorship determined when publishing your M.S. or Ph.D. research?
  8. How helpful is your advisor at reviewing grants and manuscripts?
  9. Do students in the lab interact well?
  10. Are the graduate students in the department good social colleagues? Are they good professional colleagues?
  11. Have past graduate students succeeded (e.g., in getting post-doc positions, grants, academic jobs, or positions with NGOs or government agencies)?
  1. How would you rate the department?
  2. What are the department's best attributes?
  3. What attributes of the department could be improved?
  4. How does your income (teaching, grants, etc.) relate to the cost of living in Columbia, SC?
  5. How are the interactions between different departments (biology, chemical engineering, etc.)?
  6. Approximately how much time per week is devoted to these activities?
    • teaching
    • class work (including any required curriculum)
    • departmental functions, such as seminars, receptions, and meetings
    • research
    • any others
  7. What do you do about health care?
  8. What is the best way to get to campus?
  9. Is campus safe? Is campus safe at night if I work late?
  10. Overall, are graduate students happy?
  11. What do you think about Columbia?
  1. What is your philosophy on science?
  2. What are the best attributes of your lab group?
  3. What are your expectations of graduate students in the lab? When do you expect graduate students to form a M.S. or Ph.D. proposal and committee? Are there expectations for working in the lab?
  4. How does a M.S. differ from a Ph.D. in your lab? Do you expect to be involved with my project or should I plan to be more independent? Does this involvement change from a M.S. to a Ph.D.?
  5. How many students do you advise?
  6. What is your philosophy on students' taking classes? How do your graduate students decide what classes to take?
  7. What is the best way to meet with you (i.e., do you prefer appointments)?
  8. How does funding work? Do you help with funding?
  9. What projects are going on in the lab? Do you involve your students with side projects or only your lab projects? Do you expect your students to do side projects?
  10. How is authorship determined, especially on papers that result from M.S. and Ph.D. research?
  11. How can I get involved in side projects or collaborative projects with you or your other students?
  1. What are the department's best attributes?
  2. What attributes of the department could be improved?
  3. Are teaching assistantships guaranteed? What is the teaching load?
  4. What are the different opportunities for funding?
  5. Does the department successfully place its graduates in professional jobs?

Return to Top

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.