College of Liberal and Professional Studies Launches New Degree in Chemical Sciences

April 23, 2014

On April 1, the College of Liberal and Professional Studies (LPS) at the University of Pennsylvania officially opened applications for its newest master’s degree: the Master of Chemical Sciences. The program, the first of its kind in the Ivy League, offers current and aspiring professionals in the chemical sciences a path to build their expertise in a compact time frame.

Nora Lewis, Vice Dean for Professional and Liberal Education, is proud to be launching a program that has been in demand for some time. “For years, we’ve had a great deal of interest in a terminal master’s program, but haven’t had one to offer. This is an opportunity to provide greater access to Penn faculty and resources to the next generation of professional chemists.”

Providing this access, Lewis says, is key to the College of Liberal and Professional Studies’ role at Penn. “LPS connects the scholarship and talent of our faculty with the needs of professional audiences for advanced education along the career continuum. Programs like this are an opportunity for the incredible talents of our faculty and their expertise to reach a wider audience.” 

James Tarver, Executive Director of the Department of Chemistry at Penn, says that creating that wider audience fosters innovation in the larger scientific enterprise.

“Tech and innovation are now the drivers of our economy,” Tarver says. “And the  geopolitical issues of our time—whether you’re talking about our atmosphere or sustainable fuels or environmental preservation—are challenges in chemistry. The Master of Chemical Sciences is a compact way to give people the foundation they need to be more creative, innovative, and inventive on their own.” 

Most students will be able to complete the 10-course program in 18 months, and will have full access to Penn’s chemistry faculty and research facilities. The degree will culminate in a capstone project, a large-scale project that students design themselves to gain a deeper understanding in an area of particular interest.

While Ph.D. students may spend many years refining their ability to do research, they acquire their fundamental knowledge of chemistry in the first few years of study, Tarver says. To him, the streamlined nature of the new degree is the most exciting aspect of the program. “I believe that having a terminal master’s degree in a school that has traditionally focused on pure research reflects a cultural change in the chemical enterprise. It shows an awareness of the importance of broader scientific literacy. The older model of finding diehard researchers created a gap, and this is a conduit for bridging it.”

Lewis said she is looking forward to welcoming the first class this fall. “I’m excited about adding yet another highly motivated, intellectually outstanding group of students into the mix, who will be pursuing careers in a new field for LPS. It’s an important way for Penn not only to further the boundaries of knowledge through research, but also to help innovators, professionals, and leaders do what they do more effectively.”