CATCO Graduate Program

CATCO offers an intensive and success-oriented education in computational and theoretical chemistry, with the goal to prepare students for a future career in academia or private industry. Competitive stipends including health insurance and a tuition waver are provided by CATCO and the Department of Chemistry.

Positions are available. If you are interested, please send an email to dcremer [at] or ekraka [at]

How to graduate at CATCO, Department of Chemistry, SMU?

Graduate studies: 4 years; there is a special track for CATCO students.

In this track computational and theoretical courses are required:

A. 5 courses:

  1. Theory of the Chemical Bond (1 unit)
  2. Introduction into Computational Chemistry (3 units)
  3. Hartree-Fock theory (3 units)
  4. Computer Assisted Drug Design (3 units)
  5. Models and Concepts in Chemistry (3 units)

B. 8 Supervisor-guided Reading Courses (in total 25 points):

  1. Introduction into Density Functional Theory (DFT)
  2. Perturbation theory and Configuration Interaction Theory
  3. Coupled Cluster Theory
  4. Multi-reference Methods
  5. Reaction Mechanism: Reaction Path Hamiltonian and URVA
  6. Vibrational Spectroscopy and the Adiabatic Vibrational Mode Concept
  7. Introduction into Relativistic Theory
  8. Advanced DFT

C. 2 Practical Training Courses:

  1. Introduction into Quantum Chemical Calculations
  2. Use of Quantum Chemical Programs (GAMESS, Gaussian, Molpro, Qchem, Cfour, Dirac, etc.)

D. Mandatory Are Also:

  1. One year teaching-assistant (TA)-ship (irrespective of stipend; preferentially as assistant in our quantum chemical courses)
  2. Three presentations (50 minutes each) in front of the faculty of chemistry (each presentation is graded by the faculty or a committee)
    • a general topic (e.g. from nanotechnology)
    • the student's own research
    • a grant application where the topic is chosen by the graduate student (normally it has to do with the research area the student is working in). The latter is done to become familiar with the grant application process.
  3. One presentation at a regional/national meeting

E. A new CATCO graduate student usually starts working on smaller entry projects, which lead to results and publication within the first and second year. Then a 2-year project is given out, which can be connected with one of the first projects. This is done for the following reasons:

  • to learn at an early stage the write up / publication process
  • to have research success at an early stage
  • to broaden the education connected with research
  • to make the planning of the thesis more transparent to graduate students

F. For the same reason, each CATCO student gets in the first two or three months after his/her entry to CATCO a study plan for the PhD thesis that clarifies the educational and research parts of the thesis. The study plan is updated every year after discussion between student and supervisor.

G. A minimum of 4 publications is expected for the thesis.

H. All supervisors of the CATCO group work with the goal that the research part of the PhD thesis is finished before the end of the fourth year. This has to be seen on the background that of about 70 graduate students who joint the CATCO group in the last 4 decades, 60% finished before time and close to 40% in time.

General Remarks

  • The CATCO group was started in April 2010 at SMU.
  • Currently the CATCO group has 8 members. We plan to have about 10 – 12 members on average.
  • The two full professors of the CATCO group published more than 330 papers and had around 70 co-workers in 4 decades, 17 of which are now professors at universities all over the globe.
  • We are convinced that the success of our graduate students is a direct result of intensive education, intensive mentoring, and the wide variety of research topics always adjusting to the current challenges of chemistry.