Doctorate of Philosophy Degree in Atmospheric Sciences

THESE REQUIREMENTS WERE IN FORCE PRIOR TO NOVEMBER 2015 AND ONLY APPLY TO GRADUATE STUDENTS ENTERING BEFORE THAT DATE WHO HAVE CHOSEN TO HAVE THESE REQUIREMENTS APPLY TO THEM. Students in our Ph.D. program undertake research that pushes the boundaries of our sciences. Whether it be the latest in computer modeling or discovering new phenomena in the field, our Ph.D. students explore new horizons in atmospheric science. Learn about the steps and challenges of earning a Ph.D. at the University of Illinois.

Prior to becoming a Ph.D. student in the department, students must become eligible.

Ph.D. eligibility requirements

The following Ph.D. requirements are formulated within the framework of the Graduate College requirements as described in A Handbook for Graduate Students and Advisors. The Graduate College distinguishes three stages in a student’s progress toward a Ph.D.:

Stage I

A major component of Stage I is an evaluation of the student. In the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, the evaluation takes the form of a Qualifying Examination. All candidates for the Ph.D. in atmospheric sciences, even potential ones pursuing an M.S. degree, must pass a qualifying examination.

Stage II

The objective during Stage II is preparation and planning for thesis research through course work, literature review, and discussions with faculty and students. The objective from the faculty point of view is to determine the competence of the student to conduct Ph.D. research in atmospheric sciences.

For the student, Stage II involves the selection of a thesis supervisor, the preparation of a written thesis proposal, selection of a dissertation committee and the passing of the Preliminary Examination. Prior to the passing of the Preliminary Examination, a Ph.D. student must take at least one 400- or 500-level course per semester in atmospheric science or a closely related subject.

The Preliminary Examination will consist of two parts. Part I will consist of writing an independent (i.e., no help in organizing or in writing the proposal—including grammar and spelling) research proposal on the student’s Ph.D. dissertation topic. Part II will consist of an Oral Examination that will be given only if Part I is passed.

The research proposal must be no more than 20 double-spaced pages including figures and must be in 12-point Times font (references and biography can be single spaced but are to be included in the 20 page limit). The cover page of the proposal is not included in the 20 page limit. The following sections are required: Project Summary (1 page), Table of Contents (1 page), Introduction (include general motivation for proposed research), Objectives/Hypotheses (include their relationship to the current state of knowledge and to any relevant preliminary results for the proposed research), Proposed Research (include methodology and its relationship to achieving stated objectives and answering proposed hypotheses), and Work Plan (include timetable and justification for any computer time needed). Also include a one page personal biography including any authored articles. The left margin should be 1” and the remaining margins 1/2” with page numbers in the top right hand corner. Headings should be handled using Harvard notation (e.g., II, A, 3, d).

Both parts of the Preliminary Examination will be evaluated by your dissertation committee; three of whom must be from the Department of Atmospheric Sciences faculty. When copies of the research proposal are given to members of the student’s committee, the Department Office should also be given a copy to keep in the files. At that time, a formal request will be made to the Graduate College for appointment of the Preliminary Examination Committee. The committee will provide the student with reviews of his/her proposal from Part I, together with the individual and average scores, within two weeks of receipt of the proposal. In addition, they will participate in the oral examination. The research proposal will be scored by each committee member on a scale of 0 to 10.

A student whose research proposal receives an average score of 7.0 or above will be judged to have passed Part I of the Preliminary Examination and will proceed to Part II. A student whose research proposal does not receive an average score of at least 7.0 will be judged to have failed the Preliminary Examination and will be permitted to retake it once within the following 6 months. A student who twice fails Part I of Preliminary Examination will not be permitted to continue pursuing the Ph.D. degree. Further, plagiarism will result in an automatic failure with no option to retake.

A student who passes Part I of the Preliminary Examination will be required to take Part II, the oral examination, within the two-week period immediately following receipt by the student of written reviews of the proposal and their average score. The oral examination will consist of two sections: (1) an examination on the student’s written research proposal and a verbal response to the proposal reviews, and (2) an examination of the student’s general knowledge in his/her field of specialization. These two sections of the oral examination will be scored by each committee member on a scale of 0 to 10. A student who receives an average score of 7.0 or above on both sections 1 and 2 of the oral examination will be judged to have passed Part II of the Preliminary Examination. A student who does not receive an average score of at least 7.0 on the oral will be judged to have failed. Such students will be permitted to retake the failed section(s) of the oral examination once, within the following 6 months. A student who twice fails section 1 and/or section 2 of Part II of the Preliminary Examination will not be permitted to continue pursuing the Ph.D. degree.

Stage III

The Graduate College requires 96 hours of credit for the Ph.D. of which an M.S. may account for 32 hours. At least 64 hours, which may include research (thesis) credits, must be in courses meeting on the Urbana-Champaign campus. Most atmospheric science students with half-time assistantships take 12 to 14 credits per semester plus four or eight credits in the summer, so that the credit requirement may be satisfied in three years.