DOCTORATE OF PHILOSOPHY DEGREE IN ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCES

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. The following Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) requirements are formulated within the framework of the Graduate College requirements as described in A Handbook for Graduate Students and Advisors. The requirements of the degree of Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences correspond to the general requirements of the Graduate College for the degree, with the additional requirements outlined below.   These requirements were adopted in November 2015.  Students entering before that date may apply these requirements or requirements in force at the time of their entry. The requirements for Ph.D. degree in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences are:

Requirements

All candidates for the Ph.D. degree are required to have completed four core courses (ATMS 500, 504, 505, 507) representing the major subfields within atmospheric sciences. To continue in the Ph.D. program, a student must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.0 (B) in the core courses (500, 504, 505, 507), while not earning less than a B- in any of these courses.  S/U grades are not acceptable in these courses. In the event a student earns a grade lower than a B- in a core course, the student will be allowed one opportunity to retake the course and earn an acceptable grade (B- or better).  For the purpose of continuing in the Ph.D. program, the GPA in the core courses will be calculated based on the highest grade earned if a course is retaken.

All Ph.D. students must pass a preliminary examination based on a written dissertation proposal, and pass a final examination based on the completed dissertation.

Students holding a Bachelor’s Degree or a Master’s Degree may enter the Ph.D. program in Atmospheric Sciences, but special procedures apply for students holding a Bachelor’s degree:

Entrance criteria to program with a Bachelor’s Degree only

All incoming students with Bachelor’s degrees only are placed automatically on the M.S. thesis track. Students may petition to the Department Graduate Affairs Committee (GAC) to transfer into the Ph.D. program after the first year of study without completion of an M.S. degree.  In such cases, the committee will evaluate the student’s academic performance and research potential.  The student will also be evaluated on his/her undergraduate academic and research history. To be eligible to petition into the Ph.D. program with a Bachelor’s degree, the student must satisfy the following course requirements:  1) completion of all core courses (ATMS 500, 504, 505, 507) within the first 2 academic semesters of entering the program, with a minimum GPA of 3.5 for the core courses without receiving lower than a B grade for any core course, and 2) demonstration of Ph.D. level progress through the student’s research. 

No substitutions for core courses from B.S. curricula will be permitted.  For students satisfying these course requirements, the GAC will evaluate research potential based on a written research prospectus of no more than 5 pages and an oral presentation of the student’s proposed plan of study.  The written prospectus must be submitted to the GAC by August 15 at the end of the student’s first year (e.g., August 15, 2018 for a student admitted August 15, 2017).  Students admitted in January have to submit the prospectus by the first day of the Spring semester in the following January.  The research prospectus must be written independently by the student and should outline his/her projected PhD research project, including a basic description of background information, any results to date, a projected research plan (including outline of methods), and the perceived impact, novelty and significance of the proposed project.  The oral presentation to the GAC should consist of no longer than a 30-minute presentation of the student’s research plan.  The written research prospectus must be submitted to the department at least 2 weeks in advance of the oral presentation, which will typically be held during the first week of the semester after the student’s first full year in the graduate program.  The prospectus and presentation are not exams, they are not graded, and they do not take the place of the Preliminary Exam described below.  Their sole purpose is to determine if the student should first complete an M.S. degree, or is sufficiently prepared and capable of directly pursuing a Ph.D. degree without the M.S. degree.

The student may petition the GAC only with the consent of his/her academic advisor.   The advisor must submit a letter of support for the student to the GAC, and he/she may not serve on the committee considering the petition.  In the event that the student’s advisor is also a member of the GAC, the Department Head will appoint a faculty member to serve as an alternate committee member for the student.  A majority of committee members must vote to support the student’s petition to enter the Ph.D. program. Final approval will be made by the Department Head.

Course Requirements

 

Course requirements for students entering with B.S. and directly pursing Ph.D.

ATMS 500, ATMS 504, ATMS 505, and ATMS 507

16 hours

ATMS 599Thesis Research (min applied toward degree)

16 hours

Additional approved graduate level courses (excluding ATMS 599)

32 hours

Additional approved graduate level courses (including ATMS 599)

32 hours

Total Hours

96 hours

 

Course requirements for students entering with M.S. from outside the Department of Atmospheric Sciences

M.S. Credit transferred to the Ph.D. degree

32 hours

ATMS 599 Thesis Research (min applied toward degree)

16 hours

Additional approved graduate level courses* (excluding ATMS 599)

24 hours

Additional approved graduate level courses (including ATMS 599)

24 hours

Total Hours

96 hours

*These courses must include ATMS 500, 504, 505, and 507 if equivalent courses were not taken as part of the student’s M.S. degree. Equivalency will be determined by the department after review of the course syllabi.

Course requirements for students with an M.S. from the Department of Atmospheric Sciences

M.S. Credit transferred to the Ph.D. degree

32 hours

ATMS 599Thesis Research (min applied toward degree)

16 hours

Additional approved graduate level courses (excluding ATMS 599)

24 hours

Additional approved graduate level courses (including ATMS 599)

24 hours

Total Hours

96 hours


 

Other Requirements1

Qualifying Exam

No

Preliminary Exam

Yes

Final Exam/Dissertation Required

Yes

Dissertation Deposit Required

Yes

Minimum GPA

3.0

1For additional details and requirements refer to the department's Graduate Programs and the Graduate College Handbook

Additional Information

The Graduate College requires 96 hours of credit for the Ph.D., 32 hours of which may be earned from a completed M.S. degree. At least 64 hours, which may include research (thesis) credits, must be in courses meeting on the Urbana-Champaign campus. Graduate students are considered full time students if enrolled for at least 12 credits per semester in the Fall and Spring semesters. Atmospheric science students with half-time assistantships must take at least 8 credits per semester to maintain their assistantships.  Normally graduate students register for at least 12 credits.  Graduate students are required to register for 6 credits in the summer to hold an assistantship and be considered full time.  When entering with a B.S. degree, the Ph.D. credit requirement can be satisfied in 3 years by maintaining minimum credit for full time status (i.e., 8 credit hours, or 2 courses per semester). When entering with a M.S. degree, the Ph.D credit requirement can be met in 1.5 years (i.e., 8 credit hours, or 2 courses per semester).

In addition to the credit hour requirements listed above, DAS graduate students are required to enroll in the departmental seminar course (0 credit hour) for all academic semesters while registered as a graduate student.  Students must also successfully complete the departmental course on Professional Development (1 credit hour), typically during the first semester of the program.

Students must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher while enrolled in the Ph.D. program, in accordance with guidelines set by the UIUC Graduate College.  The Graduate College Handbook describes rules for probation and dismissal for students not maintaining the minimum GPA. 

Ph.D. progression 

Stage I

A major component of Stage I is an evaluation of the student’s academic and research potential.  During Stage I, students are required to take at least the following four core courses:  Atmospheric Dynamics (ATMS 500), Physical Meteorology (ATMS 504), Weather Systems (ATMS 505), and Climate Dynamics (ATMS 507).  Students admitted to the DAS Ph.D. Program with M.S. degrees from the University of Illinois or other institutions may petition to the GAC to opt out of core course requirements, if they have successfully completed similar coursework as part of an M.S. program.  If students successfully opt out of core courses, they must take other graduate level courses to satisfy the overall total course credit requirements listed in the above tables.  Course grades from previous graduate programs will be considered in the GPA evaluation for any course credit applied to the degree program.

Students must complete core course requirements within the first 2 semesters of entering the Ph.D. program. Under extenuating circumstances, students entering the Ph.D. program with Master’s Degrees may petition to the GAC for a time extension in order to satisfy core course requirements.  Non-core courses may be completed at any time prior to graduation.

Stage II

The objective during Stage II is preparation and planning for thesis research through additional 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 preparation of a written thesis proposal, selection of a dissertation committee, and the passing of the Preliminary Examination. Ideally, the Preliminary Examination is completed shortly after entering Stage II of the Ph.D. program.  The Preliminary Examination consists of two parts. Part I consists 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 consists of an Oral Examination that will be given only if Part I is passed.

The research proposal must be no more than 15 pages, single spaced with a one inch margin including figures and must be in 11-point Times font. References are not included in the 15 pages. The cover page of the proposal is not included in the 15 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 biography is not part of the 15 page limit. All margins should be 1” with page numbers in the bottom 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 the dissertation committee; three of the committee members must be from the Department of Atmospheric Sciences faculty. Two members of the faculty on the committee must hold tenure. The student should setup their preliminary exam date with an office member at least one month prior to the exam date.  At that time, the office staff will formally request the appointment of the committee with the Graduate College.  The research proposal should be sent electronically to the office for distribution to the student’s committee.  The office will distribute the written proposal to the committee.  The committee will provide the office with the reviews of his/her proposal from Part I, together with the individual and average scores, within two weeks of receipt of the proposal.  The research proposal will be scored by each committee member on a scale of 0 to 10.  The office will provide the student with the reviews and scores 2 weeks prior to the oral exam date.

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. 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 of fundamental concepts related to 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 will be judged to have failed the oral examination. 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 or section 2 of Part II of the Preliminary Examination will not be permitted to continue pursuing the Ph.D. degree.

Stage III

Stage III, the last stage of the Ph.D. degree, consists of carrying out the proposed research and passing an oral defense of the doctoral dissertation. The dissertation must be an original and significant research contribution to the field of atmospheric sciences. During Stage III the student is required to set up a yearly progress review with his/her Dissertation Committee. This consists of a presentation by the student followed by a discussion with the committee.

Dissertation Seminar

All Graduate College format regulations must be satisfied before the final approval of the Ph.D. dissertation. Formatting guidelines for the dissertation may be found on the Graduate College Thesis Handbook.  Students should be aware of these guidelines prior to writing their dissertation.  A format check will be performed by a member of the department staff. The costs associated with typing and copying official copies of the thesis for the Graduate College are borne by the student.

Dissertation

All Graduate College format regulations must be satisfied before the final approval of the Ph.D. dissertation. Formatting guidelines for the dissertation may be found on the Graduate College Thesis Handbook. Students should be aware of these guidelines prior to writing their dissertation. A format check will be performed by a member of the department staff. The costs associated with typing and copying official copies of the thesis for the Graduate College are borne by the student.

Final Examination

The student’s thesis work forms the basis for the Final Examination, which is the oral defense of the doctoral dissertation. The student is responsible for scheduling the Final Examination and submitting copies of his/her thesis to each member of the Final/Dissertation Committee at least two weeks before the date of the Final Examination. Decisions other than pass are the same as for the Preliminary Examination.  The committee may require additional revisions of the dissertation to be done prior to the time a decision of pass is rendered.  The advisor makes the final decision of whether these revisions are acceptable.