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. 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 abide by these requirements or at the time of their entry to the program. 

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. The Graduate College requires that the preliminary examination committee and the final examination committee consist of a minimum number of four voting members, a minimum number of three Graduate Faculty members, and a minimum number of two UIUC tenured faculty members. In addition, DAS requires a minimum number of two members being faculty in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences.

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 having only Bachelor’s degrees 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 their 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 if the student was admitted in the Fall semester.  Students admitted in January are required 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 their 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 first earning the M.S. degree.

The student may petition the GAC only with the consent of their academic advisor.   The advisor must submit a letter of support for the student to the GAC, and they 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 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 (ATMS 571, 1 credit hour), typically during the first semester of the program. The credit from this course does not count towards the M.S. or Ph.D. course requirements.

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 components: 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, and an Oral Examination that will be given only if the written component is passed.

The research proposal must be no more than 15 pages including figures, single spaced with one-inch margins, and must be in 11-point Times font. References are not included in the 15 pages, nor is the cover page of the proposal. 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). A one-page personal biography including any authored articles should also be included, that is not counted in the 15 page limit. The document should include page numbers in the bottom right hand corner. Headings should be handled using Harvard notation (e.g., II, A, 3, d). Line numbers must be included in the margin within the body of the proposal text.

Both parts (written and oral) of the Preliminary Examination will be evaluated by the dissertation committee. The student should schedule their preliminary exam date with the Department’s administrative secretary at least one month prior to the exam date;  at that time, the administrative secretary will formally request the appointment of the committee with the Graduate College.  The research proposal should be sent electronically to the Department’s administrative secretary, who will distribute the written proposal to the committee.  The committee will provide the administrative secretary with their reviews of the written proposal within two weeks of receipt of the proposal, scored on a scale of 0 to 10.  The administrative secretary will provide the student with the reviews and scores.

A student whose research proposal receives an average score of 7.0 or above will be judged to have passed the written component of the Preliminary Examination and will proceed to the oral component. 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 the written component of the 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.

Upon successful completion of the written component, the oral component of the Preliminary Examination will be required 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 their 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 the oral component 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 the oral component 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 it is strongly recommended that the student set up annual meetings with their Dissertation Committee members (either individually, or as a group) to review their yearly progress.

Dissertation Seminar

The student is required to give a 50- minute departmental seminar on their research. If the student expects to complete the thesis during the summer, the student must either schedule the seminar for the previous spring, or return to give the seminar during the fall semester. Only in extenuating circumstances (e.g., prolonged illness) will the possibility of a summer seminar be considered. Students are strongly advised to check possible dates with their committee members, to ensure their attendance.     

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 the Department administrative secretary.

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 the thesis to each member of the Committee at least two weeks before the date of the Final Examination. Decisions other than pass have the same rules for retaking the examination as for the Preliminary Examination.  The committee may require additional revisions of the dissertation to be made prior to the time a decision of pass is rendered.  The advisor makes the final decision of whether these revisions are acceptable.