Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Science
This doctoral program is administered by the School of Public and Environmental Affairs in cooperation with the Departments of Biology, Chemistry, Geography, and Geological Sciences. The Ph.D. in environmental science degree is awarded by the University Graduate School.
The program provides a rigorous, comprehensive education in environmental science. The specific objectives of the program are:
- to conduct advanced research and scientific analysis of environmental events, issues, and problems
- to further understanding of the nature and management of natural and human environments
- to provide an opportunity for students and faculty members in several departments to engage in collaborative environmental research in an interdisciplinary mode
A student must apply to the School of Public and Environmental Affairs for doctoral studies; those accepted will be recommended to the University Graduate School for formal admission into the Ph.D. program. Applicants to this program must have completed at least a bachelor’s degree in science, mathematics, engineering, or a related field. Prospective students are required to submit:
- a statement of purpose, which should be as specific as possible and, preferably, should refer to potential research mentors by name
- official results of the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE)
- official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate course work completed
- three letters of recommendation. Applicants whose native language is not English must also submit results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
The degree requires:
- substantial knowledge in a primary environmental science concentration
- breadth in related environmental science and policy
- an understanding of research methods
- an in-depth knowledge of the dissertation topic
- a dissertation that demonstrates the student’s ability to analyze, explain, and interpret research clearly and effectively
During the first semester of enrollment, each student must organize an advisory committee. Normally this committee consists of at least four faculty members: at least two should be from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs; the others may be from other departments or from outside the university. Membership of the advisory committee is approved by the director of the Doctoral Program in Environmental Science and the dean of the University Graduate School. At least three members of the advisory committee must be full members of the graduate faculty.
Fields of Study
Each student should define a principal field of study, which may be interdisciplinary. The student should prepare a proposal outlining a program of course work that the student believes lies within that principal field.
Each student should also prepare a program of course work that fulfills the requirement of breadth in environmental science and policy. The breadth requirement may be fulfilled by using a wide spectrum of environmentally related courses, including areas such as economics, law, and management, in addition to other science courses.
Each student should also prepare a statement of courses or activities for meeting the research methods requirement. Normally these include subjects such as computer science, geographic information systems, remote sensing, statistics, and mathematical modeling, although other technical skill areas such as electronics and analytical chemical techniques may be appropriate for some students.
Each student must prepare a narrative statement that includes a discussion of the student’s previous educational experiences, a statement of career objectives, a statement of research interests, and a proposed program of course work.
Each student must submit the narrative statement to the advisory committee for approval, usually during the first semester in the program.
The exact nature and amount of course work in each of the three areas—principal field of study, breadth in environmental science and policy, and research methods—is determined by the advisory committee after review and approval of the student’s proposed plan of study in each of these areas. Selection of specific courses is based on obtaining
- adequate knowledge for qualifying examinations
- appropriate preparation for a research project
- a mixture of courses that meets the individual professional goals of the student
The Ph.D. degree requires the completion of at least 90 credit hours in advanced study and research beyond the bachelor’s degree. A student must complete a minimum of 30 credit hours of advanced course work in environmental science and policy. Students must also complete a minimum of 30 credit hours of research, normally taken as SPEA-E 625 or SPEAE 890. The student, with the approval of the advisory committee, should complete some combination of additional course work and research sufficient to meet the 90 credit hour requirement.
Students are required to enroll in SPEA-E 680 Seminar in Environmental Science and Policy (1 credit hour/semester) for four semesters during their degree program. Students must give at least one seminar presentation in SPEA-E 680 as part of their Ph.D. in Environmental Science requirement. Students enrolled in SPEA-E 680 may either make a formal presentation or write a brief synopsis and critique of four presentations attended each semester. Students are encouraged to enroll in SPEA-E 710 Advanced Topics in Environmental Science, which may be taken multiple times as the topics will vary. Advanced topics and reading courses may be used to meet requirements, depending upon the topic and the student’s area of interest.
Students should note that 30 credit hours of advanced course work, if properly selected, and 6 credit hours of research, may be applied toward the Master of Science in Environmental Science (M.S.E.S.) degree. With an additional 12 credit hours of approved course work, a student may be awarded the M.S.E.S. degree while completing the requirements for the Ph.D. in environmental science. Completion of the M.S.E.S. degree as part of this doctoral program is not a requirement; however, this option may be appropriate for some students.
Before a student is admitted to candidacy, all requirements determined by the advisory committee must be met and the qualifying examinations passed. A student who fails qualifying examinations may retake them only once.
The decision to admit a student to doctoral candidacy is made by the advisory committee, which evaluates the student’s performance in the written examination, research proposal, and oral examination.
This examination should be taken by the end of a student’s fifth semester in the Ph.D. program. The exam focuses on topics covered by the student’s course work and related to the student’s research interests. The examination is written and graded by the student’s advisory committee. The written examination is graded as pass, conditional pass, or fail.
No later than the end of the fifth semester, the student should submit a written research proposal for review by the advisory committee. The proposal should be documented, clearly stating a research objective, the approach to be taken, and the significance of the work.
Each candidate is examined orally by the advisory committee. The oral examination expands upon the written examination and covers the student’s research proposal.
Upon the student’s successful completion of the qualifying examination, a research committee is formed. Normally this committee consists of at least four faculty members: at least two should be from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs; the others may be from other departments. The director of the Doctoral Program in Environmental Science recommends the student’s research committee to the dean of the University Graduate School. At least three members of the research committee must be full members of the graduate faculty.
A dissertation is required and must be of sufficient value to warrant publication. The dissertation must represent a substantial research effort, both in quality and quantity. The dissertation requirement may be met by preparing a traditional dissertation or by preparing a portfolio of research documents including publications, manuscripts in press, and completed manuscripts suitable for submission to a journal. These documents may have multiple authors, although the doctoral candidate must demonstrate that he or she made significant contributions to at least two of the publications or manuscripts submitted for review. The research portfolio must have introductory and concluding chapters to integrate across the topics. The research portfolio also must be prepared to meet the University Graduate School’s requirements for dissertations. A public presentation of the dissertation research is required. The dissertation must be approved by the research committee.