Degree Requirements for the Specialization in Environmental and Geological Sciences

Environmental and Geological Sciences Advisory Form:

Use this form with your advisor to track your progress towards the program requirements and plan professional development activities.



Requirements for the Specialization in Environmental and Geological Sciences

Within the student’s first semester, she (he) is expected to consult with their prospective advisor(s) and devise a personal program of study to acquire command over the skills and methods needed to work in their proposed area of research.
Course work in the Specialization includes the following required courses:

EES 71600; Earth Systems I: Origin and Evolution of Earth and Life (3 credits, first semester).The evolution of planet Earth, its fluid envelopes, and its biota examined through a combination of high-temperature geochemistry and low-temperature biogeochemistry that considers planetary accretion and differentiation; origin and evolution of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere; thermodynamic and kinetic bases for Earth processes; geochemical and biogeochemical cycles; ecosystem cycling and its anthropogenic effects.

EES 71700; Earth Systems II: Earth’s Energy Networks (3 credits, second semester). This course covers major aspects of planetary structures and Earth’s interior (geophysics, tectonics) and the evolution and dynamics of oceans and atmospheres (oceanography, meteorology).Many aspects of these sub-disciplines converge into studying the Earth’s climate evolution and dynamics (global climate change, climatology, paleoclimatology, paleoceanography). The study of the Earth’s

climate is synonymous with “systems interactions”, interactions among the subcomponents of the Earth’s systems. These interactions take place on all time and space scales by way of materials and energy flows among lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere. These systems interactions play an increasingly central role in predictions of the impacts of global climate change, as well as our understanding of an ever-increasing number of environmental issues.

EES 71600 and 71700 constitute a two-semester sequence of courses, which together provide a broad, systems approach to basic concepts in the earth and environmental sciences and the linkages between them. These courses will provide an understanding of the complex inter-relations of Earth systems that all students in the Environmental and Geological Sciences Specialization require.

EES 704 The Nature of Scientific Research (3 credits, first semester). This course is designed to introduce first-semester students in the Ph.D. Program in Earth and Environmental Sciences to the principles of scientific inquiry. Following a broad overview of the epistemological foundations of the sciences, we compare and contrast the nature of explanation in the historical sciences (biology and geology), experimental sciences (physics and chemistry) and social sciences. We will discuss in detail the mix of quantitative and qualitative methods that are appropriate to each of these fields of inquiry. Finally, we explore ethics in scientific research. We will go beyond the issues of fabrication, falsification and plagiarism to look at the broader responsibilities of the researcher to their research subjects, co-authors, mentor / mentee, scientific community, and society at large.

EES 802 Dissertation Proposal Workshop (3 credits). This seminar is designed to teach students how to write a dissertation proposal, prepare grant proposals, and present ideas in a seminar setting. The student is required to formulate a dissertation proposal under the supervision of the student’s mentor and the instructor. A continuation of the Research Methods course in

which the student is required to present original research in a mock dissertation defense employing current conference-like presentation methods. ). Prerequisites for EES 802 are: 1, satisfactory completion of all first-year core courses; 2, satisfactory completion of the First Examination; 3, submission of a one-page dissertation proposal abstract; 4, approval of the student’s dissertation advisor; and 5, permission of the Executive Officer.

From the first stages of matriculation, the student directs his/her program toward the desired research specialization. The major steps occur in the following order: First Examination, Second Examination, Third Examination (Oral Defense of the Dissertation).

I. First Examination: The examination is a written and oral examination administered by the Environmental and Geological Sciences Curriculum Committee following the student’s successful completion of at least 15 course credits, including the following requirements:
A. The three first-year core courses (EES 704, EES 716, EES 717), each with a grade of B or better;
B. At least two other graduate-level courses in at least one of the four Environmental and Geological Sciences Subdivisions: Atmospheric and Hydrologic Sciences; Earth Materials and Earth Processes; Terrestrial, Estuarine, and Marine Studies; and Urban Environments and Public Health.
C. An overall average of 3.0 or better in all courses.

The written part of the first exam will consist of a in-house exam to be held at the Graduate Center. The questions will be prepared by members of the Environmental and Geological Sciences Curriculum Committee who are faculty that taught EES 704, 716, and 717, based on the content and selective sets of readings for each core course and area of specialization selected by the student. Students will be expected to provide substantive responses to several essay questions, with citations and references to all the salient literature. The exam is timed with the limit set by the DEO who administers the exam.

The committee, following a short period to review the written examination, will meet with the student and have the opportunity to ask follow up questions, as the second part of the first exam, based on the written responses. The grade (pass/fail) will be based on the student’s performance on both the written and oral examinations. A student who fails all or part of the written or oral examinations will be given one opportunity to retake those parts of the examination, no more than 12 months after the original examination.

II. Second Examination: The Second Examination involves the submission and defense of a proposal describing the dissertation research planned by the student. (See Appendix A: Format for Dissertation Proposals). A dissertation committee, comprising a minimum of three members of the doctoral faculty, is appointed to assist the student in preparing for the Second Examination.
The dissertation proposal must be written in an acceptable research-journal format, and presented to the student’s Dissertation Committee for a critical review of content. The Dissertation Committee must receive the Proposal at least two weeks prior to the scheduled Second Examination. The Second Examination is an oral examination conducted by the Dissertation Committee during which the student describes and defends all aspects of his/her proposal. The student must be able to explain his/her research in the context of the historical development of the research discipline; relate his/her project to ongoing research in his/her field, and must demonstrate a thorough command of the literature relevant to the research. Normally, the Second Examination takes place upon completion of 60 credits, and requires approximately 2 hours.
The Dissertation Committee will require that the student rectify any errors in the research plan or address specific inadequacies in the literature review through a retake of all

or a portion of the exam as specified by the Dissertation Committee no more than 12 months from the date of the first attempt.

III. Third Examination (Oral Defense of the Dissertation).


Every student must register every semester with the Executive Officer, who reviews the student’s proposed schedule and issues the advisement PIN number which is required for on-line registration. When you meet with the Executive Officer for registration, you have an opportunity to discuss any matter bearing on your status in the program. Before coming to registration, you should meet with your principal advisor to review the courses for which you intend to register.

The student’s satisfactory progress is assessed at this time. “A student is deemed not to be making satisfactory progress if he or she has a grade point average below 3.00, has accumulated more than two open grades (INC, INP, NGR, ABS and ABP), has completed 45 credits without having passed the First Examination, has completed 10 semesters without having passed the Second Examination, has received two “NRP” grades in succession, or has exceeded the time limit for the degree. The Graduate Center reviews each student’s record every semester.” (Graduate Center Bulletin, 2005-2007). At the time that the EES Program Office is notified that a student is not making satisfactory progress, according to the satisfactory progress criteria outlined in the Graduate Center Bulletin, the Executive Officer will submit a request to the student’s principal advisor requesting that documentation be provided as to the student’s current and expected progress toward the Ph.D. degree. Based on the response of the student’s advisor, the Executive Officer will attest to the student’s satisfactory progress, thus removing the hold on the student’s registration, or affirm that the student is not making satisfactory progress.


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