Thesis Option

The thesis option is intended for those students who wish to pursue a career in research in the Atmospheric Sciences. This option is strongly recommended for students who wish to later pursue a Ph.D. degree.


When the thesis is near completion, or is completed, the student is required to give a departmental seminar on their research. The seminar is intended to permit the departmental faculty to assess the student’s skills in organizing and presenting a self-contained piece of 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.

For students entering the program in or after Fall 2019, the seminar for M.S. students may be shortened to 30 min (25 min presentation and 5 min questions); the advisor may elect for their students to give a full 50 min seminar.

The departmental seminar must be given at least two weeks before the defense.


Students entering the program in or after Fall 2019 will be required to pass an oral defense focused on their research as part of the thesis M.S. degree requirements.  The defense may also include broader course-related questions pertaining to the student’s research. The defense will be attended by the committee and will be initially open to the public. The public portion of the defense will be followed by a closed committee session for further examination of the student by the committee. Two positive votes (one of them by the advisor) are required for passing the defense. If two positive votes are not obtained, the student can attempt to defend the thesis research once more within six months. The defense will be in addition to the departmental seminar that each M.S. student is already required to give. 

The student’s committee must receive the M.S. thesis draft no later than two weeks before the defense. At least two of the three members (one of them being the advisor) must approve the thesis before the final defense may be held.


All departmental theses must satisfy the format regulations described in the Graduate College Thesis Handbook.  Students should be aware of these guidelines prior to writing their thesis.  A department staff member will generally perform the format check. After the format approval has been obtained, the approval of the thesis by the advisor and the Department Head constitute an official acceptance. The thesis may account for up to 8 hours of credit toward the required 32 hours. 


Students who entered the program before Fall 2019 that elected to pursue the thesis option can, with the Graduate Affairs Committee (GAC) approval, continue directly into the Ph.D. track following completion of all Master’s degree requirements. The student must notify the Department Head regarding their intention to petition to continue into the Ph.D. program, two weeks prior to the departmental seminar. If the student fails to inform the department, then they may enter the Ph.D. program only through re-applying to the DAS graduate program through standard University admission procedures. A letter of assessment is required from the student’s M.S. advisor and a letter of support from the anticipated Ph.D. advisor. If the student plans to continue their Ph.D. with the same advisor, one letter of support is sufficient. The GAC will evaluate the candidate based on the following information: course performance, M.S. thesis, seminar presentation, letter(s) of assessment/support, and the student’s annual review documents. Within fourteen days after receiving the student’s material, the committee members will vote, and the GAC Chair will notify the Department Head of the outcome.

For students entering the program in or after Fall 2019, the M.S. Committee will evaluate the student performance at the conclusion of the defense to determine their suitability for the Ph.D. program. The decision will be made by the advisor with input from the other two committee members. A written record of the evaluation and the decision will be included in the student’s file.