All candidates for the Ph.D. degree are required to have completed five of the six core courses: Atmospheric Dynamics (ATMS 500), Weather Systems (ATMS 505), Atmospheric Chemistry (ATMS 420), Precipitation Physics (ATMS 510), Atmospheric Radiation (ATMS 511), and Climate Dynamics (ATMS 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 these core courses, 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. Students should complete the core course requirements as early in their program as possible. Non-core courses may be completed at any time prior to graduation.

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 Illinois 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 five of the six core courses (ATMS 420, 500, 505, 507, 510, 511) within the first 3 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.