PhD 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 ATMS 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. The first attempt of the Preliminary Examination must be taken:

  • by the end of year 2 for students who enter the Ph.D. program with an M.S. in Atmospheric Sciences,
  • by the end of year 3 for students who enter the Ph.D. program with an M.S. outside of Atmospheric Sciences,
  • by the end of year 4 for students who enter the Ph.D. program with a B.S.

Under extenuating circumstances, students in consultation with their advisor may petition to the GAC for a time extension. The petition must include a statement from the student and a statement from the advisor. However, students need to be aware of the Graduate College’s time limits. Students who do not successfully pass their preliminary exam within the Graduate College’s time limits will be put on academic probation.

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.