Master of Science (M.S.) Atmospheric Science

The study of atmospheric science expands the student's knowledge of fundamental atmospheric processes and how the atmosphere interacts with other parts of the environment. Students become familiar with quantitative research methods and how these various approaches can be used to address different problems in atmospheric science. Students gain an in depth ability to learn specific skills and apply them toward his/her thesis work. These skills consist of, for example, statistical analysis techniques, numerical modeling, or work with atmospheric instrumentation. The breadth of the program and the diverse research topics explored by the faculty are able to accommodate students with a variety of interests. An M.S. Degree Program Sheet is used for your plan of study starting in the second year.

Current course requirements can also be viewed in the KU online catalogue.

1. Coursework

The program requires only a few specific courses and allows a wide variety of courses to count toward meeting the degree requirements. The Program Sheet (M.S. Atmospheric Science is used to map progress. 

Required credit hours:

 30 credits 500 level or above.

Required Courses:

 ATMO 710 Atmospheric Dynamics

 ATMO 720 Atmospheric Modeling

 GEOG 716 Advanced Geostatistics

Half-day (non-credit) orientation before classes begin in the fall semester of your first year


 3 additional credits of atmospheric science courses 700 level or above

 6 credit hours of courses 500 level or above outside of the Geography department

Course Credit Limitations:

 A maximum of 6 credits of 500 and 600 level Atmospheric Science courses may be

 included in the program (excluding ATMO 505)

A maximum of 6 credit hours of ATMO 899.

2. Thesis

A master's thesis is a demonstration of a student's ability to formulate an atmospheric science research problem, collect and analyze relevant data, synthesize appropriate literature, arrive at logical conclusions, and present the entire exercise in a public academic forum. The thesis should address an original problem of scientific importance, though at the M.S. level, the research will to a significant degree be guided by the faculty advisor.

Thesis proposal

During the second semester in the program, the student must submit to his committee a thesis research plan. All M.S thesis proposals are expected to contain three basic elements:

1. A statement of the research problem or questions to be investigated.

 2. A survey of relevant literature and how it relates to the student's research problem

 3. An outline of the general methodology, if not specific techniques, to be utilized in addressing the research problem or answering the basic research questions.

Thesis seminar and defense

Students are required to make a formal presentation to the faculty and fellow students in the form of a research seminar, and subsequently defend orally to their committee the results of their thesis research. Ideally, the final examination takes place immediately following the research seminar, but if necessary the two can be scheduled at separate times.

As part of their research training, graduate students are expected to attend departmental colloquia and seminars.


Entering students are ideally expected to have completed an undergraduate degree in a physical science (e.g., physics, chemistry, atmospheric science, oceanography), mathematics, or engineering. Entering students will be expected to have studied mathematics, including vector calculus and ordinary differential equations. Applicants holding an undergraduate degree in another subject, yet having a sufficient mathematical background, will be considered for admission. Prospective students should also have taken the equivalent of at least 2 semesters of calculus-based physics and one of chemistry. If the student needs to take formal coursework to make up a deficiency, these credit hours will not count toward the M.S. A deficiency may be removed by 1) passing the specified course with at least a "C," 2) auditing the course and receiving a letter from the instructor indicating that the course requirements have been met, or 3) passing a written and/or oral examination comparable to the final exam. Deficiencies will be specified at matriculation and must be completed before the M.S. thesis defense is taken.

Program and Coursework

The program at the M.S. level continues the general training of the bachelor's degree but also provides for the development of concentration in preparation for thesis research, employment, or advanced study. Upon a student's admission to the department, the Graduate Studies Committee will appoint an advisor. Early in the first semester (preferably in the first week of classes), the student should meet with this advisor to outline a tentative program of coursework for the degree. Such programs should be solidified by the time of enrollment for the second semester and submitted to the GSC for approval. The student and advisor then continue to discuss and update programs each semester, bearing in mind that any substantive changes must be approved by the GSC. Program sheets are available in the department office and must be filed before the thesis defense can be scheduled. The student will have a thesis committee consisting of at least three faculty members. At least two of these faculty members must regularly teach in the atmospheric sciences program.

The Master's Thesis

Ideally, work on the M.S. thesis research should begin during the second full-time semester. During this second semester, the student should decide on the general area of thesis research and select a member of the faculty who is competent in that area and willing to supervise the thesis and serve as the student's general advisor. This faculty member may be different from the initial advisor. Two additional faculty members must also read and approve the thesis and sign it after a successful defense. One of these two readers may be from outside the program. All committee members must be approved by the GSC (Graduate Studies Committee) and recommended to the graduate school. Submission procedures for the thesis are discussed below.

Submission of Thesis for Committee Examination

The complete thesis draft should be submitted directly to the advisor, and the advisor's approval must be received before the thesis draft is passed on to other committee members and the final oral examination is scheduled. Five weeks before the intended date of a student's final oral examination, the student (with approval of the committee chair), will submit this complete draft of the thesis to all committee members. The advisor and committee members have a responsibility to provide timely evaluations. Within two weeks of this submission, committee members must indicate whether or not the thesis is defendable by signing a "Permission to Schedule Defense" form.

Submission of the Approved Thesis

When the thesis has been completed and successfully defended, both electronic and hardbound copies need to be prepared. Both should include an abstract of no more than 150 words. A hardbound copy with original signatures by the advisor and the other two committee members is required for the department. The KU Libraries recommend the following binders that can bind paper copies of your thesis and additionally offer print-from-electronic file services: 1) Heckman Bindery  or 2) Acme Bookbinding. The student must turn in a receipt showing that arrangements have been made for such work prior to the deadline for graduation set by the Graduate School. It is also customary for the student to provide a bound copy for the advisor.

The thesis must be submitted to the Graduate School and UMI Dissertation Publishing electronically using Portable Document Format (PDF). Instructions for this process are available at the KU graduate school website. See also UMI's website. In addition to this electronic submittal, a student must submit a paper copy of the title page and an "acceptance page" with original signatures to the CLAS Graduate Studies office in 108 Strong Hall. Formats for both of these are at the graduate studies website.

Other Procedures

All master's students who have completed required coursework for their degrees are required to be continuously enrolled until all requirements for the degree are completed. No enrollment is necessary for the summer term. The Graduate School has established a maximum time limit of seven years between initial graduate enrollment and completion of all degree requirements.