Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Atmospheric Science

The doctoral program in atmospheric science requires a minimum of sixty hours: 30 hours of course work and 30 hours of dissertation research. Programs are planned with the advisor and then approved by the student's dissertation committee. Such approval must be secured at latest by the second month of the second semester of study.  Changes in the approved program can be initiated by the student at any time but must be approved by the advisor and the committee. A Degree Program Sheet is used for your plan of study starting in the second year and must be completed and submitted before Comprehensive Exams.

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

Required Courses (or equivalent course work at another university)

  • 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
  • GEOG 980 (Seminar in Geography:  Colloquium) for 1 credit hour during each of the first two semesters of residence at KU.

Up to 12 hours of independent study may be used towards course work.

Research Skills Requirement:

The faculty consider it to be very important that students acquire a research skill in Mathematics or Engineering or a Related Discipline.  Six hours are required in courses at the 500 level or above.

Responsible Scholarship Requirement: 

As part of the University requirement that all Ph.D. students receive “training in responsible scholarship relative to the field of study,” the Department of Geography will conduct a non-credit training seminar in responsible scholarship to be held at the beginning of spring semester each year.  This requirement must be completed prior to taking the comprehensive exam.  The seminar consists of eight (8) contact hours between seminar leaders and Ph.D. students. 

Residency Requirement: 

In order to fulfill the university’s residency requirement, a student must be involved full-time in academics for two semesters.  One of these semesters can be a summer session.  Full-time is defined as any of the following combinations:

  •  9 credit hours per semester; or 6 credit hours per summer session;
  •  8 credit hours per semester with a 30% TA or RA;
  •  7 credit hours per semester with a 40% TA or RA;
  •  6 credit hours per semester with a 50% TA or RA;
  •  5 credit hours per summer session with a 25% TA or RA;
  •  3 credit hours per summer session with a 50% TA or RA.

Comprehensive Examination: 

The comprehensive examination is scheduled when the student and the advisor believe that competence in the specialty or specialties has been achieved.  Normally the process occurs after the student has completed nearly all of his/her coursework, although Graduate School regulations stipulate that the testing can take place as soon as five months after enrollment in the Ph.D. program.  Admittance to the examination is by approval of the GSC.  In petitioning for admittance, the student must submit the following materials at least three weeks prior to the scheduled examination (forms are available for 1 and 2 in the departmental office).

  1. A program sheet listing courses taken, grades received, etc.
  2. Demonstration that the Research Skills and Responsible Scholarship requirements have been satisfied. (see description above).
  3. Demonstration that the Residency Requirement has been satisfied (see description above).
  4. A written dissertation proposal approved by the advisor (see guidelines on previous pages of this document).
  5. A list of examination committee members.  The Graduate School requires that the committee consist of at least five members of the graduate faculty.  This consists of the student’s  advisor and four additional members.  The student’s advisor must have at least a partial FTE appointment (i.e., tenured or tenure-track) within the Department of Geography.  Should the student desire an advisor outside of the department, a departmental co-advisor is required.  At least one member must be from a KU department outside of geography and at least three members must represent the department.  Members are chosen by the student in consultation with the advisor on the basis of expertise in the areas of  specialization. They must also be approved by the GSC and recommended by the department to the Graduate School.
  6. The date and time proposed for the oral portion of the examination.

The comprehensive examination normally focuses on the student's areas of specialization, including proposed dissertation research.  It consists of two parts:  written questions submitted by the committee members and then an oral examination.  At least four members of the committee must submit written questions.  The procedure is for each examiner to give his/her questions to the chair of the student's committee at least one week before the written examinations begin.  The committee chair has the responsibility of screening these questions for overlap and clarity, and then administering them, one set per day.  The questions may be open-book or closed at the discretion of the individual submitting the questions, and the student normally will have up to eight hours to complete each set of questions.  At the conclusion of the written portion of the examination, the committee chair will poll the committee.  A majority of the members must approve their individual written portions of the examination in order for the second (oral) portion to take place.  In the oral section, students often are asked to elaborate and comment on their

Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam Procedures: 

In order to give committee members sufficient time to read and discuss responses to the written comprehensive examination questions, at least seven (7) calendar days must elapse between the date of the last written exam question and the meeting for the oral examination.  The gap between the last written exam question and the oral exam may be up to 30 calendar days.  Any exceptions to these policies must be unanimously agreed upon by all examination committee members and the chair of the Graduate Studies Committee.

The Doctoral Dissertation: 

Serious work on the dissertation should begin no later than the third full-time semester of study for the Ph.D. and well before the scheduling of the comprehensive examination.  When selecting a topic, the student first should make sure that an advisor exists who is able and willing to supervise on that subject.  Then, usually in close consultation with this advisor, a proposal is developed to articulate the research idea for the rest of the examination committee.  The advisor also serves as chair of this committee.

The dissertation committee, consisting of the advisor and at least four others, is designated immediately following the passing of the comprehensive examination and is usually comprised of members of the examination committee.  This committee must include at least one member from a KU department outside of geography and must have at least two members from Geography.  Committee members must be approved by the GSC and recommended to the Graduate School.

After successful completion of the comprehensive examination, the student is officially admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree (prior to this stage, the student is a Ph.D. aspirant).  By passing to the candidacy stage, the examination committee records its view that this person has a satisfactory dissertation proposal as well as the capability to complete the proposed task of research and writing.  Although formal coursework is finished at this point, continued scholarly and professional development obligates the candidate to continue attendance at special-interest seminars and colloquia while still in residence.

After passing the comprehensive oral examination, every student must be continuously enrolled, including summer sessions, from the time of candidacy until the dissertation is deposited at the Graduate School office.  The Graduate School further stipulates that a minimum enrollment of six hours is required each semester (plus three in summer) until a total of eighteen is achieved.  Thereafter the enrollment may be dropped to one hour per semester, assuming that the dissertation is deposited in the Graduate School office within six months after the defense.  Students who exceed this six-month limit must enroll in three hours per semester until the dissertation is so deposited.

When the dissertation committee has tentatively approved the dissertation, approval is sought from the Graduate Studies Committee to schedule the final oral defense.  At least five months must elapse between the successful completion of the comprehensive examination and the date of this oral defense.  The final oral defense committee has the same composition requirements as does the dissertation committee.  Approval of the Graduate School must be secured for the scheduling of this exam and the request must be submitted to the GSC three weeks prior to the proposed date for the examination.  Submission procedures for the dissertation are described elsewhere in this booklet.

When the final oral defense has been passed and the dissertation completed, both electronic and hardbound copies need to be prepared.  Both should include an abstract of no more than 150 words.  A hardbound copy ( 8 ½” x 11”) 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.  Bound copies can also be obtained through UMI Dissertation Publishing.  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 dissertation 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 College Graduate Studies Office in 102 Strong Hall.  Formats for both of these are at the graduate school website.  A copy of the title page should also be turned in to the Geography office.

The Graduate School has established a maximum time limit of eight years between initial enrollment in the doctoral program and completion of all degree requirements.  For people earning both M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from KU, the combined time limit is ten years.