Graduate Program


Student in Petrenko Ice Lab

Graduate degree programs offered:

The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences has a small but ambitious PhD program. The moderate size of the department and low student/faculty ratio allow close personal interactions between the students and faculty. Students are encouraged to work closely with their advisors to design programs that fit their interests and goals.

Photo: A PhD student sets up a carbon 14 extraction line in Assistant Professor Vasilii Petrenko's ice lab.


Research in the department is a healthy blend of field-oriented studies, laboratory research and theoretical approaches. Field research projects range from local problems in Appalachian geology, to problems in the Cordilleran mountain chain, and to areas as far a field as India, the high Arctic and South America. Typically, research projects are funded by the National Science Foundation or similar agencies. Laboratory research is done both within the University, and on cooperative projects at other universities or at the U.S. Geological Survey. The section on research provides an overview of current and recent research projects.


PhD students are expected to spend 3 to 5 semesters in intensive coursework (both within the department and in other departments) before taking their qualifying examinations. They are encouraged to start research as early as possible, and are expected to spend all their time on research after having passed the qualifying exams. An integral part of the education is the involvement of graduate students in undergraduate teaching in the early years here.

For PhD degree requirements, see our Department Graduate Student Handbook, page 14.

Students applying to the PhD program are given preference during the review of applications.


The department has a MS program, which also emphasizes the involvement in research projects. Typically, students joining the MS program do course work during the first year and complete MS research and thesis in their second year.

For Master degree requirements, see our Department Graduate Student Handbook, page 23.

Undergraduate students within the department may apply for the 5th Year Masters program. Students in this program typically continue their senior thesis research with their academic advisor. Graduate courses taken during the 4th year that are not required for the undergraduate degree program may be applied towards the masters degree.