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Doctor of Philosophy in Earth System Science

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Earth System Science

The UMass Lowell Department of Environmental, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences (EEAS) offers the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Earth System Science program.
The goal of the program is to produce graduates in the field of Earth System Science with expertise within the student’s core discipline while developing a deep understanding of processes and connections within and across multiple earth system components. These components are the geosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere. Foundation courses will provide a broad and deep understanding of the basic principles of Earth System Science and research.
The Ph.D. program will provide the student with the ability to perform independent high-quality research within their discipline while being able to engage in inter- and cross-disciplinary collaborations with other researchers and professionals. Graduates of the program will have excellent critical thinking, analytical, and communication skills. The students in the program will further have significant technology-based and hands-on experiences and systems thinking expertise. Students are expected to perform original research for their dissertation by formulating testable scientific hypotheses, designing and conducting field and laboratory experiments, performing numerical computations, constructing and using computer models and/or developing and applying analytical techniques. They will expand the frontiers of knowledge in their respective field, present their work at professional meetings, and write a dissertation on their research. Alumni of successful Earth System Science programs are employed in the public and private sectors, including environmental consulting and remediation, energy and natural resources development, weather and climate forecasting, water resources management, aviation industry, the agriculture sector and education.
The program will follow the general admission requirements for graduate students that are in place at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. A non-waivable and non-refundable application fee must be received before the application is processed. Each applicant must file the following documents:
  • A completed application form.
  • Official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate records.
  • Three letters of recommendation written by individuals qualified to judge the ability of the applicant to carry on graduate work and research.
  • The official score report for the "Test of English as a Foreign Language" (TOEFL) for students from countries where English is not the national language.
  • For Fall 2023 and beyond applications, the GRE exam is no longer required.
Degree Requirements
  • Completion of a minimum of 54 credits, with a minimum of 24 credits of course work and 24 credits of dissertation research
  • Completion of the required Core PhD-level courses (4 courses, 10 credits)
  • Participation in Teaching Assistantship, Research Assistantships, and/or Industry Internships
  • Writing of a Dissertation Proposal for approval by the Dissertation Advisory Committee and a public oral proposal defense.
  • Passing of the Qualifying Exam
  • Reports of regular updates (at least annually) to a Dissertation Advisory Committee and submission of written action item reports after each meeting
  • Approval of written Dissertation Thesis and successful completion of Oral Dissertation Defense
Program Curriculum
See the complete Ph.D degree pathway.
Plan of Study
The program is structured to ensure that student progress is actively monitored and evaluated and that students will move through the program in a timely manner.
At the end of year 1, students will take an evaluation exam to identify areas of knowledge in Earth Systems Science in which they need further specific instruction.
In year 2, the student will be required to prepare and submit a written proposal to their Dissertation Advisory Committee. Upon reading and evaluating the proposal, the Dissertation Advisory Committee will administer the public presentation and defense of the proposal, followed by an oral examination. This examination is pass/fail. If the student fails, they can retake the oral examination with six months (during the first semester of Year Three). Two “fails” on the oral examination will result in the student’s release from the PhD program. Students who fail in this fashion who do not have a M.S. degree but have satisfied the requirements for that degree will be offered a M.S. degree.
In years 2 - 5, the student will meet with their Dissertation Advisory Committee every 6-12 months to provide updates on research progress and prepare an “Action Item Report” after each meeting. The reports will be reviewed and approved by the Dissertation Advisory Committee and submitted to the EEAS Department office to be included in the student’s academic record. The student will develop his/her dissertation and defend it successfully before the Committee.
A standing Committee will be comprised of three faculty members from the Department of Environmental, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (EEAS) and at least two faculty members from other participating departments (e.g., Civil and Environmental Engineering, Biology, Environmental Health and Safety) at UMass Lowell.
updated 3/16/2023