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Degree Program

Atmospheric Science

Philosophy

The Department of Atmospheric Science offers programs leading to the Master of Science (M.S.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees. The degree programs incorporate both coursework and research activity components. Students take core courses and elective courses chosen from those offered in our graduate curriculum and through other departments. A student's coursework program may be tailored to his/her specific needs and interests.

Students earning degrees in Atmospheric Science must show proficiency in the core courses through adequate progress in the classroom. Students pursuing Ph.D. degrees must additionally pass a Qualifying Exam. The assessment (Qualifying Exam) is based on material from the core courses and provides an opportunity to demonstrate proficiency in topics covered in the core curriculum.

Degree Flow Chart

Degree Flow Chart

Road Map to a Degree

Students are admitted into the Atmospheric Science Program either as Master’s Degree Students (M.S. Students) or Ph.D. Degree Students (Ph.D. Students).

The majority of incoming students are M.S. students, although some of these may be ‘Ph.D. Bound.’ Until demonstration of proficiency in coursework and research, these remain M.S. students.

An exception for status of incoming students may be made for those whom already have earned M.S. Degrees (w/ thesis option) in a recognized Atmospheric Science or related discipline. These students, at the discretion of the student’s advisor and the Department Head, may be admitted as Ph.D. students.

M.S. Degree

Requirements for a Master’s Degree are set by the University and include a total of 30 hours; 26 hours of coursework and a minimum of 4 thesis research hours.

All M.S. students are required to complete the ATSC core courses (see M.S. Program of Study) that include 9/8 hours in the first/second semester and 3 hours in the third semester, for a total of 20 hours. The remaining 6 hours of coursework should be divided amongst electives directed toward courses relevant to the student’s research. Choice of appropriate electives should be made with consultation of the student’s advisor.

Completion of the UW Program of Study should be completed prior to the beginning of the third semester of coursework.

Research for M.S. students should begin during the first semester. Students are encouraged to meet with their advisors on a regular basis throughout the first semester to identify the primary objectives of their thesis research. Students will be expected to present their research objectives at the end of the first semester in the ATSC5018: Research Methods and Ethics.

Research should continue through the ensuing semesters (and breaks) and will become a larger portion of the student’s overall workload as course-load decreases. By the end of the second semester, students should have a committee and completed the UW Committee Assignment form.

Prior to (or during) the third semester, students should prepare a Research Plan. The Research Plan will be presented to the student’s committee who will vote to approve or disapprove the plan. Approval may include suggestions to improve the research outcome. The Research Plan will outline the student’s proposed research project and should include relevant background information (literature review), preliminary results from work already accomplished, a list of work to be completed, and a reasonable timeline. Details of the Research Plan are provided below.

Submission and approval of the Program of Study and approval of the Research Plan elevates the status of a M.S. Student to M.S. Candidate, along with a commensurate increase in stipend.

During the third and fourth semesters, M.S. Candidates will be completing the work outlined in the Research Plan. Compilation of the student’s thesis is often occurring at the same time. Ideally, the thesis defense will occur during or shortly after the fourth semester. The defense will consist of a public presentation of the student’s research followed by a question and answer session with the student’s committee.

Ph.D. Degree

Requirements for a Doctorate of Philosophy Degree are set by the University and include a total of 72 hours with a minimum of 42 hours of coursework. A maximum of 48 hours (including 4 thesis research hours) may be transferred from another institution.

All Ph.D. Students are required to demonstrate proficiency in the ATSC core courses. Depending on the student’s background, this may include taking some or all of the courses as part of the student’s curriculum. All Ph.D. students are ultimately required to demonstrate their proficiency through passing the Qualifying Exam. The Qualifying Exam will be administered at the end of each spring semester and Ph.D. students (or M.S. Students that are ‘Ph.D. Bound’) should plan on taking the exam at the end of their second semester of coursework.

‘Ph.D. Bound’ M.S. Students that successfully pass the Qualifying Exam and who demonstrate advanced research and writing skills through the preparation of their Research Plan (see below) may petition the department to become Ph.D. students. Approval to change the status of a ‘Ph.D. Bound’ M.S. Student to a Ph.D. Student is made at the discretion of the Department Head and the student’s advisor.

Shortly after passing the Qualifying Exam, Ph.D. students should form a committee and complete the UW Committee Assignment form. Ph.D. students will continue with their coursework through ensuing semesters. There is no set requirement for number of courses to be taken each semester. It is expected that students will continue with 3 to 6 credits of coursework per semester in areas most relevant to their research. Electives should be chosen in consultation with student’s advisors.

Prior to (and during) the third semester, students should begin preparing a Research Plan. The Research Plan will outline the student’s proposed research project and should include relevant background information (literature review), preliminary results from work already accomplished, a list of work to be completed, and a reasonable timeline. Details of the Research Plan are provided below. Presentation of the Research Plan to the committee should take place during the second year. Concurrent with the development and presentation of the Research Plan, Ph.D. students will complete a UW Program of Study that must be approved by the committee and filed with the University.

Presentation and defense of the Research Plan to the student’s committee will fulfill the UW requirement for a Preliminary Examination. The Research Plan should provide sufficient detail to demonstrate the student’s capability to conduct the intended research and should also demonstrate the uniqueness and relevance of the work to be accomplished. Sufficient research should already be completed to allow the committee to assess the student’s capability. If the committee approves the Research Plan, this is a ‘pass’ of the Preliminary Exam and results in elevating the student’s status to Ph.D. Candidate, with a commensurate increase in stipend. Failure of the Preliminary Exam may place the student back on the M.S. track or the student may be asked to complete additional work and re-take the Preliminary Exam.

During the ensuing years, Ph.D. Candidates will complete the work outlined in the Research Plan. Compilation of the student’s dissertation and submission of manuscripts to peer-reviewed journals often occurs at the same time. Ideally, the dissertation defense will occur during the fourth or fifth year. The defense will consist of a public presentation of the candidate’s research followed by a question and answer session with the student’s committee.

ATSC Core Courses

ATSC Required Courses for Ph.D.

First Semester (may be taken as elective for M.S. students)
Physical Meteorology I 4 Credits Cloud and Precipitation Systems 3 Credits
Dynamic Meteorology I 4 Credits
Ethics and Research Methods 1 Credit
Second Semester

ATSC Elective Courses

Physical Meteorology II 4 Credits {list of courses}
Synoptic and Mesoscale Meteorology 4 Credits
Third Semester
Climate Science and Climate Change 3 Credits

ATSC Research Plan

The Research Plan will document, in a concise format, the research that the student will conduct as part of his or her M.S. Thesis or Ph. D. Dissertation. Elements that should be included are: background information illustrating the utility and/or relevance of the research that is being proposed, overall scope of the project that includes both work to be accomplished and work already completed, preliminary findings resulting from work that has been completed (this may include reference to conference presentations or manuscripts that have been submitted for publication), and details of the work to be accomplished with a timeline for completing that work.

The Research Plan should be no longer than 15 pages following NSF style guidelines for research proposals. Research Plans for M.S. projects may be shorter. Research Plans for Ph.D. projects should be considerably more developed. Either plan should convey to the Committee the uniqueness and importance of the project being proposed.

Qualifying Exam

The Qualifying Exam is designed such that students will take the assessment following the completion of their second semester of coursework. Topics in the exam are drawn primarily from Physical Meteorology I & II, and Dynamic and Synoptic/Mesoscale Meteorology. Students taking the exam are expected to be able to apply what they have learned in these classes to real‐world problems in Atmospheric Science that span topical areas. Students may be asked to apply concepts from these classes to topics that were discussed in colloquiums throughout the previous two semesters.

The Qualifying Exam is administered in the spring of every year, shortly after the end of the semester. The exam will typically be administered in two parts, given over two days. The ATSC faculty will grade the exams and determine pass/fail for each student taking the exam. For students that fail, the student’s advisor in consultation with the Department Head and the ATSC faculty, will decide how best to proceed for that student. This may include moving the student into the M.S. Program, administering another exam (written or oral) in a particular focus area, and/or a recommendation to re-take courses in the core curriculum.


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Phone: (307)766-3245

Email: parish@uwyo.edu

1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071
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