Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
earning a Ph.D. degree, students acquire an advanced level of knowledge
in a specialty of atmospheric or oceanic sciences, and demonstrate an
ability to conduct independent, novel research on current problems.
They also refine their ability to present and defend their work both
orally and in writing.
Steps necessary to complete this degree include: (1) qualifying
examination passage to demonstrate potential to conduct independent
research. For information regarding this topic please visit Qualifying Exam FAQ's;
(2) formation of a Ph.D. committee; (3) completion of general
background in atmospheric/oceanic sciences; (4) broadening your
educational experiences (two requirements: minor and supplemental); (5)
acquisition of focused knowledge on the particular research topic; (6)
preliminary examination; (7) original research; (8) dissertation
writing; and (9) oral presentation and final defense.
A major professor guides the student along these steps. The major
professor must be identified before the student can be admitted into
our Ph.D. program.
The timeline for receiving a PhD degree is approximately 4-5 years.
normally take a full time credit load of 8 to 12 credits each semester
(maximum 15) prior to the preliminary examination. During this time
they complete the minor course requirements, the ATM OCN 900 course
requirements, and any other required courses. As time continues, a
larger percentage of the credits each semester are research and/or
seminar credits, as recommended by the major professor and Ph.D.
After the preliminary exam, the student can take only 3 credits each semester as a dissertator.
Ph.D. student must meet annually with their committee to discuss degree
progress. A written summation of the meeting should be given to the
grad coordinator for the student's file.
Each student must make satisfactory progress, as specified by the
departmental and Graduate School satisfactory progress guidelines,
which are available from the grad chair or grad coordinator. Failure to
maintain satisfactory progress may result in probation, or dismissal
from the department. The Ph.D. degree should be completed within five
years. All grades must be C or better to count towards the degree. The
cumulative GPA in Graduate School must be no less than 3.0.
A semester GPA below 3.0 will result in the
student being placed on academic probation. If a semester GPA of 3.0 is
not attained during the subsequent semester of full time enrollment (or
12 credits of enrollment if enrolled part-time) the student may be
dismissed from the program or allowed to continue for 1 additional
semester based on advisor appeal to the Graduate School. The Graduate
School regularly reviews the record of any student who earned grades of
BC, C, D, F, or Incomplete in a graduate course (300 or above), or
grade of U in research credits. This review could result in academic
probation with a hold on future enrollment or in being suspended from
the Graduate School.
1. Ph.D. Qualifying Exam
This written exam, offered each fall semester, tests the candidate's
ability to formulate problems, suggest logical methods of solution, and
synthesize diverse aspects of problems relevant to the atmosphere
and/or ocean, as is necessary for conducting original research. A
fundamental background in general atmospheric sciences including
dynamics, as well as college calculus, physics, and chemistry is
assumed. This background is normally obtained by completing an M.S.
degree, or approximately two semesters of full time graduate study in
the atmospheric and oceanic sciences.
results of the departmental qualifying exam, along with other
information, will be used by faculty members to determine if they are
willing to form a formal Ph.D. committee and administer a preliminary
The exam should be taken within one
year of completion of the MS degree or within two years of beginning
graduate studies at UW-Madison if student already has MS or intends to
go directly for the Ph.D. For more information regading this topic
please visit Qualifying Exam FAQ's
exam will consist of a formal written exam. The exam will be
administered over a two day period at the start of the fall semester.
The exam will be prepared from faculty input by an examination
committee appointed by the Chair.
question will be graded by at least two faculty members. The graders
will not know the identity of the candidates. The examination committee
will provide a clear pass/fail determination for each question. The
results of the exam grading will be presented to and discussed with the
entire faculty. The advisor will meet with the student after this
faculty meeting to discuss the results of the exam. Candidates who fail
may take the exam once more.
2. Formation of a Ph.D. Committee
The candidate, under the guidance of the major professor, must form a
committee of five professors to supervise and evaluate their work. The
committee consists of the major professor, three other professors from
our department, and one professor from outside our department (often
from the minor department). Additional members may be added if
appropriate. Adjunct faculty CAN now be included in the five committee
members. If the committee dissolves for any reason, the candidate
cannot continue in the Ph.D. program unless a new committee is formed.
The first meeting of this committee should normally occur after the
Qualifying Exam, but within the same semester. During this first
meeting, the committee reviews the student's professional history and
general research plans, recommends any additional courses or activities
that might be needed, agrees on a minor, specifies any additional or
supplemental requirements, and sets a date for the preliminary exam.
Results from this meeting are submitted in writing to the grad chair to
be filed with the student's academic record. This letter indicates that
a committee has indeed been formed.
3. Completion of General Atmospheric or Oceanic Background
the first Ph.D. committee meeting, the committee specifies how the
following requirements are to be (or have been) met:
Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Breadth. Specific requirements are
determined by the Ph.D. committee during its first meeting. Generally,
atmospheric and oceanic sciences breadth includes a background in
dynamics, weather and climate, physical meteorology/oceanography, and
observation techniques, equivalent to that required by the M.S. core
Please see this link for the Graduate School catalog description of requirements.
Effective for students starting Ph.D. program on or after Fall 2014: The
Graduate school requires 51 credit minimum, at least 32 of which must
be earned while in residence at UW-Madison.
At least 15 credits are from lecture courses
numbered 600 or above in the department. Seminars, research credits,
and audited courses are not included.
An additional 10 (at least) credits are
taken to satisfy the minor requirement (see below). These credits may
be from the department, but cannot be used to satisfy the previous
requirement (15 credits from lecture courses numbered 600 or above in
Students are required to take the 1-credit Atm Ocn 900 seminar, typically offered in the spring semester.
The remaining credits can include courses (400-level
or higher, 300-level with permission of advisor and/or Graduate Chair) in or outside
the department, research seminars, thesis research credits, or
For these credits, half of degree coursework
(26 credits out of 51 total credits) must be completed in graduate
numbered 700 or above, or in courses 300-699 designated
as graduate courses, have >50% graduate enrollment, or assess
graduate students separately from undergraduates, including: Atm Ocn
500–507, 510–599, 600–680.
All grades must be C or better to count towards the degree. The Graduate School requires an average grade of B or better in all
coursework (300 or above, not including research credits) taken as a
graduate student unless conditions for probationary status require
higher grades. Grades of Incomplete are considered to be unsatisfactory
if they are not removed during the next enrolled semester.
With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 19
credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. With program
approval, students are allowed to count no more than 7 credits of
graduate coursework taken as an undergraduate at UW–Madison, as long as
those credits were not applied toward an undergraduate degree. With
program approval and payment of the difference in tuition (between
Special and graduate tuition), students are allowed to count no more
than 15 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a
UW–Madison Special student. In all cases, coursework earned five or
more years prior to admission to a master's degree or earned ten years
or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to
Students continuously enrolled prior to Fall 2014 may use our older credit requirements: The
student must take and pass at least 15 credits of lecture courses
numbered 600 and higher in our department. Seminars and audited courses
are not included. Courses taken while working on an M.S. count toward
this requirement. The Graduate School requires 32 graduate level
credits (300 or above) earned at the UW-Madison. They will not allow
transfer credits from another school to satisfy this requirement. Since
not all 300 level courses are acceptable by the department, check with
your advisor before taking any of these courses.
Courses Outside of AOS
Here is a listing of courses that students have taken outside of the department to satisfy degree requirements.
4. Broadening Requirements
At the first committee meeting, the committee specifies how the
following two broadening requirements will be satisfied:
Requirement. A minor program consists of Option A (external) 10 or more
course credits in one discipline or Option B (distributed) 10 or more
credits in one or more departments and can include course work in the
major department. Selection of Option A requires approval of the minor
department. Selection of Option B requires approval of the major
department. The department monitors minor requirements.
The supplemental requirement is specified by the Ph.D. committee during
the first Ph.D. committee meeting. Possibilities include:
- an augmented minor, consisting of more than the minimum number of courses required by the Graduate School;
- substantial foreign language skill;
- significant field or professional experience: or
- interdisciplinary courses, or other courses related to the Ph.D. research, at the professional level.
Some of these possibilities can be met by prior experience.
5. Focused Knowledge, and the Research Proposal
The student conducts a literature search to gain state-of-the-art
knowledge in the chosen research area. During this literature search,
potential new research topics are identified. The student works with
the major professor to focus this knowledge and define an appropriate
research topic. This topic is written into a several page research
proposal that is given to the Ph.D. committee members a few weeks prior
to the preliminary examination.
6. Preliminary Examination
The Ph.D. committee administers an oral preliminary exam that is
essentially a defense of the research proposal. It is normally taken
within about one year after completion of the qualifying exam, which
roughly coincides with the time when all of the other course
requirements are completed. About three weeks before the exam, the
candidate requests the Minor Agreement Form and the PhD. Preliminary
Exam Warrant Application from the grad coordinator of our department.
After the forms are returned, the grad coordinator will request the
Preliminary Warrant from the Graduate School. The candidate should
bring the warrant to the examination.
During the examination, the candidate first gives a short presentation
to the committee summarizing the proposed research. The committee then
asks questions of the candidate to ensure that the problem is solvable
within a couple years, and that the candidate has sufficient skill and
background to solve it. If the committee wishes, it may administer a
written portion of the preliminary examination in addition to, or
instead of, the oral portion. If the student passes the exam, the Ph.D.
committee members sign the warrant, and the student becomes a Ph.D.
candidate. A letter summarizing the results of this examination is
written by the major professor and given to the grad coordinator to be
placed in the student's file.
must register each Spring and Fall for 3 credits. They register for 3
credits of research ATM OCN 990. Summer registration of 3 credits is
required for research assistants, trainees, fellows and dissertators
using university facilities. Dissertators cannot register for any
courses without special permission. For more information about Graduate
School Academic Policies and Procedures please visit http://www.wisc.edu/grad/education/acadpolicy/guidelines.html#181
7. Original Research
After the preliminary examination and all course requirements are
successfully completed, the student normally concentrates on conducting
research, and is designated a dissertator. The research might continue
for one semester to several years, depending on the project.
During this research, the student works closely with the major
professor. The Ph.D. committee receives progress reports at least every
year from the student, and offers advice where appropriate.
results of the research are written into a report called a
dissertation. This dissertation includes a statement of goals,
literature review, list of methods and procedures, research results,
conclusions, and other sections as appropriate. The major professor
checks the dissertation closely, and recommends changes and
corrections. When a semi-final draft of the dissertation has been
completed and approved by the major professor, copies are given to each
of the Ph.D. committee members. They might also recommend changes.
Graduate School format requirements must be followed. Our department
does not have any formatting requirements. Information on these guidelines is available on the Graduate School's web site. Information on deadlines, defending and depositing your dissertation is also available.
9. Oral Presentation and Final Defense
After the dissertation is accepted by all committee members, the
student requests in advance a final Ph.D. warrant from the grad
coordinator. The warrant should be ordered at least three weeks before
the final defense. They present the research results at a public
departmental seminar called a Ph.D. Seminar, typically held in
conjunction with our Monday colloquium series.
student schedules a time when all committee members can meet with the
student for a final defense. At this final examination, the student
gives a brief oral presentation summarizing the final results, and
defends the research during oral questions from the Ph.D. committee. If
the committee is satisfied with the defense, they sign the warrant. The
student takes the signed warrant to the Graduate School at the time of
the final thesis review. An unbound or electronic copy of the
dissertation is given to the Memorial Library, following the
requirements set by the graduate school. Hardbound copies are given to
the department, to the major professor, and to any other committee
members who request it. The Graduate School checks to see that all
requirements are satisfied, and awards the Ph.D. degree.
information on commencement, you can call the Commencement Information
Hotline at 262-9076. You can also get information on the web site for
the Secretary of the Faculty.
If you have an assistantship, it will end on the date that you deposit your thesis at the Graduate School.