Jul 17, 2024  
Graduate Catalog 2018-19 
Graduate Catalog 2018-19 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Doctor of Philosophy in Geosciences

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The Doctor of Philosophy in Geosciences is a research degree designed for persons intending to take leadership roles in teaching and research in one of four core areas of the Geosciences: Hydrogeology; Geochemistry and Economic Geology; Geophysics and Tectonics; Stratigraphy and Sedimentary Geology. Applicants will be expected to meet the minimum entrance requirements of the Graduate College and must demonstrate an interest in, and aptitude for, conducting high quality research.

Please note: Under exceptional circumstances, a student may request that the primary advisor petition the faculty for approval of modifications to the timelines stated below. Exceptions may only be granted by faculty vote.


Admission Requirements

  1. Bachelor’s or master’s degree in geology or related field is required; an M.S. degree is strongly recommended. Students must have completed, or must complete as soon as possible upon enrollment, GEOS 1300, 1310, 3010 or 3350, and a field experience such as 5390 or its equivalent. Any remedial course work completed upon enrollment in the graduate program must be completed with grade of “B” or better to satisfy this requirement. For students who enter the program with course work deficiencies, program requirement timelines (see below) will begin once remedial work has been satisfactorily completed, rather than upon matriculation in the program.
  2. Grade-point average of 3.25 (of 4.0) for prior graduate work. To be admitted without an M.S. degree, a GPA of at least 3.25 (of 4.0) during the previous two years of undergraduate work is required.
  3. Three letters of recommendation are required of all applicants from persons well situated to evaluate his/her qualifications for graduate study. If they are coming from a faculty member at a college or university, the letter should be on that school’s letterhead. Letters must be submitted through the WMU electronic application system.
  4. Applicants must submit the results of the Verbal Reasoning, Analytical Writing, and Quantitative Reasoning portions of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).


Financial Assistance

Several departmental, University and grant-funded fellowships, teaching assistantships, and research assistantships are available. Application forms and additional information are available from the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences and from the Graduate College.

Program Requirements

1. Choose a graduate advisor within two semesters following matriculation.

Within three semesters following matriculation, the student must choose a doctoral committee. This committee will be chaired by the student’s primary advisor, and must include one other faculty member from within the Geological and Environmental Sciences Department, as well as a third committee member from outside the Geological and Environmental Sciences Department. It is strongly recommended that the third committee member be chosen from an outside research facility or university, although members may also be chosen from other programs at WMU, if appropriate. The committee should be chosen to reflect the doctoral student’s expressed research interests. The committee will facilitate and guide the student’s development within the academic and research programs of the department and University.

2. Complete at least three research credit hours

directed toward preparing a dissertation research proposal, with the student’s primary graduate advisor by the end of the second semester of residence.

3. Qualifying Requirement.

This requirement must be completed no later than the end of the fourth semester in residence. Students must achieve an average grade of “BA” in three of four core graduate courses. One graduate course in each of the four areas (Hydrology, Geochemistry and Economic Geology, Geophysics and Tectonics, Stratigraphy and Sedimentary Geology) will be designated as a “core” course (see graduate advisor for details). In some cases, students may enter the program with a strong background in one or more of the core areas. Such students may be excused from enrolling in one or more core courses by achieving a grade of “B” or better on the final examination for the course(s). Students who do not achieve a “B” or better in a core area on their first attempt (or an overall average of “BA” for the three courses) will be given one additional opportunity to either pass each core course or the final examination with a grade sufficient to achieve an average of “BA” for the three courses.

4. Proposal Examination:

By the end of the fourth semester, students must develop a written proposal describing their planned doctoral research. This proposal will be presented in a public 20-minute talk. The talk will be followed by a closed-door oral examination, to be conducted by the student’s doctoral committee. Students who do not pass the proposal exam will be given one additional opportunity to repeat the examination. A second attempt must be made within a timeframe to be determined by the student’s doctoral committee, and must occur within one year of the first attempt. If the external committee member cannot be present on campus for the proposal examination, they may attend virtually or submit written comments or questions.

5. Complete at least sixty (60) total credit hours

of which thirty (30) credit hours must be at the 6000-level or above. At least eighteen (18) GEOS graduate credit hours of course work is required, not including credit from courses used to fulfill the core course requirement, exclusive of GEOS 6340: Research in Geology and Earth Science, GEOS 7100: Independent Research, GEOS 7120: Professional Field Experience, GEOS 7300: Doctoral Dissertation, and GEOS 7350: Graduate Research.

6. Enroll in the following course for at least one semester:

7. Complete 15 hours of the following:

8. Demonstrate proficiency in two appropriate research tools.

At least one of the research tools must be completed outside of the student’s declared core area of study. Students are strongly encouraged to complete at least one tool via course work or other training outside of the Geological and Environmental Sciences Department. For details regarding acceptable research skills, consult with the graduate advisor. Research tools may include:

  • Achieving a working knowledge of statistics by receiving a grade of “B” or better in an approved course or by showing the ability to apply advanced statistical analysis to the doctoral research.
  • Demonstrating competence in computer science or programming by receiving a grade of “B” or better in an approved course or by applying computer programming to the doctoral research.
  • Demonstrating proficiency in areas relevant to the doctoral research, including mathematics, biological sciences, chemistry, geography, remote sensing, physics, or engineering. Proficiency will be demonstrated by achieving a grade of “B” or better in an approved graduate course.
  • Mastering the design, repair or development of instrumentation used as part of an approved Geosciences course or in the doctoral research.
  • Demonstrating development, while enrolled in the doctoral program, of reading competency in a foreign language relevant (as deemed by the student’s primary advisor) to the student’s dissertation research. This skill will be demonstrated by receiving a grade of “B” or better in a 4010 course in the language, by passing a standardized examination, or by successfully translating one or more technical articles assigned by the student’s primary advisor.

9. Attend weekly departmental seminars.

In each year in residence following a successful dissertation proposal defense, the student must give a 12-minute seminar presentation. An external presentation at an approved (by the student’s doctoral committee) conference will fulfill this requirement in any year of study. The dissertation defense oral presentation, if completed during the academic year, will fulfill this requirement in the final year of study.

10. Students must give at least one scientific presentation

in an approved (by the student’s doctoral committee) external venue prior to graduation.

11. At least one first-authored paper must be accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal prior to graduation.

Under exceptional circumstances, the doctoral candidate may petition the Geological and Environmental Sciences faculty to allow a first-authored paper submitted to a journal for peer review to be accepted in lieu of an accepted publication. Decisions regarding the petition will be made by majority vote of the faculty.

12. Successfully defend dissertation.

The student will give a 50-minute public presentation. This will be followed by a closed-door defense to be conducted by the members of the student’s doctoral committee. See this Graduate Catalog for policies and procedures in the event of an unsuccessful defense. The final written dissertation must conform to the requirements explained in the University’s Guidelines for the Preparation of Theses, Projects, and Dissertations and may be written according to one of the following two options:

a. Option 1:

The student will write a traditional comprehensive dissertation based on the doctoral research. The dissertation should include an introduction, review of the relevant literature, description of methodology used in the dissertation research, presentation of the results (including appendices of data where appropriate), and discussion of the significance of the research.

b. Option 2:

The student will present at least two first-authored journal papers, which may include the paper written to fulfill program requirement #11, that have been accepted for publication in appropriate peer-reviewed journals. A separately written introduction including a brief literature review, summary of the relevance/conclusions of the studies and an appendix of data (where appropriate) must also be submitted.

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