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Graduate Student Handbook

Graduate Student Handbook Heading link


The main purpose of this handbook is to offer guidance and advice for the steps a student has to take to be successful in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Graduate Program. The handbook also contains some information related to student life and services. Students should consult the Graduate College website for additional and more detailed information general to all graduate students. Information on the Student Life webpage of the UIC website may also be of interest.

Director of Graduate Studies and Support Staff

The Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) evaluates and processes applications to the graduate program. The DGS also advises graduate students on programs of study, departmental rules and procedures, and the availability of assistantships, fellowships and other forms of financial aid. Student progress is monitored by the DGS jointly with the student’s advisor. Until a student has chosen an advisor, any questions should be directed to the DGS. If unavailable, and the request is urgent, check with the department’s Assistant to the Head or the Alternate DGS.

Title Contact Person Office and Email Address
Director of Graduate Studies Professor Andrew Dombard 2464 SES,
Alternate Director of Graduate Studies Professor Max Berkelhammer 2456 SES,
Assistant to the Head Edna Fuentes 2444 SES,
Office Support Specialist Minnie Jones 2440 SES,
Director of Undergraduate Laboratories Lee Falkena 1093 SEL,
Department Lab Safety Officer TBD

Course Registration and Pre-Registration

Courses should be selected after consulting with the DGS, and with the student’s advisor, once selected. In all cases, the student must meet with the DGS prior to registration each semester. Registration will be on “hold” until released by the DGS. Instructions for using the UIC registration system are described on the UIC web site: ( Additional information on registration policies is at

Graduate Advisor (Thesis or Dissertation)

One of the most important decisions the graduate student makes is the choice of an advisor. Upon entering the program, the student should learn about the faculty members in the department, investigate their fields of research, and determine who would be the most appropriate advisor. Doctoral students are usually already aware of who will be their potential advisor having communicated with that faculty member during the application stage. The advisor must be a full or associate member of the Graduate College (this generally includes all full-time UIC faculty).

Graduate Committee

A Graduate Committee should be selected by each student before the end of the first year at UIC. M.S. students should select committee members as soon as possible after the completion of the thesis proposal. Ph.D. students must have a 4-member committee prior to the departmental Qualifying Examination, and a 5-member committee for the Preliminary Examination and defense. The advice of committee members should aid the student’s education and progress towards a degree; therefore, students are encouraged to consult with all members of their committee regularly.


Each student is required to fill out a progress form towards the end of each semester, to be reviewed and signed by the advisor. Additionally, at the end of the spring semester, Ph.D. students fill out a self-assessment form. The student is then required to discuss the form(s) with the DGS, after which, the department hold on registration will be lifted. (See below for additional requirement for Ph.D. students in the spring semester.)

The Department reviews the progress of all graduate students at the end of the academic year. The review examines academic progress (coursework and thesis/dissertation productivity) and performance as a research or teaching assistant. The review serves as the basis for awarding student financial support. In some cases, a student’s progress may be reviewed each semester. Students who do not demonstrate satisfactory progress or have performed poorly as a TA may be denied continued support or dismissed from the program.

For Ph.D. students, a written evaluation is prepared at the end of the academic year. The evaluation is based on the progress and self-assessment forms as well as the outcome of the faculty review of progress. The evaluation is signed by the advisor, DGS, and Head, and a copy will be provided to the student. The student shall return a signed copy to the DGS to acknowledge receipt. The registration hold for the subsequent semester shall be lifted only with this written acknowledgement. The student may request and be provided the opportunity to discuss the evaluation with the DGS (and advisor, when appropriate). If the advisor is the DGS, a suitable third party (e.g., the Department Head) shall lead the discussion. The student may also provide written feedback on the review. All documents will be retained in the student file.

Every student must meet with his or her committee (not only the advisor) annually. For M.S. students, this meeting usually coincides with the proposal defense by the end of the second semester, and the thesis defense at the end of the fourth semester. The advisor should note the outcome of the meeting on the student’s semester progress report that is turned in to the DGS.

Continuation, Transfer, Probation, and Time Limit Rules

Students may continue to register as long as they remain in good standing and make satisfactory academic progress. As a minimum Graduate College academic criterion, a student must maintain a 3.00 (4.00 is the maximum possible) Grade Point Average (GPA). The GPA is the average of grades earned by students in their current degree program, whether or not the courses are part of degree requirements. Only graduate (400- or 500-) level courses in which an A, B, C, D, or F is earned are included in the GPA computation. General transfer credit taken at other institutions is not computed in the GPA. Grades earned as a non-degree student, or while a student is enrolled in other UIC colleges, or a different UIC graduate program will be computed if the courses are applied to the current graduate program through an approved transfer-of-credit petition.

If the GPA falls below 3.00, the Graduate College will place the student on Academic Probation and notify the student with a warning letter. Departmental rules state that students have one term of enrollment (including summer, if registered) after the term in which their GPA falls below 3.00 to remove themselves from probation. Note that the departmental rules are more stringent than those of the Graduate College. Dismissal from the Graduate Program will follow if the student remains on probation for two semesters.

There is a 5-year time limit on the M.S. program. For the Ph.D. program, there is a 7-year limit for students who enter with a master’s degree (and 32 hours awarded toward the Ph.D.) and a 9-year limit on those entering with a bachelor’s degree. In all cases, a one-time one-year extension of the time limit will be granted automatically by the Graduate College upon the submission of a petition by the department (the student must prepare the petition). Under extraordinary circumstances, a second year extension may be granted; Ph.D. students will need to retake and pass the Preliminary Examination.

Every effort will be made to support a student with a stipend and tuition waiver for a period of two years at the M.S. level and four years at the Ph.D. level (entering with an M.S.) or five years at the Ph.D. level (entering with a B.A. or B.S.).

General Degree Requirements

All students need to meet the degree requirements stated in the Graduate Catalog, such as number of course hours and composition of committees. These, and the departmental requirements, are described below. Departmental requirements sometimes may exceed those of the Graduate College. Any modifications of departmental requirements must be discussed with your advisor and committee and usually need to be approved by the DGS.