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The Doctoral Program

Degree Requirements Heading link

Minimum semester hours required: 104 past the bachelor’s degree.

Coursework: At least 24 hours must be taken at the 500 level, excluding EAES 599 and 595, and including a maximum of 4 hours in EAES 596. A GPA of 3.0 (B average) or better needs to be maintained for all courses. Only grades of A, B, C, P, or S can be counted towards the degree.

Departmental Qualifying Examination: By end of first year for those entering with a master’s degree, or by end of third semester for those entering with a bachelor’s degree.

Preliminary Examination: By end of second year (at least 1 calendar year before defense).

Dissertation: Required. Students must earn at least 44 semester hours in EAES 599.

Students admitted to the M.S. program can be transitioned to the Ph.D. program if suggested by a student’s advisor and guided by the DGS. The protocol is as follows:

  1. The student must have a form signed by the advisor and all committee members to apply for the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination.
  2. The form must be approved by the DGS and Department Head.
  3. The Qualifying Examination must be passed before the student is allowed into the Ph.D. program.

Course Requirements Heading link

Ph.D. students are required to complete 104 credit hours (44 thesis-EAES 599, 8 seminar-EAES 595, and 52 course hours) after the bachelor’s degree. Thirty-two hours can be awarded if the student enters with a master’s degree. Out of the 52 course hours, at least 24 are to be selected from the list of core courses, and at least 20 are to be selected as elective courses in EAES, as determined in consultation with the student’s advisor and/or the DGS. It is anticipated that most elective courses will normally be EAES courses. Taking electives in other units is contingent on meeting prerequisites or permission of the instructor. Only 8 of the required course hours may be fulfilled by enrollment in EAES 596 (Advanced Independent Study), and only 4 of these may be used toward core course requirements. Assignment of core vs. electives for transferred credits (e.g., from an M.S. degree) is done in consultation with the DGS. Note that these are minimum requirements; your advisor or committee might recommend additional coursework. Only grades of A, B, C, P, or S can be counted towards the degree.

Core Courses (24 hours required for PhD)

Course Number Course Title Credit Hours
EAES 415 Environmental Geochemistry 4 hours
EAES 418 Biogeochemistry 3 hours
EAES 422 Crystal Chemistry of the Rock Forming Minerals 4 hours
EAES 444 Geophysics 4 hours
EAES 470 Environmental Geomorphology 4 hours
EAES 473 Soils and the Environment 4 hours
EAES 475 Hydrology and Hydrogeology 3 hours
EAES 480 Statistical Methods in Earth and Environmental Sciences 4 hours
EAES 484 Planetary Science 3 hours
EAES 545 Spatial and Temporal Analysis and Modeling 4 hours
EAES 596 Advanced Independent Study 4 hours

Elective Courses (20 hours required for PhD)

Course Number Course Title Credit
EAES 416 Organic Geochemistry 3 hours
EAES 440 Structural Geology and Tectonics 3 hours
EAES 448 Plate Tectonics 3 or 4 hours
EAES 460 Earth System History 4 hours
EAES 466 Principles of Paleontology 3 hours
EAES 494 Current Topics in EaES 1-4 hours
EAES 511 Principles of Aqueous Geochemistry 4 hours
EAES 512 Solid-Water Interface Chemistry 4 hours
EAES 513 Stable Isotope Geochemistry and Biogeochemistry 4 hours
EAES 516 Advanced Organic Geochemistry/Biogeochemistry 4 hours
EAES 518 Geobiology 4 hours
EAES 543 Advanced Geophysics and Plate Tectonics 4 hours
EAES 560 Topics in Paleontology 3-4 hours
EAES 575 Advanced Hydrology 3 hours
EAES 577 Land-Atmosphere Interactions 4 hours
EAES 578 Ecohydrology 4 hours

Qualifying Examination Heading link

All doctoral students must pass a departmental Qualifying Examination to continue in the program. The purpose of the Qualifying Examination is to determine the student’s ability to engage in independent research at the doctoral level. The examination is designed to assess the student’s depth of knowledge in a chosen field of specialization, as well as breadth of knowledge in the Earth and Environmental Sciences. Emphasis will be placed on the student’s ability to integrate, synthesize, and use this knowledge in the analysis and solution of scientific problems. The exam will also be used to identify possible deficiencies in the student’s background and training, in order to plan additional coursework that may be needed. Preparation for this exam will take time, and students should plan accordingly.

  1. Examination Deadlines: For a doctoral student having an M.S. degree in the Earth and Environmental Sciences or related field, the examination should be taken by the end of the second semester in residence. For a student with no master’s degree or with a master’s degree in a field distinct from the Earth and Environmental Sciences or related field, the exam should be taken under the advice of the advisor and committee (usually before the end of the third semester following admission to the program).
  2. Qualifying Examination Committee: Composed of four faculty members in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, including the student’s advisor. This committee agrees upon the structure and questions for the exam.
  3. The Examination: The first part of the Qualifying Examination is written, and the second part is oral. The advisor in consultation with the committee determines the exact structure of the written part, with the student being notified of this structure at least four weeks in advance. It consists of three to eight hours in the area of specialization and an additional one to four hours in each of three additional areas. Each section need not be of the same length and may be open or closed book. If necessary, the written part of the exam may be taken over multiple days. Students are encouraged to discuss the extent of the exam in each area with the members of the committee. The oral exam is designed to test the student’s knowledge and ability to synthesize information quickly and provide coherent answers to posed questions. The written exam will provide a starting point for the oral examination; however, questions will not be restricted to those on the written exam. It is recommended that the entire exam by scheduled over no longer than a two-week timeframe.
  4. Exam Results: The written exam and the oral exam are evaluated separately. Students must pass both to continue in the program. A candidate cannot pass if more than one vote of fail is recorded for each part of the exam. Students who fail either part may be permitted to retake that part of the exam within one semester or be given the option to remain in the M.S. program and complete a thesis. The committee will record the results of the exam on a Departmental Examination Report, and the original will be placed in the student’s file with copies to the student and all committee members.

Preliminary Examination Heading link

  1. Purpose: The purpose of the Preliminary Exam is to determine the student’s readiness to undertake dissertation research; passing constitutes formal Admission to Candidacy. The examination serves as the last major step towards the Ph.D. degree except for the completion and defense of the dissertation. The examination provides a student with timely feedback of the faculty’s views of the student’s potential for completing the Ph.D. program. Only students in good standing may be admitted to the examination.
  2. Examination Deadlines: The Preliminary Exam is usually not offered before one calendar year of residence, and must be completed at least one calendar year before the defense of the dissertation. It is usually administered during or towards the end of the second year of study. The timing of this exam generally coincides with the end of most formal coursework.
  3. Nature of the Examination: The Preliminary Examination is oral with exam questions directed toward the doctoral proposal, which is a formal written statement of the proposed dissertation research. The doctoral proposal constitutes part of the exam and should be presented (in writing) to the exam committee at least one week before the oral examination. The student should make a short (~30 minute) presentation of the proposed work at the beginning of the exam. A question and answer period lasting typically 1-2 hours follows the presentation.
  4. Preliminary Examination Committee: The committee consists of at least five persons, three of whom must be full members of the UIC Graduate College faculty and two of whom must be tenured. The chair of the committee must be a full member of the UIC Graduate faculty. The appointment of one or two members from outside the degree-granting program or University is encouraged. For each member from outside the University, a curriculum vitae must be provided. At least three weeks prior to the scheduled exam date, the student fills out the Committee Recommendation Form. The advisor and DGS or Department Head sign the document and it is submitted to the Graduate College. A copy is kept in the student’s file. After reviewing the eligibility of the proposed committee membership, the Dean of the Graduate College will send formal notification of the selection of the Examination Committee to each committee member. The Graduate College will also send the formal Examination Report document to the department office. The Examination Report will be given to the student’s advisor.
  5. Exam Results: Each member of the committee votes pass or fail. A candidate cannot pass if more than one vote of fail is recorded. The committee may require that specific conditions be met before the passing recommendation becomes effective. The DGS, on the recommendation of the committee, may permit a second exam, which must be taken by the end of the following semester. A third exam is not permitted. The Examination Report must be filled out, signed by all committee members, and returned to the Graduate College within two days of the exam. Upon successful completion of the Preliminary Examination, the Graduate Dean will notify the student that he/she has advanced to candidacy.

Departmental PhD Forms

Dissertation and Dissertation Defense Heading link

A major requirement of the Ph.D. program is the completion of a dissertation based on original research under the supervision of a faculty member. The Dissertation Committee consists of at least five members, one of whom must be from outside the department. The members of the Dissertation Committee are often the same as those of the Preliminary Examination Committee (described above). The chair of the committee must be a full member of the graduate faculty. At least two members must be tenured UIC faculty, and at least one must be from outside the department or from outside the University. Any committee member(s) from outside UIC must provide his/her curriculum vitae to accompany the Committee Recommendation form.

Provided that a student has completed all graduation requirements and is in good academic standing, he/she is then ready to defend the dissertation. The dissertation is presented before the academic community in a publicly announced oral presentation and subsequently defended before the Dissertation Committee in a closed-door session typically lasting up to two hours. In all other respects, the Dissertation Defense is held under the rules stipulated for the Master’s Thesis Defense.

At least three weeks before the proposed date of defense of the completed dissertation, the student must fill out and submit a Committee Recommendation Form to the Graduate College. Within a few days of receipt of the form by the Graduate College, the student will receive notification of access to iThenticate. The student is expected to screen his/her dissertation prior to the defense using iThenticate to avoid inadvertently including previously published work without proper citation, paraphrasing, or quoting. See After review of the form, the Dean of the Graduate College will send formal notification of the selection of the Examination Committee to each committee member, and also sends the formal Examination Report document to the department office. The Examination Report will be given to the student’s advisor.

A graduate student who is admitted to the Graduate College with a master’s degree and 32 hours awarded towards the Ph.D., or who continues in the Graduate College after completing the master’s degree at UIC, must complete the degree requirements within 7 years after initial registration. A student who is admitted to the Graduate College without a master’s degree and proceeds directly to the Ph.D. must complete degree requirements within 9 years after initial registration.

Deadlines for completing the Intent to Graduate Form and submitting the final approved dissertation are listed on the Academic Dates & Events page of the Graduate College.