Earth and Environmental Sciences Graduate Handbook

Table of Contents


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.

  • Director of Graduate Studies: Professor Andrew Dombard, 2464 SES,

  • Alternate Director of Graduate Studies: Professor Carol Stein, 2472 SES,

  • Assistant to the Head: Edna Rivera, 2444 SES,
      assistance with academic issues (including registration), Teaching Assistant (TA) or Research Assistant (RA) employment and/or tuition waiver documents, photocopier user codes, lab and office keys, I-Card after-hours building access

  • Office Support Specialist: Minnie Jones 2440 SES,
      departmental Purchase Orders, requisitions, vouchers and reimbursements

  • Director of Undergraduate Laboratories: Sara Loiacono, 1093 SEL,
      teaching labs and related materials; field equipment and supplies

  • Research Specialist & Department Lab Safety Officer: Ken Kearney, 3146 SES,
      lab safety rules and regulations, desktop computer, rock prep lab use, office furniture

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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

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Graduate (Thesis or Dissertation Advisor)

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 member of the Graduate College (this generally includes all full-time UIC faculty).

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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 can materially aid the student's education and progress towards a degree; therefore, students are encouraged to consult with all members of their committee regularly.

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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.

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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.).

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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.

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The Master's Program

Course Requirements

Thirty-two semester hours of coursework are required, 12 of which must be in the area of concentration, 4 of which may be taken in Advanced Studies in Earth and Environmental Sciences (EAES 596). Twelve additional hours must be taken from areas different from the area of concentration. A minimum of 9 hours must be taken in 500-level courses. Up to 8 hours of Master's Thesis Research (EAES 598) can count towards the degree. In addition, all students must register for EAES 595 (Department Seminar) each semester in residence. Only grades of A, B, C, P, or S can be counted towards the degree. Below are current concentration and specialty areas:

1. Geobiology/Geomicrobiology/Paleontology
2. Geochemistry/ Biogeochemistry/Mineralogy
3. Geophysics/Tectonics/Planetary Science
4. Climate/Hydrologic Cycle

With departmental consent, some 400 or 500-level courses in other departments may be included as specialty courses. Note that these are minimum requirements; your advisor or committee might recommend additional coursework, including courses at the 200 or 300-levels, which do not count for graduate credit.

Timetable of Normal Progress toward the Degree

Below are guidelines for what is meant by "satisfactory progress". The example timetable is for a Master's student who enters the program in the Fall on Full Status without deficiencies in undergraduate coursework. Students who enter on Limited Status will be given additional time to meet the requirements for Full Status. Students entering the program in other semesters should adjust the timetable accordingly.

    a. Fall (first) semester: Complete 9-12 hours of coursework and select an advisor. It is up to the student to select an advisor as soon as possible. Changing advisors and thesis topics will probably delay graduation, and therefore may impact financial support.

    b. Spring (second) semester: A thesis proposal should be completed as soon as possible, nominally by the end of the Spring (or second) semester of the first year. The advisor will help the student select a realistic research project that can be completed within a year. Once the advisor has accepted the first version of the student’s thesis proposal, two other professors are selected to serve on the thesis committee, which should then meet to evaluate the proposal and recommend any modifications. Selection of the other committee members should be based upon their ability to oversee pertinent aspects of the proposed research. In some cases it might be desirable to have additional committee members from other units of the University, or even from outside the University. In all cases, however, the committee must include three people from the departmental faculty (including adjuncts).

    c. Data collection should begin as early as possible.

    d. Most formal coursework should be completed by the end of the first year, with the exception of at most one or two courses. All coursework should nominally be finished by the end of the second Fall semester, leaving the Spring semester for thesis work.

    e. Data analysis and thesis writing should be completed by the second Spring semester. If absolutely necessary, thesis writing may extend into the second Summer; however, the ideal time to defend the thesis is early enough in the Spring semester so that the student can graduate in that semester. The "Thesis Manual" provides guidance for formatting the thesis:

    f. The Graduate College has strict deadlines for graduation each semester. In order to meet the deadlines, give your advisor, committee, and the department sufficient time to evaluate your thesis prior to the thesis examination date and give yourself sufficient time to make any corrections required during the thesis examination. Deadlines for filing the Intent to Graduate, submission of the Thesis to the Graduate College, and submission of Master‘s Certificate of Approval forms are listed under the Academic Calendar. The procedure is described at

Master's Thesis Defense

Provided that a student has completed all graduation requirements and is in good academic standing, he/she is then ready to defend the thesis. The procedure involves (1) a readable draft of the thesis available for faculty perusal, (2) a public colloquium, and (3) a nonpublic examination. The student is responsible for scheduling the colloquium and exam at a time agreeable to all committee members. The student is also responsible for informing the departmental office staff of the time of the colloquium and the title of the thesis, as well as arranging a room to hold the colloquium in with the help of the staff.

1. At least three weeks before the colloquium and exam, (1) the student and advisor must inform the DGS and departmental staff of the date, and (2) the formal Examination Committee must be formed. The committee consists of a minimum of the advisor and two other members of the departmental faculty (including adjuncts). The chair of the committee (usually the advisor) must be a full member of the Graduate College faculty. At least one committee member must be tenured. In some cases, an additional member of the committee can come from outside the Department, academic unit, or University. For a member from outside the University, a curriculum vitae must be provided along with the Committee Recommendation Form (see below).

The student fills out the Committee Recommendation Form and arranges for it to be signed by the advisor and the DGS or Department Head, and submitted to the Graduate College. A copy is kept in the student's file. 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 thesis prior to the defense using iThenticate to avoid inadvertently including previously published work in the thesis without proper citation, paraphrasing, or quoting. See and the letter that will be sent to the student’s committee members for more information. 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.

2. At least one week before the colloquium and exam, a readable and reasonably complete draft of the thesis must be made available by the student for perusal by the faculty. This draft should include a complete list of cited references and can be obtained in the department’s front office.

3. The student presents his/her thesis at a public colloquium. The presentation should take 35-45 minutes but no more than 50 minutes, leaving at least10 minutes for questions from the audience. Scheduling will be arranged by the student and the advisor.

4. The examination is nonpublic, oral, and typically 1-2 hours long. The exam immediately follows the colloquium and is conducted by the thesis examination committee; however, other faculty members may attend, ask questions, and participate in the final deliberations. The examination committee decides the outcome by a simple majority vote. Three results are possible: Pass, Conditional Fail, or Unconditional Fail. "Pass" means that the examination was passed, but carries no implications about other degree requirements. For example, the committee may vote to "Pass" but may require modification of the thesis before final acceptance, or outstanding course requirements may still need to be fulfilled before the degree is awarded. "Conditional Fail" means the exam can be repeated at a later date agreed upon by the student and the examination committee. "Unconditional Fail" means the exam cannot be repeated. Note that a candidate cannot be passed if more than one vote of "Fail" is reported. The Examination Report must be filled out, signed by all committee members, and returned to the Graduate College within two days of the exam.

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The Doctoral Program

Degree Requirements

    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:

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

Course Requirements

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 Ph.D.)

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

Elective Courses (20 hours required for Ph.D.)

Course Hours
EAES 410: Geochemistry 4
EASS 416: Organic Geochemistry 3
EAES 440: Structural Geology and Tectonics 4
EAES 448: Plate Tectonics 4
EAES 460: Earth System History 4
EAES 466: Principles of Paleontology 3
EAES 494: Current Topics in EAES 2
EAES 510: Advanced Geochemistry 3-4
EAES 511: Principles of Aqueous Geochemistry 4
EAES 512: Solid-Water Interface Chemistry 4
EAES 513: Stable Isotope Geochemistry and Biogeochemistry 4
EAES 514: Environmental Radioactivity 4
EAES 516: Advanced Organic Geochemistry/Biogeochemistry 4
EAES 518: Geobiology 4
EAES 520: Advanced Mineralogy 4
EAES 524: X-ray Crystallography 4
EAES 543: Advanced Geophysics and Plate Tectonics 4
EAES 560: Topics in Paleontology 3-4
EAES 570: Advanced Surficial Processes 4
EAES 572: Quaternary Environmental Systems 3
EAES 575: Advanced Hydrology 3
EAES 576: Paleoclimatology 3
EAES 580: Aquatic Science 3

Qualifying Examination

All doctoral students must pass a 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 other than the Earth and Environmental Sciences, 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 quickly 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

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 there must be 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.

Dissertation and Dissertation Defense

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. 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 members of the Dissertation Committee are usually the same as those of the Preliminary Examination Committee (described above). 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 and the letter that will be sent to the student’s committee members for more information. 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.

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Writing and Illustrating Thesis or Dissertation

The Department usually requires that each thesis or dissertation be prepared in the form of a paper (or papers) suitable for submission to a scientific journal. The format of the thesis should follow that of the journal with respect to section headings, citation style, etc. Voluminous tables, extended descriptions of experimental procedure, and similar components are to be included in appendices. In most cases, illustrations must be original. The Graduate College has strict rules about obtaining permissions to use published figures. Other format requirements are outlined at

As mentioned above, the Graduate College requires students to screen their theses and dissertations using iThenticate, prior to their defense.

We recommend that students submit their thesis or dissertation work for publication as soon as possible, even before the actual defense if ready. Often papers resulting from a thesis or dissertation are co-authored by the student and the advisor. Co-authorship should be discussed by the student and the advisor. Under normal circumstances, the student is the senior author of papers and abstracts based solely on the thesis or dissertation.

All final theses and dissertations must be submitted to the Graduate College electronically ( Deadlines are listed in the Academic Calendar. The advisor and the Department will each certify to the College that the thesis or dissertation meets the departmental requirements for format and style. It is the responsibility of the student, not the advisor or DGS, to assure that all thesis/dissertation, graduation requirements, and deadlines are met.

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Financial Assistance

Most graduate students in good standing receive financial support in the form of a Teaching Assistantships (TA) or Research Assistantship (RA) during the academic year and summer. TAs and RAs include a stipend plus Tuition and Fee Waiver. In limited cases, a Tuition and Fee Waiver can be provided without a stipend. Continued financial support is contingent in all cases upon satisfactory progress toward the degree (See Sections IV and V). It is department policy not to extend financial aid through Teaching Assistantships for M.S. students beyond two years (not including loans, tuition and fee waivers, and outside scholarships) except under extraordinary circumstances. The department limits a Ph.D. student's reliance on Teaching Assistantships to a maximum of four years. For both M.S. and Ph.D. students, financial support can be extended beyond these limits under the direction of the advisor and with the approval of the DGS and Department Head.

All students employed as TAs or RAs are to report to the Department one week before the start of the Fall Semester unless otherwise directed.

Any student with a TA or RA must enroll for a minimum of 8 credit hours during each semester that aid is received or 9 hours to receive the U-Pass and to be considered full-time. Students with University Fellowships or Tuition and Fee Waivers must sign up for 12 credit hours per semester and 6 for the summer. If a student has completed all course requirements, EAES 596 and EAES 598 (M.S.) or 599 (Ph.D.) credits can be used to complete the required hours. Failure to register for sufficient hours will result in loss of tuition and fee waivers. More details are at

The following forms of financial aid are available to graduate students. Check the Graduate College website “Funding Your Education” for details and other opportunities including the Dean’s Scholar Award, the Provost’s Award for Graduate Research, and the Chancellor’s Graduate Research Fellowship.

A. University Fellowship - Awards made by the University for superior scholarship to entering graduate students. A limited number are awarded each year. A Fellow is expected to pursue a full program of graduate study (at least 12 hours per semester). The Fellowship carries a stipend and a tuition and fee waiver.

B. Teaching Assistantship (TA) - The department awards a limited number of Teaching Assistantships each year. The duties of a TA are to assist in undergraduate instruction. Final decisions are usually made by April 15th of each year, following completion of the annual review. Additional TA positions may become available on a semester-to-semester basis.

C. Research Assistantship (RA) - Faculty members conducting research may support a graduate student with funds from a research grant. The arrangements for RAs are made between the student, the faculty member involved, the Department Head, and the Graduate College.

D. Tuition and Fee Waivers - The Department usually has two of these to award each year. Recipients are required to enroll in at least 12 hours of course work per semester.

E. Summer Support - Most graduate students in good standing are normally supported by Research Assistantships at the discretion of their advisor.

F. UIC Graduate College Student Presenter Awards - Small grants for travel to present research at professional conferences are available from the Graduate College. The amount of the award is up to $300 (with departmental matching).

I. External Research Support - Students should consider applying for funding from outside sources. Consult your advisor for appropriate opportunities. Also, students will be sent announcements of opportunities as they arise via the department’s graduate student listserv.

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Income Tax

See the following links for information regarding taxes on assistantships and tuition waivers:

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Presentation of Ongoing Thesis/Dissertation Research

Students are encouraged to present research papers on their ongoing thesis work at scientific conferences such as the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America or the American Geophysical Union. Writing an abstract, preparing illustrations, practicing the delivery of a paper with the advice of faculty and fellow graduate students, and the actual presentation are invaluable experiences for your future professional life. Publishing abstracts and presenting papers at conferences also enhances your scholastic record. Financial support for attending a meeting may be available from the advisor’s research grants. Students may also apply for Student Presenter Awards Awards from the Graduate College. Oral presentations may be practiced in front of an audience during the weekly Terra Society meeting.

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The Library

Published literature and texts are available in the main library. The library website is the place to start any search. From this site, you can search for hard copy material on the UIC campus, request interlibrary loans, or examine the available electronic journal holdings. Examples of useful search engines are Web of Science, Georef, Geoscience World, American Geophysical Union (AGU) Digital Library, and the American Chemical Society Journals and Magazines.

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Computer Facilities and E-mail

All graduate students will be provided with a PC in their office that has either hardwire or wireless internet access. A PC with internet access and printers for general student use are located in Room 2438 SES. Additional PCs are available at the Library, Science Learning Center (west side of SES), and the Academic Computing and Communications Center (ACCC) facilities around campus.

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Departmental Research Facilities

To use any of the departmental research facilities, you must check first with the faculty member in charge. Students must not allow other students to enter laboratories of their advisors without being first cleared by the advisor. Any student working in a chemical or analytical laboratory must take the in-person lab safety course, which is typically offered multiple times each semester by the Environmental Health & Safety Office. Students must take other relevant courses depending on the specifics of the laboratories in which they will work. After taking the in-person course, the student must take the online refresher training course annually. For more information on rules and regulations regarding laboratory safety see your advisor or the Department’s Lab Safety Officer.

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Departmental Seminars

The weekly seminar series is held on Thursday afternoons. Outside speakers, faculty and students are invited to speak on topics of general interest. The purpose of the seminars is to provide a forum for the dissemination of new ideas, new concepts, and new developments in the Earth and Environmental Sciences. Refreshments are usually served before the seminar in the Department Lounge (2460 SES).

All graduate students are expected to attend. Graduate students are expected to register for EAES 595, Departmental Seminar, each semester (1 hr., graded S/U) in residence. Attendance will be taken at each seminar; unexcused non-attendance can lead to a grade of Unsatisfactory.

Graduate students have the opportunity to invite one speaker of their own choosing each semester and to host that speaker. Additional speakers may be suggested at any time for consideration by the seminar chairperson. Seminar notices include the name of each speaker's faculty host, so that interested students can arrange to meet independently with the speaker.

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Terra Society and Graduate Student Council

The Terra Society is the UIC student organization based in EAES that organizes meetings, and other events, including field trips, for professional and social purposes. Membership is automatic for undergraduate majors and graduate students. Meetings are weekly unless announced otherwise. Elections are held yearly. The DGS serves as the club’s advisor. Operating funds are acquired from various fund-raising events.

The Graduate Student Council is a campus-wide student government organization. It acts as a forum for discussions of political issues of concern to graduate students, provides limited funding for presentations at meetings, and offers social functions.

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Duties of Teaching Assistants

A teaching assistantship (50% time, 20 hours per week) normally involves teaching two lab sections in introductory courses each semester. A 25% time TA normally teaches only one lab section. The distribution of time and effort spent in assisting in higher level courses is somewhat variable, and adjusted accordingly.

Typical other duties of the TA in addition to normal laboratory classroom and grading duties are listed below:

    1. hold scheduled office hours for students seeking help;
    2. attend each lecture session of the course being assisted;
    3. attend a weekly TA meeting with the faculty member teaching the course and/or the Director of Undergraduate Laboratories;
    4. proctor and grade mid-term and final exams;
    5. at the end of each class return the lab to good condition;
    6. assist in maintaining the teaching labs and materials secure and damage-free.

An annual Excellence in Teaching award is presented by the Department to one or more TAs.

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International Teaching Assistants

All ITAs from non-native English speaking countries are required to demonstrate oral proficiency in the English language. All such incoming foreign students will be required to take an English Oral Proficiency test, also known as the SPEAK test, immediately after their arrival at the University.

Depending on the test results, an international TA may be required to enroll in ESL 401 (ESL = English as a Second Language). The exact section will depend on the score received on the test. Inadequate spoken English skills may preclude service, and therefore a stipend and tuition waiver, as a TA in the Department.

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Departmental Graduate Student Orientation

The University holds a TA orientation during the week preceding the beginning of the Fall semester. We require each incoming TA to attend. A graduate student orientation meeting for the department is held for one-half day during the same week. All incoming graduate students are expected to be present; continuing graduate students are encouraged to attend.

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Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment, whether verbal or physical, intentional or unintentional, is unethical, unprofessional, and is not tolerated by either the Department or the University. It creates an unhealthy atmosphere for learning and teaching and can also lead to legal action against the offender and the University. Teaching Assistants are strongly urged to act professionally and avoid situations that can lead to even the perception of sexual harassment. Please inform the DGS and, if necessary, the Office of Access and Equity if you experience problems. For more information see

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Office Policies

General rules for graduate student interaction with the departmental office staff are as follows:

  • Office hours are 8:30 a.m. - 4:45 p.m. Plan your needs accordingly.

  • Photocopy machine - Under no circumstances are students permitted to perform maintenance procedures on the photocopy machine. See office staff for assistance.

  • Use of office and laboratory telephones – All laboratories have phones for safety reasons, but all offices do not. All phones are restricted to local and toll-free dialing only. Please limit your personal use of the phones. Talk to your advisor about the best way to make a business call.

  • Office supplies - The only supplies furnished to students will be those needed for TA duties. Please limit your use of the printer to essential items.

  • Keys - See Edna Rivera for keys and to arrange after-hours building access using your I-Card.

  • Department seminar duties - For each Thursday seminar a graduate student will be assigned to prepare the lounge for the refreshments, assist the speaker with getting set up in the lecture room, and cleaning up the lounge after the seminar.

  • Tobacco Free Campus – Use of tobacco products (e.g., smoking) is not allowed on campus, including the outside grounds or in a private car parked on campus.

  • Ordering supplies – Normally, all supplies are ordered by faculty or staff, but if you need something, follow this protocol:
    • OBTAIN PERMISSION from your advisor or the faculty member in charge of the lab you are using, if you do not have your own research funds.

    • Ask the professor on which account the order will be paid.

    • See Minnie Jones for assistance with placing the order.

  • Upon leaving the University, turn in your keys to Edna Rivera.

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EAES graduate students live all over the city. The following are some of the housing options the students use, arranged according to length of commute time. Other information on off-campus housing can be obtained at and The second site is useful for checking current listings.

  • Campus graduate student housing:
  • Near campus:
    • University Village; new area just south of the east side of campus; many new apartments and condos.
    • Bridgeport - not too expensive; Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Halsted #8 bus as transportation, approx. 20 minute commutes
    • Little Italy and Tri-Taylor – immediately west of Department: Served by University shuttle and CTA Streeterville/Taylor #157 bus.
    • Greek Town/West Town - ~5 blocks north
  • Easy commutes:
    • Oak Park - west suburb, use CTA Blue Line “L” train to commute, 30 min.; Many UIC faculty and students live here. You may want to check out nearby Berwyn and Forest Park, which are less expensive.
    • Near North - Lincoln Park, Lakeview, and surroundings; both high- and low-end rental possibilities; many young professionals, students near DePaul University; easy transportation, nightlife, etc.; Halsted (#8) bus.
    • Bucktown and Wicker Park. 20 minutes on CTA Blue Line “L”, northwest (Between Division and Armitage, Ashland and Western). Gentrifying area; cafes, artists, boutiques, etc.
  • Longer commutes: 4000 North and beyond including Andersonville, Evanston: possible cheaper housing than Near North and Oak Park; fairly peaceful middle class neighborhoods; North/South L's (Brown, Purple, and Red Lines) are main mode of transportation. West suburbs (Naperville, Villa Park) and South Suburbs (Homewood, Flossmoor) require using the Metra commuter train or car.

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Medical & Other Student Services

Medical services available to students include
Campus Care -
Family Medicine Center -
Wellness Center -
General Health and Safety -

Other student services including the U-Pass are listed here:

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If you are employed as a TA or RA you are required to complete an annual online ethics training course to comply with the Illinois State Officials and Employees Ethics Act. You will be informed via e-mail when the training is due and provided with a link to the online course. The ethics course will address such things as the limitations on appropriate use of university property (e.g., computers, copiers, etc.), rules for accepting gifts, and whistleblowing.

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Survival Hints

The following are some suggestions and advice from our students for incoming students:

  • Registration: Remember -an advising hold will be put on all new graduate students. You are required to consult with the DGS before you register. After this requirement has been fulfilled, the advising hold will be released.
  • Student ID: The ID Office is located in the Student Services Building (1200 West Harrison Street). Have your ID card in your possession at all times. Your ID will be needed:
    • to check out books at the library;
    • when you go to the health service;
    • to enter the building after hours.;
    • to conduct any other business with the administration.
  • Credit Union 1: If you are paid as a university employee (i.e., TA or RA), you are eligible to be a member of the UIC Credit Union. General information on banking services can be found here -
  • Class planning: Courses are not offered every semester, so it is advisable to take them when given, if they fit into your overall class planning. Course scheduling occurs ahead of time, and it is sometimes possible to learn what is planned for the distant future. However, these schedules are tentative and subject to revision.
  • Your address and other contact information: If you move or change other contact information (phone or personal e-mail address, if on record) notify Edna Rivera immediately of your change of address.
  • If your student visa status changes or you need an extension notify Edna Rivera as soon as possible.

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A Few Final Comments

The graduate school experience is fundamentally different, in many ways, from what you probably experienced as an undergraduate. Learning how to think critically, how to develop and carry out an original project, and how to convey your results in both written and verbal forms is as important as the material learned in class. As Sheila Widnall, then President of the AAAS, wrote in 1988 (Science, 241:1740-1745):

" is at the graduate level that the student begins to function as an independent scientist - indeed, that is the purpose of graduate education. During this process the faculty gradually begins to remove the props supporting the student and to place more responsibility on the student for problem formulation, evaluation, execution, and defense. Ideally, as the process continues, the student has access to a variety of structured professional experiences designed to enhance self-confidence and build independence. These experiences include opportunities to present and defend research results in regular and productive group meetings, to evaluate and criticize the work of peers, to formulate and carry out research tasks of increasing importance, to participate in dialogues and debates about scientific and technical issues, and to discuss future career plans as they relate to current interests and activities. Faculty members often do not make these parts of the educational process explicit to the student. Much of the stress of graduate education results from a lack of student understanding of this hidden agenda."

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