Social Sciences

Environmental and Energy Policy—PhD

The PhD program in Environmental and Energy Policy provides opportunities for conducting interdisciplinary research in support of sustainable and equitable development. Students’ research contribute to environmental goals such as facilitating the transition to sustainable energy systems, effectively managing the world’s scarce water and other natural resources and protecting the ecosystem services upon which we all depend. The opportunities for research exist at many scales, from projects involving local watersheds and urban recycling programs, to global supply chains and international treaties.

More specifically, the doctoral degree program trains students to integrate multidisciplinary knowledge, interdisciplinary tools and approaches into research that supports societal decisions involving environmental and energy policy goals and programs. Coursework exposes students to multidisciplinary approaches: sociology, geography, anthropology, political science, law, history, ecological economics, sustainability science, and ecology—all framed within the context of policy analysis and sustainable development.

Funding and Research

Students in the PhD program can receive up to three years of funding via assistantships that cover the costs of tuition and provide a stipend. Students are actively involved in a wide array of research projects on topics such as energy transitions, household resource consumption, water resources governance, and food justice. Program faculty have expertise across issues of energy systems, forest resources, food sovereignty, among other environmental issues, particularly the social, legal, and political contexts influencing resource governance and access.

"I did my PhD in Environmental and Energy Policy (EEP) and am currently a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Politics and International Relations, University College Dublin. My doctoral research focused on sustainable energy transitions in Mexico and the United States. The project I am working on now is involves developing a framework for achieving environmental sustainable development Goals in Ireland. The interdisciplinary training I received during my doctoral education has been immensely helpful to me for exploring and adapting to new areas of research easily. I found the EEP program very versatile; it helped me look at the big global picture of environmental and energy issues of our time by exploring the interconnected local problems. Also, the courses are writing and reading intensive, which is excellent training to build up a significant publication record. Finally, the faculty members take an interest in helping students find their path even long after they graduate. I was the first student to enroll in the new EEP PhD program, and I am so glad that I chose the program."Aparajita Banerjee, EEP PhD graduate

Career Pathways

The doctoral degree program prepares students to conduct research in support of environmental energy and environmental policy making, implementation, and enforcement. Potential areas of employment include universities, government agencies, industry and consulting firms, and non-profit organizations.

Universities

The academic path makes most sense for graduates who seek to join an interdisciplinary department or research center focused on environmental or energy policy. A potential step along this path is a postdoctoral research position focused in an area of expertise.

Government

The public sector recognizes the need for researchers and environmental managers with broad interdisciplinary training in policy processes and the social or natural sciences. For example, federal regulatory agencies and international environmental organizations often require professionals capable of conducting and assessing research in areas relevant to environmental and energy policy. State agencies, such as those responsible for managing environmental quality and the use of natural resources, are also potential employers.

Industry and Consulting Firms

Private-sector employment opportunities are typically in policy-related positions of consulting firms and industry trade groups. Industrial firms often require professionals capable of conducting and evaluating research and participating in regulatory hearings, policy-related conferences, and public meetings. Consulting firms, which work with large companies on a project basis, also need professionals with the same skillset.

Nonprofit Organizations

Nonprofit organizations often employ specialists in environmental and energy policy. In their role as lobbyists, watchdog organizations, think tanks, and public education organizations, nonprofits often mediate between large questions of public policy and the environmental concerns of everyday citizens.

Progressing Through the Program

To be considered for the PhD program in Environmental and Energy Policy, a prospective student must:

  • hold a MS degree in a field related to social sciences, public policy, or the environment, and
  • have completed at least one microeconomics course and one statistics course.

Once admitted to the PhD program, a student is expected to meet the following requirements:

  • Complete 30 credits of coursework. Plan your curriculum.
  • Identify a research advisory committee chair (an advisor) by the end of the second semester in residence. Together with the committee chair, students construct an advisory committee including at least one faculty member from outside the Department.
  • Pass a written and oral qualifying examination. Following the completion of all coursework, students complete their qualifying examination to demonstrate competency in three selected subfields within environmental and energy policy and within the subject area of their dissertation. Qualifying exams are usually scheduled early in the third year of study in the PhD; however, the examination can be held sooner for an advanced student.
  • Pass an oral and written research proposal examination before proceeding to dissertation research; students are expected to prepare a written research proposal, present it in a public forum, and defend it in a meeting with their advisory committee.
  • Conduct significant research supporting some aspect of a societal or organizational choice related to an environmental or energy policy/program and write and defend a dissertation as a final product.