Course requirements are designed to ensure that all students have a firm understanding of the fundamentals of atmospheric science, including the principles underlying atmospheric structure, atmospheric dynamics, and atmospheric chemistry.

Required Core Courses

Each Fall Semester all students in the program will enroll in ATM 5100 Atmospheric Sciences Research Discussion.

ATM 5100 - Atmospheric Sciences Research Discussion

A weekly discussion of recent literature in the atmospheric sciences. Often coordinated with atmosphere-related seminars in the Remote Sensing seminar series.

  • Credits: 1.0; May be repeated
  • Lec-Rec-Lab: (0-1-0)
  • Semesters Offered: Fall - Offered alternate years beginning with the 2010-2011 academic year
  • Restrictions: Must be enrolled in one of the following Level(s): Graduate
  • Pre-Requisite(s): ATM 5515(C) or ATM 5640(C) or ATM 5680(C) or ENVE 5515 or PH 5640 or PH 5680 or CEE 5515

The fundamental principles will be covered in two core courses:

ATM 5515 - Atmospheric Chemistry

Study of the photochemical processes governing the composition of the troposphere and stratosphere, with application to air pollution and climate change. Covers radical chain reaction cycles, heterogeneous chemistry, atmospheric radiative transfer and measurement techniques for atmospheric gases.

  • Credits: 3.0
  • Lec-Rec-Lab: (3-0-0)
  • Semesters Offered: Spring
  • Restrictions: Must be enrolled in one of the following Level(s): Graduate
  • Pre-Requisite(s): CH 3510 or CH 3520 or ENVE 4504 or CEE 4504

ATM 5640 - Atmospheric Physics

Essential elements of atmospheric physics, including thermodynamics, aerosol and cloud physics, radiative transfer, and atmospheric fluid dynamics.

  • Credits: 3.0
  • Lec-Rec-Lab: (3-0-0)
  • Semesters Offered: Fall, Spring
  • Restrictions: Must be enrolled in one of the following Level(s): Graduate
  • Pre-Requisite(s): MA 3530 and PH 2300

The set of core courses may be taken in any order and will be offered at least biannually. This ensures that students will be able to complete the core courses and be prepared to take the Comprehensive Examination by the end of their second year.


In addition, each student will take at least nine credits of elective courses to obtain additional depth and/or breadth. A grade of B or higher is required for all required.

Home Department

Every Atmospheric Sciences student has a home department, where their advisor is located. New graduate students will attend this department’s orientation. The rules and regulations of the home department regarding research and any teaching as a graduate teaching assistant should be followed.

Qualifying Examination

Each student must pass the Qualifying, or Comprehensive, Examination within two years of enrolling in the program. This examination will cover the topics covered in the core courses ATM 5515 and ATM 5640.

The Qualifying Examination will be given in the spring semester of each year. Passing the Comprehensive Examination elevates the student to the status of Doctoral Candidate. Students who do not pass the Qualifying Examination will be allowed a second attempt. Students who do not pass the exam on the second attempt are dropped from the program and may apply to a suitable M.S. program (e.g., within their home department).

Advisory Committee

A student’s advisory committee will consist of at least four members of the graduate faculty. At least one of these faculty members will be from outside the student's administrative home department or school.

Research Proposal Defense

The Research Proposal Defense, or Preliminary Examination, is a written and oral description and defense of the research plan made by the student to his/her Advisory Committee. The proposal should be made within one year of achieving Doctoral Candidacy. The student's advisory committee must agree that the research plan is acceptable. The Chairperson will be notified of the outcome of the Dissertation Proposal. The oral proposal is open to the University community.

Doctoral Dissertation and Final Oral Examination

The research conducted by the student will be presented to the Advisory Committee as a written dissertation.  An oral presentation of that dissertation will be made following the completion of the written work.  The dissertation is acceptable and the oral examination passed if no more than one member of the Advisory Committee dissents.  The oral defense is open to the University community.