Doctor of Philosophy

General Requirements:

Atmospheric Sciences Graduate PhD and MS Degree Requirements (2019)

Grandfathering of Graduate Degree Requirements:
Graduate degree requirements are grandfathered for currently enrolled students.  Students enrolled between Fall Quarter 2016 and Fall Quarter 2019 may abide by either the 2016 or 2019 approved graduate degree requirements. Students enrolled prior to Fall Quarter 2016 may use the 2004, 2016, or 2019 approved graduate degree requirements. The 2016 approved graduate degree requirements can be found here.  The 2004 approved graduate degree requirements can be found here.

Graduate students must maintain at least a 3.0 grade-point average in all upper division and graduate courses in order to remain in a graduate program or to be awarded a graduate degree.

Ph.D. Requirements

ASGG Ph.D. Course Plan Form (2017)

The Atmospheric Science Graduate Group (ASGG) offers a Plan A Ph.D. program, which includes a five member Dissertation Committee and a final exam. Application to the Ph.D. program does not require a prior master's degree.  In addition to meeting the requirements of Graduate Studies, students pursuing the Ph.D. degree in Atmospheric Science must also fulfill the following requirements:

1. Coursework

(36 units of graduate and upper division courses, plus 4 units of seminar)

A. Breadth Requirement

M.S. degree in accepted atmospheric science program OR a "B" grade average or better in ATM 120, 121a, 128, and (one of) 121b, 124, 133, 158 or 160. A grade of "B" or higher in an equivalent course at another institution may be used to satisfy any or all of these course requirements.

B. Depth Requirement

Neither Breadth Courses that are taken to make up any admission deficiencies, nor Breadth Courses that have been waived by the Graduate Advisor, may be used to satisfy the Depth Requirement of 36 units. Research units (299 or equivalent) do not count towards the required 36 units.

  1. 6 units of graded ATM graduate courses with a "B" grade average or better.
  2. 9 units of additional graded upper division or graduate courses.
  3. Additional graduate and upper division units to complete the 36-unit coursework requirement, chosen with the advice and consent of the major professor and/or the Graduate Advisor.
  4. Of the 36-unit Depth Courses requirement, at least 12 units must be graduate-level courses in ATM, instructed by an ASGG-affiliated faculty member, or approved by the Graduate Advisor. These courses may also be used to satisfy requirements 1-3 above.
  5. Up to 2 additional seminar units beyond the 4 required units may contribute to the Depth Courses requirement.

C. Seminar

  1. 4 units of ATM 290 or equivalent
  2. The 4 required units of ATM 290 or equivalent will not contribute to the 36 unit Depth Courses requirement. While fulfilling this requirement, the student must give a cumulative total of at least two formal in-class oral presentations.

2. Satisfactory completion of the Preliminary Examination (PE)

Questions are solicited, compiled and evaluated by the PE committee. The written PE will test foundational knowledge needed by all students pursuing a PhD in atmospheric science. A student that has previously passed the Atmospheric Sciences MS Plan II comprehensive exam prior to switching to PhD is not subject to the preliminary exam requirement.

All students are required to answer one question from each of the required three breadth subjects—thermodynamics/cloud microphysics, geophysical fluid dynamics, and radiation and satellite meteorology—and one to be selected from the specialty/advanced subjects, such as boundary layer meteorology, atmospheric chemistry, biometeorology, air quality, instruments and observations, atmospheric modeling, and climate dynamics. The specialty/advanced subject selected should be made in accordance with the student’s plan for future research, and is made with the advice and consent of the major professor and/or graduate advisor. Any or all questions may be waived for a student that has either (a) received a grade of A- or better at UC Davis in the corresponding course(s), or (b) has taken and received a grade of A- or better on the final examination for that course during a regular offering of that course at UC Davis. The option to waive questions is at the discretion of the preliminary exam committee. The time allowed for each student to complete the exam shall be in proportion to the number of questions to be answered, and decided on in advance and in an equitable manner by the preliminary examination committee.

To pass the PE, a student must demonstrate strong proficiency in all but one of the tested subjects and cannot show any major deficiencies in the remaining subject.

A student must pass the PE before attempting the QE. A student who fails the PE the first time may retake the PE one more time at the next available offering (an exception to this sequence requires the approval of the Graduate Advisor.) A student who fails the PE the second time will be subject to termination from the PhD degree program. After consultation with the Graduate Advisor and the student’s dissertation advisor, some students may have an option to work instead towards a MS degree.

A student who passes the PE and decides afterwards to change to the exam plan of the MS degree must be examined on additional questions as part of a written comprehensive examination in order to meet the requirement for two questions from advanced (200 course level) subjects in atmospheric science, as required by the MS exam plan: namely, a student whose specialty/advanced subject on the PE was at the upper division level must pass two additional 200-level questions to meet the MS comprehensive examination requirement; a student whose specialty/advanced subject on the PE was at the 200 course level only must pass one additional 200-level question to meet the MS comprehensive examination requirement. Other requirements (units, sufficient demonstration of subject proficiency, etc.) of the MS exam plan still apply.

Depending on student needs, the PE will normally be offered twice a year and scheduled near the beginning of fall quarter and the end of spring quarter. In general, students will take their PE in spring after their first year. However, students who enter the graduate program having already taken the core courses (or equivalent) as part of their undergraduate degree may petition to take the PE sooner. All students are expected to finish the PE before their fifth quarter in residence. An exception to this expectation requires the approval of the Graduate Advisor.

Appeals and non-unanimous decisions of the PE Committee will be reviewed and decided by the Executive Committee.

3. Satisfactory completion of the Qualifying Examination (QE)

The Qualifying Examination is administered by the student’s QE Committee, and should be completed before the end of the student's third academic year, ideally sometime during the student’s second year. Before conducting the QE the student must fulfill all coursework requirements for the PhD, although an exception may be granted by the graduate advisor to allow completion of coursework in the same quarter as the QE. Prior to the QE, the student submits an Application for Qualifying Examination to the Graduate Advisor or program chair at least six weeks prior to the oral examination date. Under no circumstances should a student take the Qualifying Examination before receiving formal notice of Admission to the Qualifying Examination from the Dean of Graduate Studies. As part of this form, the QE Committee is recommended by the Graduate Advisor in consultation with the candidate and his/her prospective major professor and submitted to Graduate Studies for approval in accordance with Academic Senate regulations. The committee is composed of 5 members, including at least 3 members from the Atmospheric Science Graduate Group, and at least 1 member from outside of the group. The student’s major professor may not be the Chair of this committee but may be a member of the committee.


A. Dissertation Prospectus

ASGG Prospectus Guidelines (June 2017)

Example ASGG Prospectus 1

Example ASGG Prospectus 2

The Prospectus is an independently prepared proposal not to exceed 12 single spaced pages including figures, tables and appendices. The font size must be no smaller than Times Roman 11 (or equivalent). The references are not included in the 12 page limit. The prospectus should include: an introduction to the topic (including a survey of the relevant literature), a hypothesis or set of questions to be addressed, methods to be used to address the hypothesis/questions, any preliminary results, and cited references. The Prospectus must be submitted to the QE Committee at least ten working days prior to the date of the Oral Exam.

B. Oral Qualifying Examination

The oral portion of the QE is administered by the student’s QE Committee, and is open to all ASGG faculty with the unanimous consent of the committee and student. The oral portion of the QE will include two parts. The first part is a student presentation of the prospectus, which should be prepared as approximately a 20 – 30 minute talk. The actual presentation will take longer because of questions from the committee. The second part of the exam will be oral questions by the Committee and interested faculty regarding the student’s prospectus, general knowledge of atmospheric science, depth area of study, and any follow up questions related to the Preliminary Exam. The total length of the Exam should be approximately three (3) hours.

4. Advancement to Candidacy

Successful completion of the preliminary exam and qualifying exam, followed by filing the application for Advancement to Candidacy with Graduate Studies, promotes the student to a candidate for the Doctor of Philosophy degree. As part of the Advancement to Candidacy form the candidate in consultation with the Graduate Advisor and his/her major professor will recommend to Graduate Studies five people for the Dissertation Committee. This committee is composed of three committee members that will help guide the candidate's dissertation research and two additional members that will participate in the Final Exam. The student's major professor will be chair of this committee. At least one committee member must be from outside of the ASGG. The committee is approved in accordance with Academic Senate regulations.

5. Dissertation

Satisfactory completion of a Ph.D. Dissertation. The Ph.D. dissertation must be an original and substantial contribution to knowledge in the student's major field. It must demonstrate the ability to carry out a program of advanced research, relying extensively upon one's own initiative and skills, and must report the results in accordance with standards observed in recognized scientific journals. The dissertation must be written in accordance with the rules issued by Graduate Studies and must be approved by the three members of the Dissertation Committee that helped guide the candidate's dissertation research.  The written dissertation should be submitted to the Dissertation Committee at least four weeks in advance of the dissertation defense.

6. Dissertation Defense

Satisfactory PhD Dissertation Defense including a public seminar. The dissertation defense must be completed before the dissertation will be signed. The defense is composed of two parts:

  1. an exit seminar open to students, faculty and the public
  2. an oral examination administered and evaluated by the five members of the Dissertation Committee. The oral examination will focus on the dissertation and the relationship of the candidate’s research to the overall discipline, and should not exceed three hours. If the committee deems the candidate to have failed the oral examination, the candidate will be provided detailed written feedback regarding the reason for the not pass and what steps need to be taken to have satisfactory performance. The Graduate Advisor will also be provided a copy of the feedback and steps. The candidate will be given an opportunity for reexamination at a later date, typically no more than 3 months after the initial attempt. If the committee determines that the candidate’s performance on the second exam remains unsatisfactory, the committee will communicate this information to the Graduate Advisor, who will recommend to the Dean of Graduate Studies that the candidate be disqualified from the program.

7. Normative Time to Degree

Normative time to degree is 15 quarters with 9 quarters being Normative Time to Advancement to Candidacy and 6 quarters being Normative Time in Candidacy.

For further information see the following web sites:
Atmospheric Science Graduate Group
UC Davis Office of Graduate Studies