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University of Pittsburgh    
2018-2019 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Jul 23, 2024
2018-2019 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Geology and Environmental Sciences, PhD

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Students in MS and PhD programs have opportunities to participate in research programs encompassing many fields of current interest in geology, geochemistry, volcanology, geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, planetary geology, paleoclimatology, hydrology, and environmental science. In general, the research is interdisciplinary, collaborative, and employs techniques such as traditional field-based studies, advanced geochemical analytical work, sophisticated remote sensing and GIS analysis, and advanced computer modeling of natural systems. Most students enter the program with an undergraduate degree in the geosciences; however, students with degrees in other natural sciences or in engineering may be admitted in some cases. The department also offers a professional Master’s degree in GIS/Remote Sensing. This non-thesis MS is patterned after the MBA degree and is designed to focus on the advanced concepts of GIS and remote sensing in order to give the student a competitive edge in the job market.

Requirements for the PhD

The minimum course requirement for the PhD degree is seventy-two (72) credits. A minimum of thirty-six (36) credits must be from formal courses and at least eighteen (18) of the credits must be taken within the Department of Geology and Environmental Science. Up to twenty-four (24) credits may be accepted from a Master of Science degree or graduate study toward the PhD from another institution. An initial evaluation, designed to explore the student’s basic knowledge of the geological sciences and related fields, is required of all PhD degree candidates during their first term of residence.

A graduate student seeking the PhD degree must complete a Comprehensive Examination. The comprehensive examination should take place no later than the Fall term of the student’s third year of enrollment, although students are encouraged to complete the examination as soon as possible following completion of most required coursework and after beginning dissertation research. Following successful completion of the Comprehensive Examination, each PhD student must prepare a written dissertation proposal for presentation to the Dissertation Committee (consisting of at least four department members and one outside member) at a formal Dissertation Overview meeting. During this meeting, the Dissertation Committee will critique the research plan and proposed methodology and approve or reject the dissertation topic.

Each PhD candidate must prepare a dissertation demonstrating successful completion of the research project as well as competency in the methods and techniques of scientific investigation in the field of her/his area of specialization. Each student  must also submit at least one manuscript to a peer-review journal prior to graduation and present research results at both a departmental colloquium and at a meeting of a national or international scientific organization. The candidate must formally defend her/his submitted dissertation in a public meeting before the full Dissertation Committee. Complete descriptions of the most recent degree requirements are available at

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