Ph.D. Program

The Ph.D. degree program is intended to provide the student with a broad knowledge of the geological or geophysical sciences and the necessary research and analytical skills to pursue successful careers in academia, research, and industry. By providing the necessary research tools, it is the intent of the program to facilitate the student's transition from that of student to that of a scientist capable of developing high quality, independent research and investigatory skills required to make original discoveries and contributions to the geological sciences.

Overview of Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree

The Ph.D. degree in Geological Sciences requires 72 credits overall; a minimum of 33 course credits and a minimum of 36 research credits are required - remaining 3 credits can be either course or research credits. In addition to course work, to successfully advance to Ph.D. candidacy, the student must: 1) pass an oral/written qualifying exam(s); and 2) prepare, orally present, and defend, a written Dissertation Proposal. For completion of the Ph.D., the candidate must complete a comprehensive written dissertation, and successfully present and defend an open presentation of the dissertation.

In most cases, the student who had been admitted with a B.A. or a B.S. degree in geological sciences or related fields, with no major deficiencies, will complete his/her Ph.D. within 5 academic years. The normal maximum time allowed by the Graduate School is 7 years after the first registration (4 years beyond completion of M.S.). The student must file an application for a diploma (obtained from the Registrar) before April 1 preceding the May commencement of the proposed year of graduation.

Dissertation Advisor

If the student has not already done so prior to acceptance into the program, during the first year, preferably the first semester, the graduate student must select a Dissertation Advisor and define an area of research. During the first year, the Dissertation Advisor and Graduate Director will help the student design his/her curriculum in order to meet program requirements and to address any perceived deficiencies in the student's scholastic background.

Dissertation Committee

A Dissertation Committee should also be formed by the end of the first year. In consultation with the Dissertation Advisor, four members must be selected who can serve to help advise the student on their intended area of research, oversee the student's progress, and objectively critique the student's dissertation research. The Dissertation Committee must be chaired by a full member of the Rutgers Graduate Faculty and is normally the student's Dissertation Advisor. One of the committee members must be from outside the Department, chosen in consultation with the student's Dissertation Advisor and approved by the Graduate Director. If the outside member is not a member of the Rutgers Graduate Faculty, the Graduate Director must provide the Dean's Office with the name, address, and resume of the person appointed. Substitutions in the committee once formed, are the responsibility of the Graduate Director and will occur only if a member is unable to serve or if the Dissertation topic has changed requiring modification of the Dissertation Committee. Approval for a change in the Dissertation Committee membership rests with the Dean of the Graduate School-NB. If a member leaves the university, he or she may continue to serve on the committee with the approval of the Graduate Director.

The Dissertation Advisor and Dissertation Committee will serve to advise the student on selection of course work and Dissertation research. The Dissertation Committee is formed by the student: 1) discussing potential committee members with the advisor and/or Graduate Director 2) asking potential members to serve on the committee; and 3) submitting the Dissertation Committee Form to the Department's Graduate Director. It is the responsibility of the student to arrange to meet regularly with their Dissertation Advisor and members of their Dissertation Committee.

Course work

In consultation with the Dissertation Advisor and Graduate Director, an outline of course work is to be selected, individually designed toward the student's interest and area of study and to augment the student's prior undergraduate and graduate study. The Ph.D. degree requires a minimum of 33 credits of course work, the remainder research credits totaling at least 72 credits overall. At least 3 course credits must be taken from each of the three major categories of study listed below:

Mineral/Petrology/MeteoriticsSedimentary GeologyGeophys/Structure

PetrologyMarine Geology GeodynamicsIsotope GeochemistryDepositional EnvironmentsGeophysics I,II
VolcanologyPaleontologyAdvanced Structure Metamorphic Petrology PaleoceanographyAdvanced Tectonics Meteoritics Numerical Methods / PaleoHydrogeology
Mineral Phase Relations Evolutionary Paleoecology Grndwater Modeling

The normal course load per semester for full-time students is 15 credits, consisting of 9 to 10 credits of coursework, plus 3 to 6 credits among dissertation research, teaching assistantship, or research assistantship, as appropriate. No more than 12 credits of undergraduate courses at the 300/400 levels can be counted toward the degree and must be approved by the Graduate Advisor. A minimum grade average of 3.0 is required. There is no foreign language requirement.

Ideally, all course work should be completed in the first two years of study, the remainder focused on dissertation research. Up to 24 credits of graduate course work taken at other institutions can be transferred with the approval of the Graduate Director and Graduate School using the forms obtained from the Graduate School. Approval will be granted only for courses related to the student's proposed direction of study for the Ph.D. and only for courses equivalent to 500 or higher-level courses.

Advancement to Ph.D. Candidacy

Qualifying Exams

In addition to coursework, each student must pass a Qualifying Examination and successfully defend a Dissertation Proposal as requirements for advancement to Ph.D. candidacy. The Qualifying Examination and Dissertation Proposal Defense are to be administered by a Qualifying Exam Committee, normally the Dissertation Committee, which must consist of at least three internal members of the Graduate Faculty in Geological Sciences and one outside member, either from another Rutgers department or other outside institution. The outside committee member does not need to be present during the Qualifying Exam and Dissertation Proposal Defense, the member may submit questions either in writing or orally by conference call to the Committee Chair or Graduate Advisor. Typically, the student's Dissertation Advisor serves as Chair for both Qualifying Examination and Dissertation Proposal Defense.

The Qualifying Exam and Dissertation Proposal Defense are to be scheduled at or near the completion of the student's course work, normally during the 4th Semester, at the end of the second year of study, but no later than the beginning of the 5th Semester / 3rd year of study. Those students entering the Ph.D. program with an M.S. degree, depending on prior course study and in consultation with the Dissertation Advisor and Graduate Program Director may be advised to schedule exams at the end of the 2nd or 3rd Semester of Ph.D. study. Scheduling of the Qualifying Exam is the responsibility of the student in consultation with the Dissertation Advisor. The Qualifying Exam must be scheduled preferably with at least one month advance notice, at a time agreeable to the student, Dissertation Committee, and department scheduling. Due to various faculty and department schedules, it is recommended that the student begin arranging possible Exam dates a semester in advance. All members of the Dissertation Committee must be present except for the outside member as noted above. Requests for substitution of a committee member because of absence or scheduling difficulties may be considered by the Dissertation Committee and Graduate Director.

The Qualifying Examination typically consists of a written and an oral component, the type and make-up to be determined by the Advisor and Qualifying Exam Committee in consultation with the Graduate Program Director and on the nature of the area of proposed research. The written exam shall consist either of either 1) a written exam with submitted questions from the Qualifying Committee, to be completed within a maximum duration of 6 hours; or 2) a research paper consisting of original research and data that is suitable for publication, generally in the same discipline as the proposed dissertation study. In an ideal case, this paper could be part of a Dissertation Proposal. The details and requirements of a research paper must be discussed in detail with the student's Dissertation Advisor and approved by the Qualifying Exam Committee prior to scheduling the oral Qualifying Exam and Dissertation Proposal Defense.

The oral component of the exam should not exceed 3 hours, and like the written component, is designed to test the student's basic knowledge of geology and other fields that are pertinent to student's area of specialization and proposed dissertation topic, with the focus on the area of proposed research, and to determine if the student posses the necessary training and tools to carry out proposed research.In addition, the oral exam may expand upon on issues arising from the written exam or research paper. Qualifying exams are typically open only to the Qualifying Exam Committee and to members of the Graduate Faculty.

The student successfully passes the Qualifying Examination upon approval of members of the Qualifying Exam Committee with a maximum of one dissenting vote. Under special circumstances and under recommendation of the Committee, a student may be required to retake all or part of the Qualifying Examination or defend the Dissertation Proposal again before they may advance to candidacy. In certain cases, the student may be required to take additional courses to fill any determined areas of weaknesses. In the event of a failed Qualifying Examination, members of the Qualifying Exam Committee will discuss specific reasons for failure with the student and determine a course of action. The Committee may allow a student failing the Qualifying Examination or Dissertation Proposal only one opportunity to retake one or both components. Two failures will terminate the student's application for candidacy for the Ph.D. If agreed upon by the student's Advisor, Qualifying Exam Committee and Graduate Program Director, students failing the exam my be able to complete either a M.S. in Geology (if not having done so already) or fulfill the requirements for the M.S. in Environmental Geology.

The Dissertation Proposal

Congruent with preparation for the Qualifying Exam, the student will work with their Dissertation Advisor to prepare a Dissertation Proposal. The Dissertation Proposal is intended to lay the foundation for the proposed dissertation research and to serve as guide to the Dissertation Committee as to the student's intended dissertation research goals.The Dissertation Proposal must be approved by the student's Dissertation Advisor prior to distribution to the Qualifying Exam Committee before scheduling of the Qualifying Exams and Proposal Defense. A relatively complete Dissertation Proposal must be approved by the student's Advisor and Dissertation Committee at least 1 month prior to the scheduled date of the Dissertation Proposal Defense.

The Dissertation Proposal shall be a comprehensive document that clearly outlines the area of intended research, prior or background studies, problem(s) to be addressed and methodology to be adopted to address the problem(s).The Dissertation Proposal must clearly state all aspects of the proposed research the student will be engaged in, the student's role or contribution to any joint or collaborative aspects of the research, which data are to be collected by the student and those to be collected by advisors, collaborators or outside contracts. The Dissertation Proposal must be fully referenced and any collaborators and outside contractors should be clearly identified. A time table or estimate outlining the timing and completion of the proposed research must be included in the Dissertation Proposal. Necessary funding, collaborative agreements, or timing restrictions (field access, permits, etc) should also be included.

In the Dissertation Proposal Defense, the student will describe and discuss her/his dissertation topic in an approximately 20- to 30- minute presentation, and then answer questions primarily related to the dissertation research. The student's oral presentation of the Dissertation Proposal will be open to all faculty, staff, and students. The remainder of the oral session that follows the presentation and questions will be open only to members of the Qualifying Committee and Graduate Faculty members. The proposal may be accepted, accepted with modification, or returned for revision.

After successful defense of the Dissertation Proposal, a final version of the Dissertation Proposal incorporating any recommended changes must be submitted to the Graduate Director, no later than one month following the Qualifying Examination. A copy of the approved proposal is part of the student's permanent record and will be filed by the Graduate Program Director.

Advancement to Candidacy

The student advances to Ph.D. candidacy following completion of the required course work, passing of the Qualifying Examination, the Dissertation Proposal Defense, and filing of the Dissertation Proposal. Applications for admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. are obtained on our website or from the Graduate School

The Dissertation

The Ph.D. dissertation is to be an independent, original research contribution in the geological sciences. The dissertation will be prepared in accordance with the regulations and guidelines outlined by the Graduate School (see GSNB Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Style Guide) and will ordinarily be in the style of manuscripts submitted for journal publication preceded by a general introduction, which describes the rationale of the overall work and how it extends from background material in the field. All aspects of the Dissertation are to be advised by and overseen by the Dissertation Advisor and Dissertation Committee. Contributions of colleagues in multi-authored publications/chapters and/or the student's contribution to collaborative studies must be clearly identified, normally in an introductory chapter of the dissertation. All work must be properly cited and referenced. Multiple publication based dissertations must consist of a minimum of three chapters / publications and an introductory chapter discussing the students contributions to the study (if jointly authored) and discussion as to how the chapter / publications interrelate. A final version of the Dissertation to be defended, must be distributed to Advisor and members of the Dissertation Committee at least one month prior to the final Oral Presentation and Defense of the Dissertation.

Oral Presentation and Defense of the Dissertation

Once the Dissertation is approved by the Dissertation Advisor and Dissertation Committee, and in agreement with the Dissertation Advisor, a date is scheduled for an oral presentation / defense of the dissertation. The presentation is open to all, and is followed by an open dissertation defense administered by the student's Dissertation Committee. A minimum of four Dissertation Committee members must be present at the defense; the outside member may provide written questions and need not be present. At the conclusion of the Dissertation Defense, the Dissertation must be approved by all members of the candidate's Dissertation Committee, or by all but one member.

Completion and Filing of the Dissertation

Assuming acceptance and minimal modifications are required to the dissertation, the Advisor and Dissertation Committee members should sign the title page of the original copy of the dissertation and a copy of the Graduate School Dissertation approval form. If substantial changes are required, the advisor and members of the Dissertation Committee may choose to wait until recommended changes are completed. Any revisions or edits of the dissertation as recommended by the Dissertation Advisor and Committee must be completed within 30 days. Substantial changes requiring longer periods may be considered which may require approval of the Graduate Director and scheduling of a second oral defense by the Dissertation Committee.

The final, signed, Dissertation must be approved by and filed electronically with the Gradate School. Bound paper and electronic (PDF) copies of the dissertation must also be filed with the Department, Dissertation Advisor and Dissertation Committee members. Committee members may choose to receive electronic copies only.

Overview of Ph.D. Program Requirements and General Program Timeline

For those students entering with a B.S. in Geological Sciences or related fields, with no advanced graduate study.

  • The Ph.D. requires a total of 72 credits, consisting of at least 33 course credits (at least 3 credits taken in each of the three major areas) and the remainder of credits to be research credits. Most course credits should be taken by end of the 3rd (or 4th) Semester.
  • By the end of the first semester, a Dissertation Advisor should be chosen.
  • Before the end of the 2nd semester, in consultation with the student's Dissertation Advisor, a Dissertation topic should be identified and discussed
  • By the 2nd or 3rd Semester, in consultation with the Dissertation Advisor, a Dissertation / Qualifying Exam Committee should be formed.
  • By the end of the 3rd Semester, the student should have formed and met with the members of the Qualifying Exam Committee.
  • During the 3rd Semester, the student should be preparing a Dissertation Proposal meeting with Dissertation Advisor and Qualifying Committee to discuss Qualifying Exams.
  • At the beginning of the 4th Semester, the student, in consultation with their Advisor and Qualifying Exam Committee, should be discussing scheduling of Qualifying Exams. Dissertation proposal due 1 month prior to scheduled Proposal Defense Date.
  • By the end of the 4th Semester, Qualifying Exams should be successfully completed.
  • By the end of the 4th Semester but no later than the beginning of the 5th Semester, the oral presentation of the Dissertation Proposal should be scheduled and successfully defended.
  • Successful advancement to candidacy by end of 5th Semester.
  • 5th Semester plus…continued work on dissertation research, writeup, etc.
  • By end of the 5th year, completion of the dissertation, and satisfactory oral presentation and defense of the dissertation
  • Final corrections, edits and final submission of the dissertation due within 30 days of defense.
  • Submission of an electronic (PDF) copy of the completed dissertation, signed cover page and signed candidacy form filed with the Graduate School Office.
  • Electronic and paper copies of the dissertation filed with the Department office and copies of the dissertation presented to Dissertation Advisor and members of the Dissertation Committee.
  • All variances from the above must be approved in writing by the student's Dissertation Advisor and Department's Graduate Director.

An Ideal Schedule and Timeline for the Ph.D. Degree

Year 1

Fall (1st) Semester
Courses: 2 to 3, 3-credit courses, 1-credit Graduate Seminar
Research: Select dissertation advisor, develop research topic,
Form Dissertation / Qualifying Exam Committe
Spring (2nd) Semester
Courses: 2 to 3, 3-credit courses
Research: Work on dissertation topic / proposal
Summer
Courses: 1 to 6 research credit courses
Research: Work on dissertation topic / proposal / research

Year 2

Fall (3rd) Semester
Courses: 2, 3-credit courses, 3 to 6 research credit courses
Research: Work on dissertation topic / work on dissertation proposa
Meetings with Dissertation Advisor / Qualifying Exam Committe
Spring (4th) Semester
Courses: 3 to 6 research credit courses
Research:Scheduling of Qualifying Exams, Dissertation Proposal Defense
Submission of Dissertation Proposal to Advisor and Committee 1 month prior
to scheduled Dissertation Proposal Defense date

Completion of Qualifying Exams / Dissertation Proposal and Defense

Summer
Courses: 1 to 6 research credit courses
Research: Work on dissertation research

Year 3

Fall (5th) Semester
Courses: 3 to 6 research credit courses
Research: if not done so, Dissertation Proposal Defense
Advance to Candidacy Work on dissertation research
Spring (6th) Semester
Courses: 3 to 6 research credit courses
Research: Work on dissertation research
Summer
Courses: 1 to 6 research credit courses
Research: Work on dissertation research

Year 4 plus years

Fall Semester
Courses: 3 to 6 research credit courses
Research: Work on dissertation research

Spring Semester
Courses: 3 to 6 research credit courses
Research: Work on dissertation research

Final Semester
Research: submit final version of dissertation to be filed
Present and Defend Dissertation

Complete all corrections, submit copies of signed dissertation to Dissertation Advisor and Committee members, and Department, file electronic copy and all signed forms with the Graduate School.</p

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