The mission of the graduate program in Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences at Case Western Reserve University is to train the coming generations of professional earth, environmental, and planetary scientists. Professional scientists in these disciplines work in a wide range of environments, including, but not limited, to colleges and universities, commercial and non-profit research laboratories, mining, energy, and environmental consulting industries, local, state, and federal regulatory agencies, federal research laboratories, and museums.


Research opportunities in the graduate program are available in field and observational, experimental, and theoretical based disciplines. These include: benthic ecology, surface processes, soil erosion, sediment transport, stratigraphy, geologic sequestration of carbon, geochemistry, meteorites, planetary materials, planetary geology and geophysics, and high-pressure mineral physics and chemistry. Faculty and students conduct field research on five continents, experiments at world-class facilities such as the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and the NASA Glenn Research Center, and participate in a NASA spacecraft mission.


The Department is home to alpha and gamma spectroscopy facilities, a sedimentology laboratory, an aqueous geochemistry laboratory, a planetary materials laboratory, high-pressure and high-temperature geochemistry and mineral physics facilities, and geophysics computing facilities. Additionally, the Department leverages complementary, specialized facilities within the University; for example, the Swagelok Center for Surface Analysis of Materials and the University’s High Performance Computing Facility are both actively engaged as part of the Department’s research programs.


For students who wish to be admitted to the Ph.D. program, a bachelor’s degree in the earth, environmental, or planetary sciences or a related technical field is expected. An undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher is also expected and applicants must provide official scores for the general GRE examination and arrange for letters of recommendation to be submitted.


The program of research within the Department of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences addresses state and regional needs by providing students with training in technical research and technical communication skills, promoting an engaged scientific community, and fostering a scientifically informed public through outreach and educational activities. Technical skills in the earth, environmental, and planetary sciences are crucial for fostering a workforce capable of addressing needs in natural resource utilization, management, and regulation.


After graduating with the Ph.D. our students generally take national or international research postdoctoral positions. Within five years of graduation our students are competitive for permanent positions within universities, museums, research laboratories, and in related industries.


The next Ohio Board of Regents Ph.D. program web update is scheduled for the 2015-2016 academic year and for a complete review in the 2021-2022 academic year.


Requirements for Ph.D. Degree

Background Required of Entering Students

The coursework background of all incoming graduate students is evaluated at the time of admission. If deficiencies are deemed to exist in some areas, admission may be contingent upon completion of background courses. After arrival the coursework background of each incoming graduate student will be reviewed by the student’s advisor to determine whether background deficiencies exist for his/her planned program of study. A student whose background is deemed deficient will, in consultation with his/her faculty advisor, determine which courses shall be taken to alleviate the deficiencies. Background deficiencies will normally be made up in the first year of graduate study. Some remedial coursework may not count toward graduate credit.



Each incoming graduate student will be assigned an advisor from the faculty of the Department by the Graduate Committee. The assignment will be based on the background and interests of the student. The advisor may be changed with the approval of the Graduate Committee. The student should meet with his/her advisor before registration for the first semester of study in order to outline an initial program of studies for the Ph.D. Degree. Additional meetings with the advisor should take place before registering for subsequent semesters, and from time to time, to review and update this program and discuss the student’s progress.


On passing the Ph.D. candidacy examination the student selects a faculty member who agrees to be his/her dissertation advisor. Upon notification of the Graduate Committee the dissertation advisor assumes the advisory responsibilities formerly held by the faculty advisor, and in addition, supervises the student’s dissertation research. The dissertation advisor, in consultation with the Graduate Committee, selects two additional faculty to form the student’s Advisory Committee.


The Graduate School requires that each student file an official Program of Study with the Office of Graduate Studies before he/she can receive a degree. Normally this document is submitted during the second semester, subject to later revisions as conditions necessitate.


Graduate Committee Progress Reports

In addition to the regular continuous contact the student has with the dissertation advisor, he/she must call a meeting of the Advisory Committee once each semester to report and discuss his/her progress on the dissertation. No later than two weeks following this meeting, the Advisory Committee must submit a written report on the student’s progress to the Graduate Committee. The Graduate Committee in turn will send a report to the student before the beginning of the next semester evaluating his/her progress. A student who has not yet been admitted to candidacy will be sent a progress report from the Graduate Committee after each fall semester on the basis of his/her course work performance and Graduate Committee’s discussion with the faculty advisor.


Course Work Requirements

The student must satisfy the University requirements stipulated in the University Bulletin as well as the Departmental requirements described below. The formal fulfillment of residency requires continuous registration in at least six consecutive academic terms (fall, spring and/or summer). Full-time graduate study consists of 12 semester hours, or 9 to 10 semester hours if the student has contractual assistantship obligations to the Department. It is a University requirement that the Ph.D. be completed with 5 consecutive calendar years, including leaves of absence, from the initial registration in EEPS 701 (Dissertation Research).


A student without a Master’s Degree will devote at least 36 hours during the first two years to a program approved by the advisor and submitted to the Graduate Committee. For a student already holding a Master’s Degree at least 18 hours will be devoted to a 1 year program approved by the Graduate Committee. The object of the program is to broaden the student’s knowledge at an advanced level in a manner consistent with his/her interests.


Every graduate student must register once for EEPS 509, a one-credit course. As part of EEPS 509 the student will present a talk about some research problem in the Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences about which he/she has been reading or which is related to findings in his/her dissertation research. The purposes of EEPS 509 are to maintain communication about research within the Department, to enhance the breadth of the student’s knowledge, and to give the student training and practice in presenting ideas orally before a group. Although the student may registration for EEPS 509 during any semester it is recommended that the student register at least one semester before presenting his/her prospectus to enhance his/her skills at making a scientific presentation.


All graduate students are expected to regularly attend Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences Seminars.


The University requires a minimum grade-point average of 2.50 after 12 semester hours, 2.75 after 21 semester hours, and 3.00 for graduation; the Department requires a 3.0 average for Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences courses. Courses below the 300 level may not be counted for degree credit. A maximum of 9 credit hours at the 300 level may be counted toward the Ph.D. With the approval of the Graduate committee, a maximum of 6 hours of graduate level credit may be transferred from another University. Transfer credit will not be given for courses used for degree credit by the student elsewhere. A student will be terminated for any of the following reasons:

– A grade of F in any Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences course

– More than one grade of C or lower in Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences courses

– More than one grade of F in a non-Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences course

– A grade of I that is not converted within 1 calendar year.

Any 300 level Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences course in which a grade of C or below is obtained will not be counted toward the degree requirements. No course in which a grade of D or below is earned will be counted toward the degree requirements.


Ph.D. Candidacy Examination

A student is admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree upon passing the general examination described below. Acceptance as a Ph.D. candidate in the Department implies that the student has demonstrated sufficient knowledge of his/her field and the ability to do independent, original research. The candidacy examination has both oral and written parts, reflecting the necessity for a scientist to disseminate research results both orally and in writing.

Nature of the Examination

The examination consists of one oral and two written parts. All are to be completed within a two (2) week period. The oral part and one of the written parts focus on a proposition presented by the student. The other written part is comprehensive in nature. The examination normally takes place during the last month of the third semester for students entering without a Master’s Degree and during the last month of the second semester for students entering with a Master’s Degree.

The Proposition

The proposition consists of an original hypothesis identifying a problem or question in the Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences and proposing an answer. In the presentation and defense of the proposition, the student is examined on his/her ability to identify a scientific problem and to formulate a sound, scientifically defensible solution. It is not the purpose of the examination to assess the logistics and feasibility of a dissertation topic. The student may consult with his/her faculty advisor and others in choosing the proposition, but the formulation of the proposition should be done by the student. After selecting the proposition topic, in the first month of the semester in which the examination is to be taken, the student and the advisor set a timetable for the examination. At that time, the Examination Committee is chosen by the Graduate Committee in consultation with the student’s advisor. The Examination Committee consists of four faculty, up to two (2) of whom may be from outside the Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences Department. The advisor has supervisory responsibility for administering the various parts of the examination, compiling the results, and reporting them to the Examining Committee.

Part I. The Written Proposition

Two weeks before the oral presentation of the proposition, the student will submit to each member of the Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences faculty, to each member of the Examining Committee, and to the Department Office (for file), a paper of about 8 to 10 pages, introducing and discussing the proposition. The format of the written presentation should be similar to that of an article submitted for publication in Geology or Science . The paper must be graded by each faculty examiner prior to the oral examination.

Part 2. The Comprehensive Examination

One week before the oral examination, the student will take a 3 hour written examination. This consists of four 45 minute sections, one written by each of the four faculty examiners. Each section may consists of one discussion question or a problem to solve and discuss and/or a series of short-answer questions covering a broad range of topics.

Part 3. The Oral Proposition

The oral examination usually will be no longer than 3 hours in length. It is initiated by a 20 minute formal presentation of the proposition by the candidate. Then the candidate is expected to answer questions about the proposition and its relation to the general field(s) in which it lies. Initially the questions are centered on the proposition. The candidate may expect to be asked questions of an increasingly general nature as questioning proceeds.



The written presentation of the proposition is graded on the following basis:

Scientific Content……….70%

Quality of Presentation……….30%

The following grading scale and numerical equivalent of grades is used:

A+ outstanding……….100

A excellent……….95

B good……….85

C fair……….75

F failing……….65 to 0

Grades are assigned to the written proposition and the oral proposition by averaging the numerical grades assigned by each member of the Examining Committee. A grade of 85 is a passing grade for each of these two parts of the examination.


The student will have passed the comprehensive examination part if no grades of F are received, and if the average grade for all four sections is 85 or higher.


All three parts of the examination must be passed. If a student does not pass one or more parts of the examination, the Examining Committee will recommend whether the student should retake those parts of the examination which were failed, or should proceed to the M.S. degree. A student is not required to retake any of the three parts of the examination which he/she has passed. In the case of the comprehensive examination no section which has been passed needs to be retaken. Portions of the examination which are retaken will generally be retaken within a month and in no case later than the end of the semester following the initial examination.


Acceptance as a Ph.D Candidate

Upon passing the candidacy examination, the Department will formally accept the student as a Ph.D. candidate. The student must subsequently register for a minimum of 1 hour of Dissertation Research (EEPS 701) in each succeeding semester. Prior to admission to candidacy a student may register for 1 but not more than 3 hours of EEPS 701, and must maintain continuous registration in 701. See the University Bulletin for further details about dissertation registration.


Dissertation Prospectus

The prospectus is a written two page document, with references, describing the student’s proposed dissertation research. It is submitted to the Advisory Committee early in the semester following admission to candidacy. The prospectus is also presented orally as a seminar open to the entire Department. Announcement of the seminar and distribution of the written prospectus to all Department faculty and graduate students are to be made two weeks ahead of time. The prospectus is not an examination of the student, but rather an examination of the suitability and feasibility of the dissertation project. After the seminar, the Advisory Committee will discuss with the student the suitability of the project and the adequacy of the student’s preparation for it.



A dissertation describing original and independent research by the candidate is required for the Ph.D. degree. Not less than one academic year or its equivalent will be devoted to the dissertation research. In the preparation of the dissertation the student will have the guidance of one or more advisors, and it will not usually be submitted without his (their) approval. Approval of the format of the dissertation must be obtained from the Office of Graduate Study at least one month before graduation.


Defense of Dissertation

The dissertation must be successfully defended in an oral examination before a faculty committee. The dissertation defense is open to the public. The examination committee is appointed by the Dean of Graduate Studies on recommendation by the Departmental Chairman no later than three weeks before the date of the examination. The examining committee consists of not fewer than four University faculty with at least one member from outside the Department. The student must provide each member of the committee a copy of his/her completed dissertation at least 10 days prior to the examination. The defense must be taken at least one week before the granting of the degree. In practice, a longer period of time should be allowed in order to incorporate changes required as a result of the defense. Major changes can be required. Check the University Bulletin for further University-wide regulations about the dissertation defense.


Time Requirements

Students who obtain financial assistance from the Department must make satisfactory progress toward fulfilling the degree requirements in order to qualify for continued support. Normally support will not be provided for more than eight semesters of graduate work. Support will not be provided to students who have not achieved candidacy by the end of their fourth semester of graduate study.


A generalized time schedule for the Ph.D. degree is suggested on the following page for students entering with a Bachelor’s degree. Students entering with a Master’s degree will normally have this timetable advanced by one year and be expected to complete the degree within six semesters.



Students already enrolled at the time of adoption of these regulations may elect to fulfill either the old or new Ph.D. requirements. Other exceptions must be considered by petition to the Graduate Committee.


Example Time Table for a Ph.D Degree

Before and during first 2 weeks of class

Assignment of faculty advisor. Plan and submit program to Graduate Committee with approval of advisor (this program should be updated each year). Register for courses.

Semester #1

Course work; (9-12 credits). Participate in Dept. Seminars. Actively think of proposition topic. Keep abreast of recent scientific literature.

Semester Break

Research on possible proposition topics.

Semester #2

Course work; (9-12 credits). Participate in EEPS 509, Dept. Seminars.Research for proposition. Submit Program of Study to Office of Graduate Studies; update as necessary in subsequent semesters.

Summer #1

Research with faculty member if support is available, or if possible without support.

Semester #3

Course work and proposition preparation. Submit to Advisor and Graduate Committee a preliminary version of proposition by first month; written proposition submitted 2 weeks prior to oral exam. Participate in Dept. Seminars.

Semester #4

Course work; selection of dissertation topic. Assignment of dissertation advisor and Advisory Committee. Presentation of dissertation prospectus. Participate in Dept. Seminars.

Summer #2

Dissertation research if support is available, or if possible without support.

Semester #5, #6

Dissertation research. Participate in Dept. Seminars.

Summer #3

Dissertation research.

Semester #7 #8

Dissertation research. Complete and defend dissertation. Submit final version of Program of Study to Office of Graduate Studies. Participate in Dept. Seminars.

Summer #4

Complete degree requirements if necessary; financial support due to end. Apply for Graduation.