Degree Requirements: PhD Program
The PhD program requires four core courses taken by all students (12 credits), courses in a concentration area (minimum: 24 credits) that help the student prepare for the written and oral candidacy examinations, seminars, and dissertation research (minimum: 18 credits). PhD students are expected to enroll full-time. Courses may be taken at any Intercampus Marine Sciences (SMS)-affiliated program on the four campuses or at other area institutions, as determined by the student’s major advisor and/or dissertation committee.
Each IMS student must complete four core courses (12 credits), one in each of four core areas: biological oceanography, chemical oceanography, physical oceanography, and marine policy and/or management (including law and economics). The Core column in the IMS course list available at www.umassmarine.net identifies the core courses and their respective areas. The core courses are intended to provide a common grounding in the biological, chemical, and physical oceanographic areas of marine sciences and technology and in related marine policy and management disciplines. At least two core courses are offered each semester using the university’s distance learning facilities and technology. Students normally complete the core courses in the first two semesters.
Concentrations and Electives
To build on the core courses, each IMS student selects an area of concentration and chooses a marine policy or management core course and electives appropriate to this concentration, as approved by his/her faculty advisor and/or dissertation committee. The Concentrations and Courses section of the IMS website describes the concentrations and lists the electives associated with each.
Students typically take most of their elective courses on the campus where they and their major faculty advisor are in residence. Some elective courses, however, will also be taught via distance learning. In addition, students may choose to be in residence at different campuses for a period of time during their course of study, in order to take certain courses or to take advantage of research opportunities.
Weekly seminars presented by students and by visiting speakers are intended to broaden the scope of each student’s experience and to provide experience in verbal communication. Each PhD student is required to present at least one seminar each year after the first year. Attendance at the weekly seminars is required; students receive 1 credit for each of the first two semesters of seminar participation, but no credit after the first year.
Candidacy Examinations and Dissertation
Generally at the end of the fourth semester, but not later than the end of the sixth semester, the student and major faculty advisor select additional faculty who constitute the student’s graduate committee, and the student presents a written dissertation proposal to the committee. The student’s major advisor and committee may determine a later date for the presentation of the dissertation proposal. A student’s committee is chaired by the student’s major advisor and guides the student’s research. Committee members may be selected from IMS faculty, other departments, and other institutions. Dissertation committees for Boston-based students must be approved by the dean of Graduate Studies and meet the university-wide requirements for such committees as described in the Degree Requirements section of this catalog.
Successful performance in the core courses (defined as a grade of B or better in each core course and an overall GPA of 3.0 or better) is required for continuation in the program. No later than the sixth semester, the student’s committee administers the written and oral candidacy examinations. The candidacy examinations are comprehensive and cover the core areas and the student’s area of concentration. They are designed to test the intellectual competence and maturity of the student in the broad area of marine sciences and technology and in the selected area of concentration. Upon successful completion of the PhD candidacy examinations and acceptance of dissertation proposal, the student may petition to receive an en-route MS degree.
A scholarly dissertation based on original research is required of all PhD candidates. Dissertation research may be done in the laboratory or the field, or may be carried out in part during residence with an appropriate private business or government agency. Presentation and defense of a satisfactory dissertation, normally to be completed within five years from the date of advancement to candidacy, fulfill the degree requirements. The dissertation defense consists of a public lecture on the dissertation and a subsequent oral examination by the candidate’s dissertation committee.
Sequence of Courses by Semester
In the first two semesters, PhD students normally complete the core courses (12 credits), register for the seminar series (1 credit each semester), and take two electives (6 credits). Additional coursework (24 credits minimum) is normally completed by the end of the fifth semester, in order to complete the written and oral candidacy examinations no later than the sixth semester. Upon advancement to candidacy, PhD students register each semester for dissertation research and other courses as appropriate until graduation. Example tables summarizing the sequence of courses for the first five semesters can be found at www.umassmarine.net under “PhD Degree Requirements.”
The Office of Graduate Admissions at the University of Massachusetts Boston processes all applications for wishing to make UMass Boston their home campus. Applications, associated materials, and any inquiries about the application should be addressed to Office of Graduate Admissions.
A BS or BA degree from an accredited institution is required for admission. Candidates who have completed a master’s degree are particularly welcome in the doctoral program. Applicants should feel free to contact a member of the School for the Environment faculty within their field of interest. Students are also advised to review the subject matter of the prerequisite courses before they begin the program.
Candidates may apply for admission at either the master’s or doctoral level. Students admitted directly into the doctoral program are expected to have exceptional academic credentials and/or work experience. Students entering with a bachelor’s degree may be required to complete the requirements of a master’s degree before admission to the doctoral program. Students entering with a master’s may be admitted at the doctoral level provided the degree, course work, and research experience warrant such a decision by the Admissions Committee.
The Admissions Committee will evaluate a number of additional criteria in its consideration of applications. They include performance on the Graduate Record Examinations (GREs), TOEFL (if appropriate), letters of recommendation, transcripts, and a statement of interest and intent. International students must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).
Three letters of recommendation from referees familiar with the applicant’s academic and/or work experience are required.
Official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate course work must be submitted.
Statements of interest and intent are also requested.
- The statement of interest should provide reviewers an indication of the motivation of the student for pursuing graduate work.
- The statement of intent should describe how graduate training would address the student’s career goals.
The applicant is strongly encouraged to identify one or more faculty members who could serve as the applicant’s advisor, at least initially, upon admission. To this end, discussions with individual faculty before completing the application are strongly encouraged.