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Ours is a vibrant, cohesive department aimed at the highest standards of scholarship. Faculty and students at the master's and doctoral levels pursue studies that address fundamental questions in the Earth and environmental sciences, spanning deep geological timescales to human timescales. Students in Earth and Environmental Sciences (EES) may pursue the following degrees:
- M.S. in Earth and Environmental Sciences
- Ph.D. in the Environmental Science option of Environmental Engineering
The M.S. degree in EES is administered by the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. The Ph.D. program in Environmental Science is jointly administered by the Departments of EES and Civil and Environmental Engineering. Information relevant to both degrees is covered on this page. In addition, the link above provides a more complete description of the Environmental Science option, including degree requirements, admission, financial aid, and interdisciplinary research opportunities in this one-of-a-kind program in the nation.
Our research programs are well-funded; projects are supported by ample laboratory facilities and instrumentation, including computational infrastructure, and they are topically and geographically diverse. Areas of emphasis in graduate studies and research include the following (see Research page for more information): Transport phenomena; sedimentary processes; paleoecology and coupled physical-biological processes; magmatic processes and crustal evolution; and geochemical processes. Current projects are underway in many parts of the U.S., Asia, South America and Antarctica, and include field, laboratory, analytical and modeling components.
This combination of active research on a wide range of problems, and close and enthusiastic interaction among faculty and graduate students, provides an ideal intellectual setting for pursuing graduate studies. The Department's relatively small size contributes to personalized, engaging classes and a close-knit atmosphere.
Admission and Financial Aid
Application is made to the Graduate School. We encourage students to view the Graduate School Catalog and apply via the Graduate School Online Application. Transcripts, three letters of recommendation, and general aptitude GRE scores are required. The official deadline for receipt of applications is January 15.We are flexible about accepting applications at a later date, but financial aid decisions are normally made early. Applications received before the deadline therefore have the best chance of success.
Graduate students are supported by teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and scholarships, providing full tuition plus nine-month stipends of $21,000 (2010-2011) and health insurance. Additional funds are available for summer support through research or teaching assistantships. Our policy is generally only to admit students with full support. In rare cases where students are admitted without full support, tuition is charged for courses on a per-semester hour basis (~$1600/hour).
The Process and Outcome of Graduate Studies
The Department excels in terms of the product of its graduate program: well-trained students who produce important research and go on to successful careers in the Earth and environmental sciences and related fields. Our students present their results at national and international meetings, and many M.S. and all Ph.D. students publish their work in major journals (see listings under faculty publications). The M.S. program is designed to span two years. The Ph.D. program is designed around a flexible curriculum wherein candidates' programs of study are tailored to their specialty areas and career goals.
Students completing their graduate degrees at Vanderbilt excel in their careers in the Earth and environmental sciences.
- After completing their degrees, our M.S. graduates are about equally divided between continuing on for advanced degrees (mostly the Ph.D., at Vanderbilt or other excellent institutions, in some cases law school) and entering the work force. Those who take jobs immediately after their M.S. enter Earth science-related fields: private industry – mostly environmental firms, some in petroleum; government employment – research labs, U.S. and state surveys; non-governmental environmental organizations; and community college and secondary education. Those who have finished Ph.D. degrees following completion of their V.U. M.S. have faculty, research or survey positions.
- Students who have completed the Ph.D. in our program have faculty and academic and private research positions.
Curriculum and Degree Requirements
Twenty-four hours of graduate credit and a research thesis are required for the M.S. degree. The Ph.D. involves 72 credit hours (with a minimum of 36 hours in formal coursework, with many of the remaining hours as dissertation research); transfer credit can include, for relevant graduate course work. A student’s program of study is fairly flexible. It is planned by the student in consultation with, and approved by, the Director of Graduate Studies and a Supervisory Committee. All graduate students are expected to have a sufficient background in supporting sciences and mathematics as well as in undergraduate Earth science; some make-up work is permitted. Students pursuing the M.S. degree take most of their courses in the first year and spend summers and much of their second year completing the thesis. Similarly, P.H.D. students take a majority of their formal courses during the first two years and focus primarily on research during their summers and subsequent years.