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Graduate Guide --> III. Procedures --> Examinations

M. EXAMINATIONS See Appendix 1

  1. Master's Degree Students
    1. Plan A (Thesis Plan)

      An oral examination, consisting of a seminar and a question session by the student's committee is conducted. The exam outcome is reported to Graduate School within 2 working days via the GS24 form.

    2. Plan B (Non-thesis Plan)

      The student is required to submit a brief research paper in AMS format. The student's committee decides on a topic. An examination is also given covering the student's course program. The exam outcome is reported to Graduate School within 2 working days via the GS24 form.

      NOTE: An M.S. student is expected to demonstrate a breadth of knowledge in the fundamentals of atmospheric science. Students will be examined on their core program specifically in atmospheric dynamics, atmospheric physics and chemistry, atmospheric circulation systems, and atmospheric measurements.

  2. Ph.D. Students
    1. Preliminary Examination

      Generally within 12 months of defending the M.S. (or within 18 months of admission to the Ph.D. program, if the student completed the M.S. in another department), the student must take and pass the Preliminary Exam. The exam outcome is reported to the Department and Graduate School within two working days using the GS16 form.

      Ph.D. students will submit to a preliminary examination administered by their graduate committee which is intended to evaluate the level of in depth knowledge in at least two specialized areas. The student, again in conjunction with the advisor, should identify two topics for the Preliminary Examination most closely related to the intended dissertation research. The Graduate Committee membership must represent expertise related to these two areas. Acceptable areas of specialization are: Atmospheric Chemistry, Atmospheric Dynamics, Atmospheric Radiation, Boundary Layer Meteorology, Climate Dynamics, Cloud Aerosol and Gas Measurement*, Cloud Dynamics, Cloud Physics, General Circulation, Mesoscale Meteorology, Numerical Modeling, Physical and Dynamical Climatology, Physical Oceanography, Radar Meteorology*, Remote Sensing*, Satellite Meteorology*, Surface-Atmosphere Interactions*, Synoptic Meteorology, and Tropical Meteorology. (*No more than one of the asterisked topics may be selected.)

      The student admitted into the Ph.D. program, in conjunction with the advisor, should begin forming a Graduate Committee as soon as possible after admission, normally in the first semester. The GS Form 6 is used to report the composition of the committee and the proposed plan of study. The Graduate Committee will serve as the Preliminary Examination Committee.

      1. The Preliminary Exam consists of:
        1. A research prospectus. The prospectus should be submitted to the Preliminary Examination Committee two weeks prior to the scheduled written portion of the exam. The following guidelines are to be used for the prospectus preparation.

          Prospectus Elements

          • The following are considered essential elements of a good research prospectus
          • A clear statement of the problem and its broader significance
          • A summary of the existing literature and its relevance to the specific problem being addressed
          • A description of the tools, assumptions or understanding that represents the starting point of the proposed research.
          • A description of the intended research and an appropriate explanation of how each research step will lead to the desired outcome.
          • A proposed work plan to demonstrate a realistic understanding of the work involved.
          • A summary detailing the expected benefits at the conclusion of the research.

          Prospectus Guidelines

          • The prospectus should be no more than 10 pages long using single-spaced, 12 point font. The 10 pages do not include the title page but otherwise include all text and figures. References should be listed separately at the end of the prospectus and do not count towards the 10 page limit.
          • The prospectus can cover the planned dissertation when this has been defined, or a related topic selected by the student. The topic may be discussed with the advisor prior to writing the prospectus but the subject is ultimately at the discretion of the student.
          • The objective of the prospectus is to assess whether the student can independently form a problem statement, a complete and coherent argument for the relevance of the proposed problem, the proposed solution and the expected outcomes. While interactions with the advisor or other committee members are not forbidden during the writing process, it is incumbent upon the student to ensure that the main objective of the prospectus - the demonstration of independent capabilities - is not compromised by these interactions. For example, having the advisor or others students read the prospectus and comment upon the content prior to submission is in clear contradiction of the objectives. Asking the advisor if a certain data set that might be useful for the research is available, on the other hand, would not be considered a problem. Interactions with CSU Writing Center (intended to aid non-native English speakers) are permissible as long as they do not impact the scientific content of the prospectus.

        2. Three written questions prepared by the three ATS faculty members on the student's graduate committee, in 2 subject areas of the student's choosing, but closely related to his/her research. One question will be drawn from each chosen topic, and the third question will seek to link the two. The student has 48 hours to prepare and submit written answers to these questions. S/he may use any reference materials required to answer the questions but may not consult with other persons.
        3. An oral examination, taking place within about a week of submitting the written exam to the Committee for review. The oral exam will be based on (but not necessarily limited to) the written exam questions, the exam topic areas, and the research prospectus. At the start of the oral examination, to the student will give an approximately 12 minute overview of the content of this prospectus. To the extent possible, s/he you will not be interrupted except to clarify points that the committee feels are necessary to follow the discussion. More detailed questions about the prospectus may or may not be asked after the initial presentation.
        4. The three portions of the exam are graded in an integrated sense. An overall exam result is reported, based on all three elements of the exam. Exam outcomes may be:

          • pass (Committee may require that the student do additional work; such requirements are documented in writing in the student's file)
          • fail

          If a student fails the Preliminary Exam, s/he may be eligible for one re-examination. However, re-examination must be endorsed by the Graduate Committee on the GS16 form, and must be completed within six months of the first attempt. Conditions to be met before re-examination are documented on the GS Form 16.

          A student who passes the Preliminary Exam will change status from Ph.D. I to Ph.D. II. The Department requires a memo from the student's advisor to be notified of this change.

      2. Notification of Exam

        The student is responsible for arranging a time and place for the oral portion of the Preliminary Exam after consultation with his/her Graduate Committee.

        The student must notify the Department office two weeks prior to the exam. The date, time and place of the preliminary examination and the two areas of specialization will be announced to all Atmospheric Science academic faculty members at least two weeks prior to the examination. The preliminary examination shall be administered at least two terms before the final examination. It is the candidate's responsibility to comply with these notifications.

        fill out preliminary notification

      3. Failure to Meet Timelines

        The student is expected to make every effort to comply with Departmental timelines for admission and for passing the Preliminary Examination. However, in some cases, there may be extenuating circumstances that require modification of those timelines. In such cases, the student and advisor may petition, in writing, to the Department Graduate Committee, outlining the reasons for the request and the proposed modified timetable. The Department Head will approve or deny the request.

        Flagrant violation of Departmental requirements and timetables will be considered grounds for dismissal from the program.

    2. Proposal Assessment Committee Meeting

      The purpose of this formal meeting of the student's graduate committee is to evaluate the ability of the graduate student to successfully conduct the research for a Ph.D. dissertation. At this point in time, students must demonstrate a capability to perform original, creative, and meaningful research to the graduate committee and other academic faculty in attendance before they may be considered a candidate for the doctoral degree. In particular, students must propose (either orally or in writing) a specific research program for the Ph.D. and defend its purpose, scope, scientific value, and overall credibility. This committee meeting shall take place about 6-12 months after the Preliminary Exam and approximately two semesters before the planned defense.

      The committee shall meet as many times as necessary to reach a conclusion. As a result of the committee's evaluation, the committee chairman will write a memorandum to the Department Head indicating that the committee is either satisfied or not satisfied with the student's proposed research program.

    3. Final Ph.D. Examination (See Graduate School Thesis Manual)

      Upon completion of the dissertation, the Ph.D. candidate's graduate committee and other participating faculty administer an oral examination in which the candidate defends the dissertation. The exam outcome is reported to the Graduate School within 2 working days via the GS24 form.


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