The AOSS Undergraduate Experience
Posted: September 25, 2014
By: Professor Mark Moldwin, AOSS Undergraduate Advisor and Associate Chair for Academic Affairs
The University of Michigan Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences has been preparing scientists and engineers to tackle a host of fundamental and pressing societal problems related to the Earth and Space Sciences for more than 50 years. Our nearly 1800 living alumni are sprinkled throughout academia, industry and government service. The main goals of our undergraduate program are to provide opportunities for students to learn within a community of scholars, provide hands-on experiential activities, and address real-world societal-relevant problems.
One strength of the program is our small size, which allows undergraduates to learn in small groups and to have faculty mentors for research experiences outside the classroom. About half of our students continue onto graduate school, while others begin careers in the government or private sector.
AOSS is undergoing an exciting transition that includes a new name and new undergraduate curriculum. These changes reflect a new generation of faculty (nine new tenure track faculty have joined the department in the last five years), a new emphasis on climate research, and efforts to build stronger connections to the undergraduate programs within the College of Engineering. The new name and curriculum should become official for the 2015/2016 Academic Year.
The new curriculum will have two areas of study, (1) Atmospheric and Climate or (2) Space, and two career directions, (1) science or (2) engineering. The science tracks are for students interested in pursuing careers in research and often lead directly into a graduate program or directly into the workforce. The engineering tracks are for students interested in pursuing careers that require an engineering background and often lead directly into a Masters in Engineering graduate program or directly into industry.
The program is designed to provide students with the core knowledge and competencies needed to be successful scientists and engineers. All Atmosphere and Climate students will focus on understanding atmospheric physics (thermodynamics, radiative processes, meteorology and climate dynamics). Atmospheric and Climate science students will then study advanced topics such as understanding biogeochemical cycles, clouds, and climate modeling. Atmospheric and Climate engineering students will, instead, focus on understanding climate impact assessment issues such as energy and the environment or sustainable development.
For space science and engineering students, the foundational classes include studying electricity and magnetism, classical mechanics and fluid dynamics. Space science students will then focus on understanding the Sun-Earth system, including introduction to plasma physics and observational techniques. Space engineering students will focus on understanding the space systems that enable space exploration (rocket propulsion, structures, and the space environment).
No matter which area of study or career path you chose, AOSS provides ample opportunities to learn inside and outside the classroom, develop life-long friendships and an appreciation for learning. A number of AOSS faculty have won numerous teaching and mentoring awards, and our student groups (the Graduate and Undergraduate Student Organization – GUStO and the American Meteorological Society Student Chapter) provide professional development and community building opportunities.
Come explore the atmosphere, climate, space sciences and engineering with us as we address some of humanities greatest questions and challenges.
To learn more, please visit the AOSS undergraduate studies page.