PhD Program

The Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering PhD Program is an integrated study designed to give students first a broad base of knowledge in atmospheric, space and planetary sciences followed by more in-depth, concentrated studies in specific areas. The Climate and Space doctoral program is small, and all PhD students are fully supported by faculty research and/or fellowships. There is no guessing as to the research or faculty as students are paired with a faculty member upon admission.

Research and Faculty

For more than 60 years, Climate & Space has been contributing to the development of atmospheric and space sciences, through research sponsored by NASA, NSF, DoD and other governmental and non-governmental agencies. This support has contributed to the education of the next generation of scientists, engineers and managers that the nation needs to continue being the “leaders and the best” in the future.

Areas of Research in Atmospheric and Space Sciences are far-ranging. The proven blending of these disciplines has put Climate & Space faculty and students at the forefront of the necessary movement in climate and space research to understand the Earth, atmosphere, planets, solar system, and space weather in a whole systemic view, rather than individual components.

The Climate & Space distinguished body of senior faculty, internationally renowned in their fields of study, have been recognized by their peers with numerous honors. Their illustrious reputations have attracted some of the most talented junior faculty to the department where they are involved in cutting edge atmospheric and space research.

General Program Requirements

The Climate & Space PhD Program is an integrated study program designed to give students first a broad base of study in atmospheric, space and planetary sciences followed by more in-depth, concentrated studies in specific areas.


  • Students are expected to carry a course load of 9-12 credit hours (3-4 courses excluding seminar courses) each semester until the dissertation work is begun.
  • During their first two years, students are expected to complete departmental core courses: CLIMATE/SPACE 551 Advanced Fluid Dynamics (4 credits), CLIMATE/SPACE 532 Radiative Transfer (4 credits), a total of two terms in seminar course CLIMATE/SPACE 747 (1 credit each) and a total of two terms in seminar course CLIMATE/SPACE 749 (1 credit each).
  • Students report to the Graduate Committee during the first two years of the program and should consult with research advisors concerning elective second-year courses before registering.
  • During their first two years, students must satisfy the cognate requirement by taking a minimum of 4 credits of graduate courses in one or more other departments. These must not be seminar courses and must not be courses that are cross-listed with CLIMATE/SPACE.
  • Most students begin research soon after beginning their program. No later than upon achieving candidacy, they focus on dissertation research under the guidance of an advisor.
  • Students are not expected to take courses during the summer term, as these months are primarily used to gain research experience.
  • Students should discuss any questions regarding course selection with their research advisor and with the Graduate Program Chair. Refer to the complete list of department graduate courses for additional information.
  • There are no foreign language requirements.

Advancing to Candidacy

  • Each student must take a qualifying examination in order to be advanced to Ph.D. candidacy. Typically, the exam is taken within the first two years. Except for case-by-case exception and approval, Rackham graduate school requires students to achieve Ph.D. candidacy no later than the end of third year. 
  • The College of Engineering’s Responsible Conduct of Research and Scholarships workshops must be completed prior to taking the exam.
  • The minimum GPA required to advance to candidacy is 3.3 (B+) on Rackham’s 4.3 point scale, where 4.3 is an A+.
  • All doctoral students are required to complete the Departmental Core Courses specified above before taking the qualifying exam for candidacy to the Ph.D.
  • A PDF file describing the procedure and exam is available here: Qualifying Exam Procedures (updated September 2023).  

Candidacy and Dissertation

  • Upon passing the qualifying exams, and having completed the cognate hours and required Rackham fee hours (see the Rackham Graduate Student Handbook), the guidance of the student becomes the responsibility of the research advisor.
  • Although the Graduate Committee will still be available to the candidate, academic selections and thesis guidance will be the responsibility of the research advisor.
  • It is the responsibility of the student to ensure that all Rackham requirements have been fulfilled for the doctorate. Information is contained in the Rackham Graduate Student Handbook linked above.

Financial Aid

  • Graduate student research assistantships (GSRA’s), graduate student instructorships (GSI’s) and several fellowships are available. All forms of financial aid offer a monthly stipend, tuition and insurance for the academic year, which consists of fall and winter terms (eight months). Employment on research projects is generally available for students remaining on campus during the summer months.
  • You may also apply for need-based funding which is usually a student loan, through the University’s Office of Financial Aid, (734) 763-6600. There are application materials required to complete this process.