We make every effort to keep these guidelines current. Be sure to check
with your advisor or the Graduate Program Assistant for up-to-date information.
Entering students are referred to the Graduate Bulletin for details regarding registration
and degree requirements. The following information pertains to requirements and procedures
within the Department of Geological Sciences.
Initial Counseling and Orientation
Prior to their initial registration, entering graduate students should report to their
faculty advisor for counseling. Contact the Graduate Program Assistant if your
faculty advisor is unavailable. The department holds an orientation meeting for
incoming graduate students and runs a two day field trip to local mountains as an
introduction to the department and local geology.
During the first semester of residence, students should consult with faculty members who
relate to their field(s) of interest and choose a faculty advisor. The faculty advisor
will assist in planning a degree program and in choosing an appropriate advisory
committee. The committee should be formed during the first semester, and Master's students
must file an Advisory Committee form at this time (see below). Most students, in
particular doctoral students have already determined who their major advisor will be prior
Doctoral degree candidates will begin the
selection of a research problem during the first semester of residence. Formal
consideration of the research proposal will constitute the Comprehensive Examination (see
Master's degree candidates will select
thesis or independent study topics before the end of the second semester. Thesis topics
will be selected in consultation with the advisory committee.
The Department regards a 5-hour course
load as average for graduate students. Programs should be designed with this in mind.
Students will maintain at least a "B" average in all work attempted.
Graduate students should attend and
participate in the Departmental colloquium.
A graduate student in geology who
changes, or adds to, their degree objective must consult with his advisory committee and
then obtain written approval from the Associate Chair for Graduate Affairs. The Department
admits applicants directly into the doctoral program depending on their record and
potential for future work but requires approval by the major advisor and the graduate
admissions committee. Some applicants with only a bachelors degree can choose, however, to
first enter the Masters program and then transfer into the doctoral program after their
No final oral exams will be given and no
theses will be read during the last 2 weeks of the Spring semester or during the Summer
without the prior written consent of the advisory committee.
At the time of graduation, the student
should return all University property, including keys, and give the Department office
manager a permanent address.
To insure that their degree programs will be completed on schedule, students are
responsible for making certain that the following documents are in their office file and
that required information is kept up-to-date:
- Transcript: An official transcript of all
academic work must be on file in the Department office.
- Admission to Candidacy: The student must
file an Application for Admission to Candidacy with the office of the Graduate Dean at
least 10 weeks before the date of the comprehensive exam for Plan II Masters (defense of
Thesis for Plan I) or two weeks before the comprehensive examination for the Ph.D. degree.
Students should submit their Application for Admission to Candidacy to the Graduate
Program Assistant in the Department of Geological Sciences, who will review the
application and forward it to the Graduate School.
- Report of Residence Credit: At the end of
the Spring semester the student working toward the Ph.D. degree shall request their
advisory committee Chair to record, with the approval the Chair of the Department, or the
Associate Chair for Graduate Affairs, the amount of residence credit he has earned during
- Additional documents (depending upon the
degree program) must be kept in the student's file:
- Approved thesis proposal
- Plan II Master's independent study report.
- Research proposal for Ph.D. preliminary
The minimum requirement for the masters degree is 30 credit hours. A student may complete
a Plan I (thesis) option, or a Plan II (course work) option. At least 24 hours must be
completed at the 5000 level or above; these 24 hours may include a minimum of 4, but not
more than 6, thesis hours for those students completing a Plan I degree. A maximum of 6
credit hours may be completed at the 3000 or 4000 level at the discretion of the academlc
department and the principle advisor.
The advisory committee for a Master's candidate will consist of three persons selected by
the student and approved by the Department Associate Chair for Graduate Affairs. The
person designated as first advisor will serve as Chair. The Chair of the student's
committee must have regular membership on the graduate faculty. During the first semester
in residence, the student will obtain the signatures of the committee members using the
Advisory Committee Form, signifying their willingness to serve. One copy of the form
should be placed in the student's Departmental file and the other given to the Chair of
All candidates must pass a comprehensive examination as part of a formal thesis
defense. The examination will be conducted by a committee consisting of the
student's advisory committee. In determining whether this examination has been passed, the
examining committee will consider the student's academic record together with the results
of the examination. Notice of the oral examination and defense must be filed in the
graduate dean's office by the Department Graduate Program Assistant at least two weeks in
advance of the examination. It is the student's responsibility to notify the Department
Graduate Program Assistant of the date, time and committee members at least two weeks
prior to the examination.
Plan I Candidates --
The candidate must demonstrate an ability to conduct original research and present the
results in a meaningful fashion by submitting a thesis that is considered by the examining
committee to be a worthwhile contribution to knowledge. Plan 1 candidates typically
take 24 credits of formal coursework and 6 units of thesis credits
Prior to undertaking this research, the
student will submit a thesis proposal to their principal advisor outlining the nature of
the problem, its relevance to earth science, and techniques proposed to solve it. The
proposal should be documented by references to literature wherever applicable. After
initial consideration of the proposal the principle advisor and the student should meet
informally to discuss the thesis proposal. When the committee is satisfied that the thesis
proposal is appropriate and that the student fully understands the scope of the problem, a
copy of the proposal will be placed in the student's Department file.
The final draft of the thesis must be
approved at least 10 days before the date of the oral comprehensive examination and must
be available for inspection by members of the examining committee prior to the
Students must register for thesis (GEOL
6950) for a minimum of 4 or a maximum of 6 semester hours. The student may register for
any specific number of hours in any semester of residence but the total number of hours
for all semesters must equal the number of credits the student expects to receive for the
thesis. The final grade will be withheld until the thesis is completed. If the thesis is
not completed at the end of the term in which the student is so registered, an
"In-Progress" (IP) will be reported. (The student may not register again for any
portion of thesis credit on which an IP grade has been submitted.) A formal grade is
given for thesis credits once the defense is successfully completed.
A first draft of the thesis should be
submitted well in advance of the defense to the principle advisor for initial evaluation.
A subsequent draft is then submitted to the full examining committee prior to the defense
upon approval by the principle advisor. The completed thesis is then approved by the
examining committee upon successful completion of the defense and fulfilling of any
additional requirements. This should be completed at least 30 days prior to the
commencement date which the degree is to be conferred. The thesis must conform to
Graduate School specifications available from the Graduate School.
Candidates will take an oral comprehensive examination when the thesis is completed and
will be examined primarily over the thesis and topics related to it. Thesis defense will
also include general questions related to coursework as part of a broader comprehension
Plan II Candidates -- (No
Candidates will be required to complete 3 hours of Geology 6960 (Plan II Master's
Research) under the supervision of her or his advisory committee. A written report on a
mutually agreed topic will be required which will be retained in the student's permanent
Departmental office file. Plan II candidates typically complete 30 credits of
Students will take written and oral comprehensive examinations as part of a Plan II
Thesis. The written part will consist of questions(s) of broad scope provided and
evaluated by the student's examining committee. The questions will be designed to test the
student's ability to synthesize, in a critical and perceptive manner, previously completed
course work, ideas from the literature, past experience, and original thoughts as outlined
in the written report.
A formal written examination will be
administered once coursework is completed. Answers shall not exceed 3000 words and shall
be submitted within two weeks. Questions in the formal written exam are administered by
the thesis committee. The student is expected to present her or his ideas in a clear,
professional manner. The results will be judged in relation to the general performance
expected from a student at the Master's level.
The oral examination will be held as soon
as it can be arranged after the student has submitted his written examination. It will be
administered by the examining committee and will include topics covered by the written
examination and fields related to the general area of interest.
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
The Doctor of Philosophy Degree is the highest academic degree conferred by the University
of Colorado. Students who hope to earn this degree must demonstrate by periodic
examinations and by continuing performance that they are proficient and well-informed in
some broad field of learning and that they can intelligently evaluate the works of others
in this field.
The Doctor of Philosophy degree is
awarded only after an individual has demonstrated an ability to work independently and
productively in a chosen field of specialization within a broader field and has made an
original contribution of significance to the sum of knowledge in the field.
To earn the degree, the student is
required to meet certain standards and to fulfill certain formal requirements within the
broader framework at the University and also within the Department of Geological Sciences.
University Standards and Requirements
The student is expected to be fully acquainted with all of the requirements for a Ph.D.
degree set forth by the Boulder campus Graduate School.
Minimum Course Credits
Thirty semester hours in courses numbered 5000 and above. Most students will be required
to take courses in excess of the 30 hour minimum requirement.
Ph.D. Dissertation Credit
Student must register for 30 hours credit for dissertation research, in addition to
credits in formal course work.
Quality of Work
Only A or B grades will be accepted toward the Ph.D. degree.
At least six semesters of scholarly work beyond a Bachelor's degree.
Transfer of Credits
The Graduate School states that up to 21 semester hours of coursework may be transferred
to CU Boulder and be applied toward the Ph.D. degree. The Department of Geological
Sciences permits 10 hours of coursework to be transferred; however, an exception may be
made (under certain circumstances) to transfer up to the maximum allowed by the Graduate
School at the time of transfer. A letter from the student's committee Chair to the
Department Chair should accompany the transfer request.
The following outlines general procedures for doctoral students as they are admitted and
advanced to candidacy
Guidance Interview: Incoming doctoral students will be interviewed by a
group of 4 professors, including the primary advisor to evaluate their core knowledge in
the Earth Sciences. The interview is intended to serve as a guidance tool for planning a
course of study in the Department of Geological Sciences and will be held early during the
students first semester. Students are not expected to study for the interview nor
will they be graded on their performance. The interview is designed to determine the
breadth of incoming doctoral students knowledge in basic aspects of the Geosciences,
including the record of events on Earth and fundamental processes that control its
history. Faculty examiners will represent a range of expertise in the department and will
serve on the committee for a period of three years. The interview is aimed at identifying
strengths and weaknesses of individuals from a diverse applicant pool, and to provide
guidance and written recommendations for determining a suite of courses appropriate for a
chosen field of study. Incoming doctoral students will gain early experience in responding
to scientific query in an oral setting, as a prelude to the comprehensive exam taken
midway through their degree program. The interview replaces the formal written component
of the comprehensive examination, in order to identify incoming students strengths
and weaknesses and facilitates future focus on dissertation research after completing
Comprehensive Examination Timing: For students with a masters degree in
geological sciences or a closely related field (geophysics, geochemistry, etc), the
comprehensive examination should be taken by the end of the 4th semester after at least 24
credits of formal coursework has been completed while maintaining a 3.0 grade point
average. For students who do not hold a masters degree in geosciences (e.g. physics,
chemistry, biology, liberal arts, etc.), the examination should be taken by the end of the
5th semester of study. Formal advancement to candidacy by the Graduate School occurs after
a student completes 30 units of formal coursework and successfully passes the
Comprehensive Examination: Format: The comprehensive examination will
first consist of a proposal that outlines the Ph.D. research, written in the style
appropriate for a major funding agency such as NSF, NASA, DOE, ACS-PRF, etc. An oral
examination will follow two weeks after submission of the research proposal when the
candidate is required to present their proposal and respond to questions by committee
members. The goal of the oral examination is to provide an opportunity for the
dissertation committee to evaluate the candidates general knowledge base, their
understanding of research methods, and the significance and feasibility of their proposed
research to advancing knowledge in the Earth Sciences. While questions posed by the
committee to the candidate may be from any general topic in the Earth Sciences, the focus
will be on topics related to the candidates chosen field of study.
Final Examination: An
examination on the Doctoral dissertation and related topics, a so-called
"dissertation defense." Upon recommendation of the examining committee, a
doctoral student who fails the final examination may retake the examination (see
"Outcomes" in following section). A student in a program may not take more than
two final examinations.
Ph.D. students have six years, from the beginning of course work after admission to their
Ph.D. graduate program at the University of Colorado, to complete all requirements
including the filing of the dissertation with the Graduate School. The point in the
graduate career at which the student passes the comprehensive examination is not relevant
in determining time remaining for completion of the degree.
Doctoral students who have passed their comprehensive examination are required to be
continuously registered for 5 dissertation hours each Fall and Spring semester including
the semester of the thesis defense. Students not making use of campus facilities may
choose to register for 3 dissertation hours. Such students will be considered
"part-time" students and all CU - Boulder considerations for part-time status
apply. Doctoral students must be registered as full time students (5 dissertation hours)
during the semester in which the dissertation defense is passed
Internal Requirements and
Within the framework of the general
standards and requirements for the Ph.D. degree established by the University and the
Graduate School, the Department administers policies, procedure, and requirements that
specifically apply to students undertaking a program leading to a Ph.D. in the geological
During the first semester in residence with regular status in the Graduate School, the
student should contact the faculty member assigned as Chair of her or his committee. In
consultation with the student and the Department Associate Chair for Graduate Affairs,
four additional faculty members will be added to the committee. The committee shall be
constituted so as to represent a broad spectrum of related academic interests as well as
the special interests of the students. Students should be aware that the comprehensive
exam committee must include a regular faculty member whose expertise lies outside of the
student's primary research interests. This committee shall guide the student throughout
her or his graduate study. The members of the advisory committee may be changed if it
becomes appropriate. The committee will have the authority to establish formal course
requirements as well as to request other special efforts by the student to remove apparent
deficiencies in her or his educational background. The Chair of the student's committee
must have regular membership on the graduate faculty. Matters under debate within the
committee shall be resolved by a majority vote.
A total of five faculty or research scientists shall serve as members of the comprehensive
examination committee. Three committee members must be faculty at the University of
Colorado-Boulder; additional members may be from other universities, research agencies and
museums, etc. At least two committee members must be regular tenure track faculty from
Geological Sciences, while one of these must be from outside the candidates general
field of study. All committee members that are not members of the CU faculty must be
active in research (criterion: minimum of one peer-reviewed publications on average in the
last four years prior to appointment to the dissertation committee) and must be formally
appointed as temporary members of the graduate faculty. This process takes several
weeks. Please plan accordingly.
The dissertation committee should be constituted before the end of the third semester and
is required to meet as a group in the semester prior to the anticipated administration of
the examination so that they can discuss the candidates progress, skills,
preparation for the examination, etc. The committee is required to meet with the candidate
on a yearly basis thereafter to discuss their progress towards the degree.
Outcomes: The outcome of the committees decision on the
comprehensive examination is decided by majority vote whereby 3 of 5 committee members and
2 of 3 CU faculty must agree to advance the student to candidacy.
Possible outcomes of the comprehensive examination include:
Pass. (student passes both the proposal and oral components to the satisfaction
of the majority of committee members)
2) Conditional Pass. (student passes most of
examination, but has significant deficiencies). In this case, the committee shall decide
upon a course of action (additional coursework, preparation of a research paper, rewriting
the research proposal, etc) to be completed within 6 months of taking the examination
(excepting further required coursework which may not be offered in the following
3) Failure of the comprehensive examination. In this
case the committee is required to determine by majority vote whether a) the PhD candidate
is unlikely to complete the doctoral degree in a satisfactory fashion, or b) the student
should be allowed to retake the examination. In case a) the student will be awarded a Plan
II masters degree, assuming they have completed 30 credits of graduate coursework and
asked to leave the graduate program, whereas in case b) the student will be allowed to
retake the comprehensive examination within the following 12 months. If the second option
is undertaken, the dissertation committee shall define major deficiencies and suggest
means for improvement.
Responsibility of Major Advisor:The
major advisor acts as a mentor to guide the doctoral candidate through their program of
study. It is the advisors responsibility to: inform the student of the standards
expected for the comprehensive examination, review the students proposal and suggest
improvements in format, focus, etc. This should not include extensive editing or rewriting
of the research proposal by the advisor. The advisor is also responsible for first
discussing and formulating coursework necessary for the degree in consultation with other
committee members. The advisor also serves as the lead committee member for the
comprehensive examination, sets its format and reviews initial drafts of the research
proposal and the dissertation prior to its submission to the committee for review.
The comprehensive examination will be administered by the student's five-member advisory
committee with the approval of the Dean of the Graduate School.
Notice of the oral examination must be
filed in the Graduate Dean's office by the Department Graduate Program Assistant 2 weeks
in advance of the examination. It is the student's responsibility to notify the Department
Graduate Program Assistant of the date, time and committee members at least two weeks
prior to the examination.
Doctoral degree candidates must meet the
University residency requirement before taking the comprehensive examination, unless they
already have a masters degree and take the exam in their fifth semester.
Application to Candidacy
The candidate must make formal application to candidacy on form supplied by the Department
office at least two (2) weeks before submitting an answer to the written comprehensive
examination. The candidate will be admitted formally to candidacy when she or he has
passed the comprehensive examination, has earned at least four (4) semesters of residence.
No final oral exams will be given and no dissertation will be read during the last 2 weeks
of the Spring semester or during the Summer without the prior written consent of the
candidates advisory committee.
The candidate must demonstrate an ability
to conduct original research and present results in a meaningful way by submitting a
thesis that is considered by the examining committee to be a worthwhile contribution to
Following the Preliminary Exam the
advisory committee and the student will meet informally and discuss the dissertation
proposal. When the committee is satisfied that the thesis proposal is appropriate and that
the student fully understands the scope of the problem, the Chair will present it to the
A student must be registered for
"thesis" for a specific number of hours (up to 10) in any term of residence in
which she or he is engaged in dissertation work, the number of hours to be approved by his
advisory committee. A minimum of 30 credits must be earned for the doctoral dissertation
but no more than 10 until the student's application to candidacy has been approved.
A first draft of the dissertation should
be submitted well in advance of the date on which the degree is to be conferred. The final
draft of the dissertation must be approved at least 10 days before the date of the final
oral examination and must be available for inspection by members of the examining
committee prior to the examination.
The final copy must comply with
specifications available at the Departmental office or the Graduate School. The format
used by the Department is the same as the format used by the U.S. Geological Survey. The
student must file one copy of the thesis including abstract (not to exceed 350 words) plus
one additional copy of the title page and abstract in the Graduate School office according
to graduation deadlines.
Thesis binding and copyright fees must be
paid at the time the thesis is turned in to the Graduate School. (Orders for reprints of
the abstract or UMI copies of your dissertation are extra charges that require checks made
payable to University Microfilms - discuss this with the Graduate School.)
Final Oral Examination
The final examination will be conducted by the five members of the candidates dissertation
committee. The committee members will be approved by the Dean of the Graduate School and
must have either regular or special graduate faculty status. The non-Departmental member
must have regular faculty membership on the graduate faculty. The final examination is an
oral defense of the candidate's dissertation and related topics.
Upon the recommendation of the examining
committee, a doctoral student who fails the final examination may retake the examination.
A student in a program may not take more than two final examinations.
Department Keys and Specimen
All keys must be returned and verified by appropriate signatures before the final thesis
grade will be sent to the Graduate School. Students must be aware that failure to turn in
keys could prevent graduation. In some fields of study (paleontology, etc.) the Department
may require that a representative suite of properly documented specimens be archived in
the Department or museum. The principal advisor has final authority regarding the size and
type of collection to remain. At the conclusion of the final oral examination the
principal advisor will confer with other members of the examining committee and will sign
an approval form, to be included in the student's file. This must be done before a final
grade is sent to the Graduate School.