May 28, 2023  
2022-2023 Graduate Catalog 
2022-2023 Graduate Catalog

Geology, PhD

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College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics  > Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences  > Geology, PhD

The Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (EAS) will provide all its students with educational programs that encompass the fundamental principles of the geosciences and the body of knowledge associated with the application of these principles to the study of the Earth and planetary materials. PhD students will receive advanced, research-intensive instruction that concentrates upon the acquisition of new knowledge, innovative approaches to problem-solving, and the dissemination of research results. Students successfully completing the PhD program will be prepared for a career as a researcher, educator, or professional geoscientist.

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Admission Requirements

  • Applicant will have earned a Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree
  • Scores from the General GRE examination taken in the last 5 years are optional (verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing; advanced GRE is recommended but optional)
  • English language proficiency test scores, such as TOEFL or IELTS scores, must be provided by applicants who did not earn a prior degree from a US institution or a country where English is the medium of instruction (see list in the General Admission Policy ).

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The admissions committee and the department chair will evaluate the credentials of each applicant for the Ph.D. program, considering a broad range of criteria, including:

  1. Content of the undergraduate program and, if applicable, graduate programs and grades earned, particularly in the areas of Geosciences, Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry.
  2. A cumulative GPA of 3.00 or better in the last 60 hours of course work.
  3. Letters of recommendation from three (3) individuals (preferably faculty members), who are able to judge the candidate’s academic abilities and potential for scholarly research.
  4. GRE scores, if submitted (see above).
  5. English proficiency test scores, when applicable.
  6. Scientific, professional, technical publications, and Master’s Thesis (if applicable).

In addition to these requirements, graduate admission may also be contingent upon a faculty advisor agreeing to supervise the applicant.  Therefore, prospective students are strongly encouraged to contact faculty members in the applicant’s field of interest prior to the application deadline.

Prerequisite Courses

Candidates entering the Geology PhD program must demonstrate general proficiency in mathematics, physics, and chemistry. Some graduate courses explicitly require prerequisite courses to be successful.

The department will determine what deficiencies -if any - are present, and the acceptable means of removing those deficiencies (e.g. course work within and/or outside the department, directed study, research papers). Waivers of requirements will be considered on an individual basis. Applicants with a few deficiencies can satisfy those requirements while also taking graduate courses at the University of Houston.

Degree Requirements

  • All doctoral students must have a minimum of one continuous academic year (two terms (Fall/Spring or Spring/Summer/Fall)) as a full‐time student which consists of 9.0 Credit Hours per term.
  • A student working on a dissertation must be continuously enrolled in a minimum of 3.0 Credit Hours of doctoral research each Fall and Spring term, and in a minimum of 3.0 Credit Hours of doctoral dissertation in their final term.
  • Up to 6.0 Credit Hours of courses taken outside the department, but relevant to the degree program, can apply to the degree with prior approval from the Geology Graduate Faculty Advisor.

Sequence and Timing

First year in program:

  1. Appropriate course work
  2. Removal of all deficiencies
  3. Establishment of PhD Research Committee

Second year in program:

  1. Candidacy exam
  2. Presenting Research and Dissertation
  3. Completion of all formal course work
  4. Initiation of research

Third year in program:

  1. Conduct the proposal research
  2. Submit revise papers
  3. Completion and defense dissertation

Course Requirements

Credit hours required for this degree: 54.0

a) PhD students entering with a MS degree

  • Formal EAS courses Credit Hours: 18.0
  • Letter-graded Doctoral Dissertation course Credit Hours: 6.0 - 12.0
  • The remaining hours may include Coursework, Doctoral Research, Seminars and Special Problems

b) PhD students entering with a Bachelor’s degree

  • Formal EAS elective courses Credit Hours: 15.0
  • EAS Core Category Course Selections Credit Hours: 9.0
  • Dissertation Credit Hours: 6.0 - 12.0
  • The remaining hours may include Coursework, Doctoral Research, Seminars and Special Problems
Core Category Course Requirements

9.0 Credit Hours comprised of 3.0 Credit Hours maximum from three of the four categories with no more than 3.0 Credit Hours in any category. Course substitutions may be allowed on an individual basis, with prior approval from the Geology Graduate Faculty Advisor.

Most of these courses are offered in Fall or Spring terms, in alternate years.

Category 1 (Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology/Geochemistry)

Category 2 (Sedimentary Geology/Stratigraphy)

Category 3 (Structure/Tectonics)

Academic Policies

Scholastic Requirements

  • Graduate students must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.00 in all course work to be considered in good standing.
    • Students not in good standing cannot receive a graduate degree and can be declared ineligible for support with a graduate assistantship (IA, TA, RA/TE or RA).
  • Graduate students who receive grades of C+ or lower in 12 or more semester hours of course work attempted for graduate credit are ineligible for any advanced degree at this institution.
  • Semester hours of “U” grades in S/U-graded courses apply toward the above 12-hour total.

Research (Dissertation) Advisor/Research Committee

Ph.D. applicants are encouraged to formulate their dissertation committee promptly in order to ensure proper guidance throughout their research.

  • Committee Composition
    • Doctoral students’ dissertation committees must be comprised of:
      • a minimum of four members to include three faculty members who have their primary appointment within EAS
      • one approved member external to the major department from industry or academia who is acceptable to the department and approved by the college.
    • A faculty member with a joint appointment in EAS is considered as an outside member unless he/she chairs the committee. In this case, an additional external member outside the major department is required.
    • After these minimum requirements for committee members are satisfied, additional committee members may be approved from industry or academia, but at least 50% of the committee must be tenured/tenure‐track faculty at the University of Houston.
    • Research faculty or instructional faculty may serve on dissertation committees, but not chair the committees. However, a research professor may serve as a co‐advisor with a tenured/ tenure‐track faculty.
  • Candidates must specify a dissertation committee and have the names on file in the NSM Office of Academic Affairs at least one term prior to their graduation.


To become a candidate for the doctoral degree a student must meet a set of requirements established by the EAS Department. For all EAS doctoral aspirants, there are two options available to attain candidacy. It is the responsibility of the dissertation advisor to notify the department academic advisor and applicable graduate advisor which path to candidacy the graduate student will undertake by the end of the term preceding the candidacy exam or paper submission (Candidacy Options 1 and 2, respectively. See below).

  1. Candidacy Option 1 - Qualifying Exam and Proposal:
    • A five member examining committee will administer a written exam, approximately 4 hours in length, given during the seventh to eighth week of each term.
      • It will test the breadth of the candidate’s knowledge within their discipline.
    • Approval by a majority of the members of the examining committee is required for the student to pass the examination.
      • At the discretion of the examining committee, a student who fails the general examination can be permitted to re‐take it; however, the exam cannot be taken more than twice by the applicant.
      • Re‐examination will take place within one (1) month of the initial examination.
    • The student must pass the candidacy examination before proceeding to the dissertation proposal.
    • All candidacy and proposal requirements must be completed by the end of the 4th term in the program.
  2. Candidacy Option 2 - Manuscript Submission and Proposal:
    • Submission of a manuscript to an Institute for Scientific Information (ISI)‐indexed, peer‐reviewed journal by the 6th week of the fourth term in the program and approval of an oral and written Ph.D. proposal.
    • Research work for the manuscript must have been completed at UH. This timing implies that the student is full‐ time and supported as a Research Assistant (RA) or Teaching Assistant (TA).
    • In order to proceed along this pathway for the Ph.D., the dissertation advisor and research committee must agree that the candidate has produced a publishable manuscript capable of passing a rigorous external peer‐review for a scientific journal and has completed and successfully defended a research proposal.
    • Prior to the presentation of the dissertation proposal, the manuscript must be submitted to a peer‐reviewed journal.
    • The oral proposal of the dissertation must be presented before the end of the 4th semester.

Dissertation Proposal

The oral dissertation proposal will be given during the semester in which the candidacy exam has been successfully completed (Candidacy Option 1) or the manuscript has been submitted to an approved peer‐reviewed journal (i.e. before the end of the fourth semester) (Candidacy Option 2).

  • Scheduling for Presentation of Proposal
    • PhD proposals can take place Monday‐Friday, with starting times between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., during the Fall and Spring terms.
    • The proposal must be presented by the last day of the semester. Teaching Assistants must present by first Monday in November in the Fall term, or the first Monday in July in the Summer term.
    • Proposals cannot be presented during, vacations, weekends, or over spring break or inter‐term breaks.
    • Summer proposals can be scheduled pending approval of the entire committee.
    • A minimum of two hours should be allocated for the dissertation proposal presentation and questions.
  • Preparation for Presentation
    • Proposal presentations are preceded by the distribution of a research committee approved 5 to 10 page (10 page maximum for text) written description of the dissertation project.
    • A one-page abstract must be posted and distributed to all faculty members at least seven calendar days prior to presentation and a digital copy of the full proposal in the final form filed with the department academic advisor and committee members at that time.
    • The proposal abstract must contain the title, time, place of the proposal, link for a video conference and the names of the committee members.
    • The dissertation advisor and at least one other member of the committee must initial the abstract prior to posting, thus indicating that they approve of the presentation of the proposal.
  • Presentation
    • The oral presentation, approximately 30 to 45 minutes long, will be followed by a period during which all present can ask questions of the student related to the suitability and feasibility of the project, as well as the student’s ability to perform the research.
    • All faculty present can participate in the deliberations.
  • Proposal Decisions
    • Committee members vote on the success or failure of the student’s performance in the dissertation proposal.
    • Approval by a majority of those voting is needed to pass the proposal. Upon successful presentation of the dissertation proposal, the student will be granted PhD candidacy status.
    • Upon successful presentation of the proposal, a digital copy of the complete proposal with the dissertation advisor’s signature indicating approval of the proposal as originally presented or modified must be placed in the student’s permanent academic file.
    • The examining committee, at their discretion, can allow a student who failed the dissertation proposal to re‐propose, this, however, can be done no more than once.
      • The second presentation must take place within 90 calendar days of the initial presentation.

Dissertation Defense

A public oral defense of the completed dissertation research will be presented to the faculty-at-large and may be attended by any other interested parties.

  • Format of Dissertation
    • The format of the dissertation must follow NSM guidelines.
    • Questions pertaining to specific requirements should be addressed to the appropriate advisor.
  • Prior to Defense of the dissertation,
    • Students that have used option 1 will submit at least two manuscripts, based on the dissertation research, to a qualified journal. Students that used candidacy option 2 will have a manuscript accepted and another submitted to qualified journals.
    • This manuscript must have been judged publication‐ready by the dissertation advisor and at least one other faculty member on the dissertation committee prior to submission.
    • For the defense, an abstract, which lists the time and place of the defense, must be distributed to the EAS faculty and posted publicly at least seven calendar days prior to the scheduled date for the defense.
    • The dissertation advisor and at least one other committee member must initial the notice of defense, indicating approval of the defense.
    • An unbound copy of the final draft of the dissertation, including all illustrations, must be made available in the EAS department office at least seven calendar days prior to the defense date for inspection by the EAS faculty.
  • Scheduling for Defense
    • PhD defenses can be given Monday‐Friday during the Fall, Spring, and Summer terms with starting times between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
    • Defenses cannot be given during vacations, reading days, weekends, or final examination periods (nor over spring break or inter‐term breaks).
    • Scheduling of defenses is done through the department academic advisor.
  • Defense Decisions
    • A positive vote by a majority of the dissertation committee is required for successful defense of the dissertation.
    • If the student does not complete and successfully defend the PhD dissertation within five years after passing the candidacy examination, retaking of the candidacy examination may be required.
    • Once approved by the committee, the dissertation must be submitted to the NSM Office of Academic Affairs no later than the deadline posted on the College website each term.

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