geophysics ph.d. assessment plan

Mission Statement

The Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering is committed to being nationally and internationally recognized at the forefront in geo-science and geo-engineering education and research and providing the state and national workforce with outstanding graduates having superior knowledge, skills and abilities for effective management of the Earth's non-renewable and environmental resources. As part of this mission, we offer a Doctoral degree that prepares them for a career in academia, or as a research geophysicist in either the public or private sectors. Students engage in career-initiating research in the various sub-disciplines of geophysics and are guided by faculty who are leaders in these disciplines. The curriculum places emphasis on developing the skills that will make graduates highly competitive for nationally and internationally advertised positions in geophysics. The skills include the ability to formulate, conduct, complete, and publish high quality scientific research in their field of specialty, grantsmanship, and dissemination of results through technical meetings and peer-reviewed publication.

Student Learning Outcomes

1. Students will exhibit timely progress in developing their program of study during the first 3 semesters.

Student Performance Indicators
  • Each student, in cooperation with their graduate advisor will:
    • Select a dissertation topic;
    • Enroll in coursework providing background and skills to conduct their research
    • Write a dissertation proposal describing their planned research activities and the timetable; and,
    • Select their committee and hold a meeting to engage committee input and approval
Assessment Method
  • Annual progress report, due each April 15, will be reviewed to determine what coursework has been completed, whether the student has formed a committee and written their thesis proposal. Report also includes an assessment by the advisor as to the student's progress that year. A copy of the proposal will be filed with the graduate director.

2. Students are expected to demonstrate a basic level of competency in the general field of geophysics and expertise in the subject area of their research.

Student Performance Indicators
  • Students will complete a qualifying exam held during the first year
  • Students will complete oral and written comprehensive exams and give an oral defense of their exam answers
  • Students write and submit chapter drafts and a final dissertation draft for approval
  • Students will obtain employment in their field of specialty
Assessment Method
  • The advisory/examining committee shall construct and grade all exams and a grade of pass, fail or marginal pass will be given
  • Assessment of the student's competency in both general and subject areas will be reflected in the quality of their oral and written answers
  • Dissertation will be reviewed and approved by the committee
  • Department will review statistics for employment rates in graduates

3. The student will demonstrate competence in oral and written communication skills including the ability to write and present independent research, the ability to write research proposals, and the ability to read and critically evaluate relevant geoscience literature.

Student Performance Indicators
  • Students submit a written dissertation proposal
  • Students orally present their dissertation proposal to their committee at a meeting early in the research phase
  • Students write and submit chapter drafts and a final dissertation draft for approval
  • Students give a public presentation of their results and their significance as part of a dissertation final defense
  • Students submit research grants to professional organizations to aid in funding their research and travel to meetings
  • Students present results at professional meetings
Assessment Method
  • Dissertation committee will evaluate and provide feedback to students written proposal
  • Dissertation committee will assess student's proposal presentation and provide feedback to student
  • Advisor will read and edit drafts of dissertation chapters. Advisory/examining committee will read and evaluate the dissertation draft and give their approval/disapproval
  • Dissertation advisory/examining committee will evaluate and provide feedback to student following their presentation and final defense
  • Graduate director will keep statistics on the number of grant proposals submitted by PhD students each year
  • Graduate director will keep statistics on the numbers of talks and posters given by PhD students at professional meetings, as reported by students in their annual progress reports

4. The student must demonstrate ability to conduct independent research, including identify a research problem, formulate an hypothesis, and devise a methodology of testing of their hypothesis or answering a specific scientific question or questions, and successfully carrying out the research to completion.

Student Performance Indicators
  • Students submit their dissertation proposal
  • Students submit a completed dissertation
  • Students submit manuscripts for publication in competitive peer-reviewed journals
  • Students complete their doctoral degree in a timely manner
Assessment Method
  • Advisory committee indicates approval/disapproval of the proposal
  • Student advisory approves/disapproves each student's dissertation
  • Statistics will be gathered by the department as to the number of publications that include students as authors or co-authors
  • Program director will track time to degree for students in the program

5. Graduates will be employed as professionals, in industry, government, or academia.

Student Performance Indicators
  • Employment in geophysics or a related field that requires technical expertise acquired during the PhD degree
Assessment Method
  • Employment statistics will be gathered by the department

6. Students must demonstrate appropriate quantitative skills for their sub-discipline.

Student Performance Indicators
  • Students will utilize appropriate data and error analysis methodologies in their research
  • Students will master professional and/or research geophysical processing and analysis software appropriate to their specialty
Assessment Method
  • Dissertation committees will assess quantitative methods used during thesis defense
  • Dissertation advisors will assess individual student's level of quantitative skill through meetings and advisement