Environmental Sciences & Health Interdisciplinary Graduate Program handbook

Updated Monday, January 17, 2022

Introduction

Welcome to the Environmental Sciences & Health (ES&H) Graduate Program, University of Nevada, Reno. We are delighted that you have joined our unique group of graduate students, faculty, and researchers who share a deep concern for developing and applying interdisciplinary approaches to the stewardship of natural resources. This handbook was prepared to guide students and faculty as students advanced through the program. Here you will find information to understand the requirements, expectations, and opportunities associated with the specific graduate program and Graduate School. This handbook is not an official document of the University. Students are advised to refer to the University of Nevada, Reno General Catalog, and the University of Nevada, Reno Graduate School website for complete information on the University's policies and specific requirements for graduate degrees.

We hope you will read through this handbook and keep it as a reference to help answer questions you may have during your stay at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Each year, we will be updating and revising the handbook; therefore, feedback is welcome from graduate students and faculty to improve the handbook's usefulness.

 

1. Program description


About the program

The ES&H Graduate Program consists of approximately 60 faculty members and over 50 graduate students. The faculty represent a broad spectrum of research, teaching interest, and departments/colleges at the University of Nevada, Reno, and several scientists from the Desert Research Institute (DRI) and faculty from other local educational and research institutes.

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) graduate degree program and the Master of Science (M.S.) degree program of ES&H helps the student to think critically and independently; comprehend the processes of science and effectively apply scientific principles and professional procedures; attain proficiency in the current knowledge in the respective fields; develop competence in technical skills and tools required in their disciplines.

Mission statement

The mission of the UNR Environmental Sciences & Health graduate (ES&H) program is to provide training to scientists in the following disciplines: environmental chemistry, environmental toxicology; ecological toxicology; environmental microbiology. Environmental chemistry focuses on measurements and environmental processes affecting chemicals in the environment. Environmental toxicology focuses on biochemical and cellular toxicology, with a particular emphasis on the impact of contaminants on humans. Ecological toxicology combines the disciplines of wildlife toxicology and conservation biology to understand how contaminants affect populations and ecosystems. Environmental microbiology is the study of how microbes interact with the environment and each other, including their effects on the landscape, the spread of viruses and bacteria, the distribution of algae, fungi, and parasitic organisms, and the associated implications for human health and the environment. Environmental microbiology also researches how microbes can be used to solve global problems. The program works under the premise that students must have a solid environmental sciences core curriculum and be flexible to draw upon the interdisciplinary knowledge base of the program's faculty members. This flexibility permits the student to design a curriculum to meet their interest and professional goals.

Program/student learning outcomes (SLOs)

  1. They understand the theoretical and experimental basis for studying contaminants in the environment and their effects on humans and ecosystems.
  2. Knowledge of the design and use of field instrumentation, computer models, data analysis, and laboratory procedures for environmental chemistry and toxicology research and monitoring.
  3. Ability to explain ideas and results through written, numerical, graphical, spoken, and computer-based forms of communication.
  4. The ability of the ES&H program to respond to changing interdisciplinary needs of students.

Contact information for the program director

Stanley T. Omaye 
Director and Professor, Environmental Sciences & Health Graduate Program 
Department of Nutrition, Mail Stop 202 
Sarah Fleischmann Building, #030 
University of Nevada, Reno 89557
(775) 784-6447
omaye@unr.edu

 

2. Degree requirements


Doctoral degree

Doctoral are required to complete a minimum of 60 graduate credits, 40 of which must result from coursework.

  • At least 18 credits must be taken at the 700-level: These credits may not include dissertation credits or credits obtained during undergraduate study.
  • Up to 18 credits of 700-level course work from a master's degree program may be applied to this requirement: No more than 24 credits of course work (with grades of B or better) from a master's degree program or previous post-baccalaureate graduate studies program, maybe allocated toward the doctoral degree. An exception is for students who hold an MPH degree from UNR, or an accredited institution, 32 credits of course work of B or better may be allocated toward the doctoral degree.

Candidates for the Ph.D. degree must register for at least 24 dissertation credits and must submit a satisfactory dissertation to the examining committee: 12-30 dissertation units may be applied toward completion of doctoral degree

  1. A maximum of 24 credits must come from dissertation work;
  2. Any exception to the minimum 24 dissertation credits requires the advance written approval of the program director and the graduate dean

All requirements for the doctoral program, excluding prerequisite graduate course work or master's degrees, must be completed within eight years.

Total credits required for doctoral degree: 60

  • 600-level credits: 18
  • 700-level credits: 18
  • Thesis credits: 24

The Environmental Sciences & Health program course requirements have been selected with a minimum number of required courses to allow the student an opportunity to design a curriculum to meet each student's disciplinary interests and professional aspirations.

Prerequisite courses

Degree in related science, including calculus and chemistry, and additional coursework in organic chemistry, biology, and physics. Other courses are accepted at the discretion of the Director.

Committee membership

For a doctoral degree, after twelve graduate credits (approximately two semesters), the student selects a committee chair, and the student and chair arrange the appointment of the remaining four members of the committee. All committee members must be listed on the Graduate Faculty. The committee and the Director of the Environmental Sciences program supervise the student's study and examinations.

The Graduate Dean makes formal approval of the student's advisory/examining committee. Students may request the appointment of a committee member from the faculty of another university or a relevant discipline or profession, provided the prospective member has achieved a record of distinction. In addition to the committee chair, at least four members will be from the ES & H Program, at least one will be from a department in a field related to the student's major, and at least one will be a Graduate School representative from the graduate faculty.

Required courses

All students must have one graduate course in statistics and attend the NRES 790 Environmental Sciences seminar or other appropriate seminars (4 credits for the Ph.D.). Regarding transfer credits for doctoral students who have completed an M.S. program, a maximum of 24 credits of course work from a completed master's degree program or previous post-baccalaureate graduate studies program or 32 credits from an accredited MPH Program may be applied toward the doctoral degree. All students must take 4 of the 13 courses listed below. A student's advisor and committee members can recommend substitutions with a specific research focus.

Required courses for doctoral degree
Course number Course title Credits
ATM 612 Introduction to Air Pollution 3
CEE 653 Environmental Microbiology 3
CEE 658 Environmental Chemistry Concepts and Design 3
NRES 632 Advanced Environmental Toxicology 3
NRES 633 Environmental Chemicals: Exposure, Transport, and Fate 3
NRES 746 Advanced Analysis Methods in Natural Resources 1-3
NRES 765 Biogeochemical Cycles 3
CHS 616 Introduction to Risk Assessment 3
CHS 636 Environmental Exposure Assessment 3
CHS712 Epidemiology in Public Health 3
CHS 725 Health and the Environment 3
NUTR 624 Food and Nutritional Toxicology 3
ATMS 747 Atmospheric Chemistry 3
CEE 653 Environmental Microbiology 3

Additional course requirements

In addition to the Core Courses listed above, all ES&H students must take:

Additional course requirements for doctoral degree
Course number Course title Credits
##Seminar Seminar 4 total
###799 Dissertation (PhD) 12-24

Suggested elective courses

Suggested elective courses for doctoral degree
Course number Course title Credits
CHS 780 Biostatistics in Public Health 3
CHS 753 Health Informatics 3
NUTR 730 Macronutrients 3
ATMS 747 Atmospheric Chemistry 3
NUTR 735 Micronutrients 3
BCH 600 Introductory Biochemistry 3

Note on elective courses:

Each student's program of study is based on the disciplinary track they have chosen. Elective courses may be selected from a variety of departments, including but not limited to:

  • Atmospheric Sciences (ATMS)
  • Biochemistry (BCH)
  • Chemistry (CHEM)
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE)
  • Environmental Resource Science (ERS)
  • Nutrition (NUTR)

Upon admission to the Environmental Sciences & Health Program and before beginning classes, each student and faculty advisor will design the academic course work for the first year. By the conclusion of the first year, the student's advisory committee will collaborate on the rest of the program of study. The Ph.D. student's program of study must include at least 60.

Comprehensive examination for admission to doctoral candidacy

Written examination:

The written examination is a general examination of environmental science and health. The examination has at least 5-7 questions. The student's committee develops the written questions in the general area of the student's courses and program. For purposes of consistency, the program director will need to approve each written exam at least one week before the exam is given to the student.

The exam will be given for 8 hours and proctored by the student's committee chair. It will be a closed book exam.

The following provides examples of how the exams could be structured.

  • A student studying phosphorus, sediment, and Lake Tahoe might be expected to understand spectroscopic methods, sorption processes, impacts of nutrients on watersheds, soil chemistry, and the basis for regulatory actions regarding nutrients.
  • A student studying gas exchange in plants might be expected to know atmospheric measurement processes, plant physiology, soil-plant relationships, and global changing issues and impacts.
  • A student focused on public health might be expected to know epidemiology, toxicology, biochemistry, and environmental contaminants that affect human health.
Oral examination:

The oral examination focuses on the student's knowledge of the specific area of research and involves presenting no more than 13 research slides followed by questions. The committee questions are generally in the particular area of research and designed to determine how well the student understands their research and their ability to conduct research.


Master's degree (Plan A, thesis or Plan B, professional paper)

  • A maximum of 12 graduate units completed before admission to graduate standing may be applied to a master's degree program of study.
  • A maximum of 18 graduate credits completed from a relevant University of Nevada, Reno graduate certificate may be applied to a master's degree program of study.
  • A maximum of 6 graduate S/U units may apply towards a master's degree, excluding S/U units allowed for the comprehensive examination, professional paper, and thesis units, including transfer units.
  • 6 to 10 thesis units may be applied to a master's degree.

Plan A – Thesis program

  • Students must complete at least 30 units in acceptable graduate courses, including 6 units for the thesis. Minor exceptions to the 30-unit requirement will be considered on a case-by-case basis and require best practices justification.
  • At least 18 units are earned in courses offered by the University of Nevada, Reno.
  • At least nine units, exclusive of thesis, at 700-level.
  • Internship/externship experiences can count for thesis units with program director approval.

Plan B – Non-thesis program (professional paper)

  • Students must complete at least 35 units in acceptable graduate courses, including 3 for the professional paper. Minor exceptions to the 35-unit requirement will be considered on a case-by-case basis and require best practices justification.
  • At least 18 units are earned in courses offered by the University of Nevada, Reno.
  • At least 12 of the 30 units at 700-level.
  • Internship/externship experiences can count for thesis units with program director approval.

Required courses

All requirements for the master's degree must be satisfied within six years immediately preceding the granting of the degree.

Total credits required for master’s degree: 30

  • 600-level credits: 15+
  • 700-level credits: 12+
  • Thesis/professional paper credits: 6-10

All students must have one graduate course in statistics and attend the NRES 790 Environmental Sciences seminar or other appropriate seminars (3 credits to complete a master's degree). All students must take 2 of the 13 courses listed below unless a student's advisor and committee members recommend substitutions that correspond with a specific research focus.

Required courses for master's degree
Course number Course title Credits
ATM 612 Introduction to Air Pollution 3
CEE 658 Environmental Chemistry Concepts and Design 3
NRES 632 Advanced Environmental Toxicology 3
NRES 633 Environmental Chemicals: Exposure, Transport and Fate 3
NRES 746 Advanced Analysis Methods in Natural Resources 1-3
NRES 765 Biogeochemical Cycles 3
CHS 616 Introduction to Risk Assessment 3
CHS 636 Environmental Exposure Assessment 3
CHS712 Epidemiology in Public Health 3
CHS 725 Health and the Environment 3
NUTR 624 Food and Nutritional Toxicology 3
ATMS 747 Atmospheric Chemistry 3
CEE 653 Environmental Microbiology 3

Additional course requirements

In addition to the Core Courses listed above, all ES&H students must take:

Additional course requirements for master's degree
Course number Course title Credits
NRES 790 NUTR 726 Seminar or other appropriate seminars 3 credits
##797 Thesis (MS) 6 credits
##796 Professional Paper 3 credits

Suggested elective courses

Suggested elective courses for master's degree
Course number Course title Credits
CHS 780 Biostatistics in Public Health 3 credits
CHS 753 Health Informatics 3 credits
NUTR 730 Macronutrients 3 credits
ATMS 747 Atmospheric Chemistry 3 credits
NUTR 735 Micronutrients 3 credits
BCH 600 Introductory Biochemistry 3 credits

Elective courses

Each student's program of study is based on the disciplinary track they have chosen. Elective courses may be selected from a variety of departments, including but not limited to:

  • Atmospheric Sciences (ATMS)
  • Biochemistry (BCH)
  • Chemistry (CHEM)
  • Civil Engineering (CE)
  • Environmental Resource Science (ERS)
  • Nutrition (NUTR)

Graduate School academic requirements

All graduate students must maintain a cumulative graduate GPA of 3.0. If their GPA drops below 3.0, they are placed on probation or dismissed. Undergraduate courses will not count towards graduate GPA.

Probation: Students whose cumulative graduate GPA is .1 to .6 points below that need a 3.0 GPA are put on probation. Students are placed on academic probation for one semester. If they fail to raise their cumulative GPA to 3.0 by the end of one semester, they are dismissed from their graduate program. Thesis, dissertation, S/U graded credits, and transfer credits have no impact on a student's GPA.

Dismissal: Students whose cumulative graduate GPA is .7 or more grade points below that needed for a 3.0 GPA are dismissed. Dismissed students are no longer in a graduate program but may take graduate-level courses as a Grad Special. Students wishing to complete their degree must obtain approval to take graduate-level courses, raise their graduate GPA to at least 3.0, and then re-apply to a graduate program. Any courses taken to raise their GPA will be included in the graduate special/ transfer credit limitation (9 credits for master's degrees).

 

3. Transfer credits


These are credits transferred from another institution. Credits completed at UNR in another program or as a graduate special do not need to be transferred. Transfer credit is requested on the Graduate Credit Transfer Evaluation Request form on the Graduate School website. And must be signed by the student, major advisor, and graduate director. Transfer credits applied to a master's program must comply with the time limitation on master's work (6 years). Thus, if a student took a course five years before admission, they would have to complete the degree within one year for the course to apply to the degree. Credits from a completed master's degree will be exempt from the 8-year time limitation for those students earning a doctoral degree.

 

4. Timeline for degree completion


Overall time to completion of the master degree is two years, and for the Ph.D., three years beyond the completion of the master degree.

  • Declaration of Advisor/Major Advisor/Committee Chair
    • For master's students, the completed form must be submitted to Graduate School by the end of the student's second semester
    • For doctoral completed form must be submitted to Graduate School by the end of the student's third semester
  • Program of Study
    • For master's students, the completed form must be submitted to Graduate School by the end of the student's third semester
    • For doctoral students, the completed form must be submitted to Graduate School by the end of the student's fourth semester
  • (Doctoral programs only) Doctoral degree admission to candidacy
    • For doctoral students who completed all requirements except for the dissertation
  • Graduation Application
    • Must be submitted to the graduate school several weeks in advance. Check website for exact dates
  • Notice of completion – the completed form should be submitted after all meet requirements.
    • Master's 
    • Doctoral
  • Exit Survey (will be emailed to you)

Master's degrees: All course work must be completed within six years preceding the awarding of the degree.

Doctoral degrees: All course work must be completed within eight years preceding the awarding of the degree. Credits transferred into a doctoral degree from a completed master's degree are exempt from this eight-year limit.

All forms mentioned above can be located on the Graduate School's student forms page.

View graduate student forms

 

5. Dissertation or thesis requirements


Thesis programs

  • Minimum of 20 units of acceptable graduate courses in addition to 6-10 thesis units for a total of approximately 30 units. Minor exceptions to the 30-unit requirement will be considered on a case-by-case basis and require best practices justification.
  • At least 18 units are earned in courses offered by the University of Nevada, Reno.
  • At least nine units, exclusive of thesis, at 700-level.
  • Internship/externship experiences can count for thesis units with program director approval.

Non-thesis programs

  • Approximately 30 units of acceptable graduate courses, including a culminating experience such as a professional paper or project. Minor exceptions to the 30-unit requirement will be considered on a case-by-case basis and require best practices justification.
  • At least 18 units are earned in courses offered by the University of Nevada, Reno.
  • At least 12 of the 30 units at 700-level.
  • Internship/externship experiences can count for thesis units with program director approval.

Doctoral degree

  • A minimum of 60 graduate units is required, including at least 40 units in coursework.
  • Maximum of 24 from completed master's degree*
    • *No limit on the number of units transferred when a student earns a master's en route to a Ph.D. in UNR doctoral program.
  • At least 18 units of 700-level courses, exclusive of dissertation units, are required for a doctoral degree.
  • 12-30 dissertation units may be applied toward completion of doctoral degree
    • Internship/externship experiences can count for dissertation units with program director approval.

Graduate School forms and resources related to thesis and dissertations:

  • Doctoral Dissertation Filing Guidelines
  • Masters Thesis Filing Guidelines 
  • (Doctoral students only) Dissertation Title Form
  • Final Review Approval – Obtain sign-off from advisory committee chair
    • Master's
    • Doctoral
  • Notice of completion – the completed form should be submitted after all meet requirements
    • Master's
    • Doctoral

View graduate student forms

 

6. Graduate assistantships


Include information on availability and policy for graduate teaching and research assistantships, along with requirements.

All graduate students holding an assistantship (teaching GTA or GRA) are Nevada residents for tuition purposes. To be eligible for an assistantship, students must be admitted to a degree-granting program and be in good academic standing. The student must have an overall GPA of at least 3.0 and be continuously enrolled in at least 6 graduate-level credits (600-700) throughout the assistantship. Non-resident tuition is only waived for the duration of the assistantship.

State-funded assistantships (GTA/GRA) may be held for a maximum of three (3) years for master's degree students and five (5) years for doctoral degree students.

Please also include links to the most updated information on graduate assistantship on the graduate school website:

General information about graduate assistantships

Graduate assistant handbook

 

7. Health insurance


All domestic degree-seeking graduate students enrolled in six or more credits (regardless of the course level) in a semester will be automatically enrolled and billed for the University-sponsored health insurance for each eligible term (fall & spring/summer). Suppose a student has other comparable coverage and would like to waive from the student's health insurance. In that case, it is the student's responsibility to complete the University online waiver form before the deadline. A health insurance waiver is good for the current academic year only if approved. A new waiver must be submitted each academic year. All international graduate students must carry student health insurance, and the cost will be automatically added to your student account. Any international graduate students with insurance questions must contact the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) directly.

Graduate medical, dental and vision insurance

 

8. Leave of absence


Continuous enrollment

To maintain "good standing," all graduate students are required to enroll in a minimum of three (3) graduate credits each fall and spring semester until they graduate. All students holding assistantships (whether teaching or research assistantships) are required to enroll in a minimum of six (6) graduate credits each semester they hold the assistantship. International students may be required to enroll in nine graduate credits each fall and spring semester, depending on their visa requirements.

Leave of absence

Students in good standing may request a leave of absence by completing a leave of absence form available on the Graduate School's student forms page during which time they are not required to maintain continuous registration. Usually, a leave of absence is approved for one or two semesters. The leave of absence request may be extended by the student filing an additional leave of absence form. Students applying for a leave of absence should not have any "incomplete" grades, which could be changed to "F" and have a detrimental impact on their cumulative GPA. Requests for leave of absences must be received by the Graduate School no later than the last day of enrollment for the semester the leave is to begin.

Reinstatement

When a student has been absent for one semester or more without an approved leave of absence, he or she may request reinstatement via the Reinstatement form (available on the Graduate School's student forms page). This form allows the program to recommend the student be re-admitted to their graduate program based on their previous admission OR require the student to re-apply for access, requiring students to submit a new application for admission and pay the application fee. The Notice of Reinstatement to Graduate Standing must be received by the Graduate School no later than the last day of enrollment for the semester the reinstatement is to begin.

 

9. Graduate Student Association


The Graduate Student Association (GSA) represents all graduate students and promotes the welfare and interests of the graduate students at the University of Nevada, Reno. The GSA works closely with appropriate university administrative offices, including the Graduate School and Student Services, and reports to the President of the University. The GSA government functioned through the Council of Representatives, Executive Council, and established committees.

Graduate Student Association

 

10. Graduate School forms


Please refer to the Graduate School's students forms page for all forms available at The Graduate School.

Forms for graduate students