Program handbook

Please note: this represents the program handbook for the current academic year only. For an archived version of a previous year's handbook, please contact the program director.

Preface

Welcome to the Graduate Program Hydrologic Sciences (GPHS) Handbook. The handbook is a compilation of published University of Nevada information and GPHS program materials provided for the convenience of the students and faculty. It remains the student’s responsibility to assure that the requirements set by the Advisory/Examining Committee and the Graduate School are met.

Note that all paperwork required by the Graduate School must be routed through the GPHS program office for the signature of the GPHS Director. 

Most of the forms and documents provided in this handbook are also available online at the Graduate School websiteThe Graduate School will not accept any handwritten forms, including applications. All forms on the Graduate School website are interactive so that you can fill them in on-line and print them out for signatures.

Throughout your years in the GPHS your major advisor and committee will be your primary source of guidance.

Best wishes as you move forward toward your degree.

Anne Nolin, Program Director

Program functions

Program Calendar

All Program functions for the current semester will be displayed on our website. Please visit Events to learn about upcoming events.

Colloquium series

The Graduate Program of Hydrologic Sciences Program sponsors an excellent speaker series that routinely features nationally prominent scientists including the Henry Darcy Distinguished Lecturer and the Birdsall-Dreiss Distinguished Lecturer. Our Colloquium Series is developed and executed by the Student Speaker Committee. Student and faculty suggestions for speakers are solicited by the Student Speaker Committee several months in advance of each semester. Students should consider suggesting speakers who might be pertinent to their research topic. There are typically five or six speakers each semester.

Each speaker will visit faculty and students throughout the day and lunch and breakfast visits are reserved for students only. Following each presentation we hold an informal social where the speaker interacts with our students and faculty in a relaxed environment. Of all Program functions, our Colloquium Series should take precedence. All students are expected to attend every Colloquium presentation. Please keep in mind the importance of good attendance at these functions because it is part of learning about a breadth of current hydrology topics, and it reflects directly on our Program. Routinely, outside speakers leave our campus being most impressed with the audience and degree of insightful questions. Please make every effort to attend.

Faculty/student meetings

The GPHS holds one or two meetings per semester. There is typically a meeting for all faculty and students at the beginning of each academic semester that all students are required to attend. A faculty meeting is held mid-semester to review the new student applicant pool, and this is usually the only meeting at which students are not allowed to attend.

Program socials

The GPHS typically holds two socials per year to celebrate our new and graduating students. These are typically held near the beginning of the Fall semester to welcome new incoming students and around the end of the Spring semester to send off our graduating students. Please consult the Program web calendar for more details on the time and location. Family and friends of graduating students are welcome along with other current students, faculty, and alumni. These events are critically important to our program, so please plan to attend.

Conferences

Faculty and students regularly attend a variety of local, national and international conferences related to hydrology, including the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and Geological Society of America conferences. Travel funds are available for students from the University’s Graduate Student Association (GSA). Students who have applied for GSA funds may be eligible for additional funding through the GPHS pending availability of funds.

Please contact the Program Director for more information.

Planning Guide

Introduction

Welcome to the Graduate Program of Hydrologic Sciences (GPHS), one of the nation’s premier graduate programs in hydrologic sciences! A long-standing strength of this program stems from a true collaboration between the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) and the Desert Research Institute (DRI). This document has been prepared to assist you and your advisor in planning your coursework and study to best meet your needs. This Planning Guide gives you a complete summary of degree requirements. Additional information about committee guidance and examination procedures can be found in the “PhD Comprehensive Exam Guidelines” and the “PhD Qualifying Exam Guidelines” and the UNR General Catalog. 

Mission statement

The GPHS is a multi-disciplinary program created to train graduate students in the diverse field of surface and subsurface aqueous environments. This diversity includes the study of aqueous geochemistry, contaminant transport (surface and subsurface), global climate change, groundwater hydraulics, plant/water interactions, remote sensing, soil physics, rock physics, water and environmental policy, surface water hydrology, aquatic ecology, paleohydrology, and water resources engineering. The curriculum is designed  to guarantee a breadth of experience through a shared foundation core, while leaving ample time for concentration in either Hydrology or Hydrogeology.

Entrance requirements and deficiencies

Students admitted to the Program should have a bachelor of sciences degree or equivalent in engineering, biology, chemistry, physics, geology, natural resources or ecology. Prospective graduate students should have GRE scores exceeding 153 verbal and 144 quantitative, an undergraduate GPA above 3.0, and international students should have TOEFL scores above 600.

In addition, the Program requires undergraduate prerequisites of 2 semesters each of calculus-based physics (PHYS 180 and 181, or equivalent), chemistry (CHEM 201 and 202, or equivalent) and calculus (MATH 181 and 182, or equivalent), one semester of probability/statistics (STAT 352, or equivalent), and differential equations (MATH 285, or equivalent). Although calculus-based physics is highly recommended, a non-calculus- based physics course, PHYS 151 and 152 or equivalent, will be allowed if approved by your advisor. Calculus III (Math 283) is not a formal requirement, but is highly recommended. Any deficiencies are to be made up during the first year of graduate study and students are encouraged to consult with their advisors and the GPHS Director for guidance on the appropriate courses for fulfilling deficiencies. Students must provide evidence that deficiencies were met if courses are not taken at UNR.

Degrees offered

The GPHS administers two separate UNR degrees (Hydrology and Hydrogeology) at both the M.S. and Ph.D. levels. There is a single, required, foundation core for all GPHS degrees that includes two credit hours of seminar along with one course each in groundwater, hydrologic fluid dynamics, hydrology, and environmental chemistry. Beyond this foundation core, each degree requires separate and additional coursework. The next sections summarize the selection of graduate courses that fulfill all requirements as well as a listing of other recommended courses for students in the GPHS. Students are expected to work with their advisor and committee members to develop a Plan of Study that best matches each student’s research efforts and interests.

A non-thesis M.S. option is available in both Hydrology and Hydrogeology and is an appropriate alternative for those students with significant experience in project management and report writing, while maintaining the high standards of a Master of Science Degree. The non-thesis option is generally considered a terminal degree and is not recommended for students considering a future Doctoral degree. The Professional Paper (2 credits) should demonstrate the student's ability to integrate technical state-of- the-art knowledge into a document suitable for professional review and publication. Topics may be of an applied nature and must be approved by the student's Graduate Committee. A ready-to-submit manuscript must be approved by the major advisor prior to the final defense. Suitable outlets for publication include professional society proceedings, regional/national symposia and conferences, applied science and resource management journals, and other journals serving as a forum for scientific discussion.

The GPHS also administers an accelerated BS/MS program in which especially well-prepared undergraduate students in Civil Engineering, Environmental Engineering, or Ecohydrology can obtain the B.S. degree and an M.S. degree in Hydrology or Hydrogeology in a shorter time.

Degree requirements

This section describes the requirements for degree completion for the graduate degrees administered by the GPHS. For all degrees, Graduate School Academic requirements apply. All graduate students must maintain a cumulative graduate GPA of 3.0. If their GPA drops below 3.0 they are either placed on probation or dismissed. Undergraduate courses do not count towards graduate GPA.

Probation: Students whose cumulative graduate GPA is 0.1 to 0.6 points below that needed for 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).

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. International students may be required to enroll in nine graduate credits each fall and spring semester depending on the requirements of their visa. 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.

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 website 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 website. This form allows the program the option to recommend the student be re-admitted to their graduate program based on their previous admission OR require the student to re-apply for admission which would require students to submit a new application for admission and pay the application fee. The Notice of Reinstatement to Gradate Standing must be received by the Graduate School no later than the last day of enrollment for the semester the reinstatement is to begin.

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 available on 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 prior to 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.

Shared Hydrology and Hydrogeology core requirements

Please note: This is an example of requirements. Please review the current course catalog or speak to the program director for your exact requirements.

A grade of “B-” or better is required for each of these classes which can only be retaken once.

  • NRES/GEOL 614 - Hydrologic fluid dynamics (3 credits)
  • GE 684 - Ground water hydrology (3 credits)
  • GEOL 616 - Environmental geochemistry (3 credits)
  • NRES 682 - Small watershed hydrology (4 credits)
  • GEOL/NRES 782 - Hydrology/hydrogeology seminar (2 credits)

Note: Students who have previously taken one or more of the shared core courses may request to waive these requirements. Consult with your advisor and the GPHS Director for more information and requirements.

All students are required to complete GEOL/NRES 782 twice for a total of 2 credits. Students in their first year in the GPHS should enroll in GEOL/NRES 782 for 1 credit, which involves gaining an overview of the program through observation and evaluation of student presentations and the GPHS colloquium as well as learning presentation skills. Students in their second year in the GPHS should enroll in GEOL/NRES 782 for 1 credit, which involves getting experience in giving oral and poster presentations, and experience in conference organization.

Master of Science in Hydrology (31 credits Plan A, 32 credits Plan B)

Student education and research examine the broad area of surface water hydrology, including but not limited to: hydraulics, water quality, limnology, watershed hydrology and rehabilitation and geomorphology. Students follow the shared core of five courses that provide the fundamentals of hydrologic fluid mechanics and introductions to surface and ground water hydrology and environmental chemistry as well as two credits of seminar in Hydrologic Sciences. Student learning outcomes (SLOs) for the degree are that students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a basic level of competency in the general field of hydrology
  2. Explain ideas and results through written, numerical, graphical, spoken, and computer-based forms of communication
  3. Complete research in their field of study, including answering specific question(s) in conjunction with the advisor and thesis committee
  4. Demonstrate appropriate quantitative skills for their sub-discipline

Students can pursue a Master of Science degree either with Plan A (thesis) or Plan B (non-thesis option). Because of the diverse nature of the skill sets needed by students, additional credits beyond the University minimums are required. The Masters of Science Plan A degree in Hydrology requires a minimum of 31 credits beyond the Bachelor degree, of which at least 18 credits (including 6 credits of thesis) must be at the 700-level.

Students must sign up for thesis credits in the department of their advisor. For the non- thesis option (Plan B), a minimum of 32 credits is required with at least 15 credits at the 700-level (including 2 credits of Professional Paper). Students should consult with their advisor and the GPHS Director for guidance on choice of plan options. In general however, the Plan B option should be considered as a terminal degree. All work towards a master’s degree must be completed within six (6) years immediately preceding the granting of the degree. For more information on credit requirements, students should consult the UNR General Catalog.

The Master of Science in Hydrology degree allows flexibility to allow students to follow one or more of the broad areas of surface water hydrology and to allow for specialization. All students receive a broad underpinning of the hydrologic sciences through the shared core courses. Additional requirements for the degree include one or more specialization courses in surface water hydrology.

Additional Hydrology requirements

Students following the Hydrology degree track (either MS or Ph.D.) are required to complete at least one course from the list provided below.

  • CEE 604 - OPEN CHANNEL FLOW (3 credits)
  • CEE 618 - PRINCIPLES OF WATER QUALITY MODELING (3 credits)
  • CEE 653 - ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY (3 credits)
  • CEE 658 - ENVIRONMENTAL CHEMISTRY CONCEPTS AND DESIGN (3 credits)
  • CEE 756 -  ENVIRONMENTAL CHEMICAL KINETICS (3 credits)
  • GE 617 - QUANTITATIVE WATER QUALITY ANALYSIS (3 credits)
  • GEOL 701J - SEDIMENT TRANSPORT (3 credits)
  • GEOL 701J - FLUVIAL GEOMORPHOLOGY (3 credits)
  • GEOL 701S - FIELD METHODS (3 credits)
  • GEOL 780 - ISOTOPE HYDROLOGY (3 credits)
  • GEOL 781 - ADVANCED SURFACE WATER HYDROLOGY (3 credits)
  • NRES 684 - LIMNOLOGY (3 credits)
  • NRES 730 - INTERDISCIPLINARY MODELING (3 credits)
  • NRES 765 - BIOGEOCHEMICAL CYCLES (3 credits)

Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Hydrology (72 Credits)

Candidates for the Ph.D. degree in Hydrology must satisfy all general requirements of the Graduate School and the M.S. degree in Hydrology. SLOs for the degree are that students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a basic level of competency in the general field of hydrology and in their area of research
  2. Explain ideas and results through written, numerical, graphical, spoken, and computer-based forms of communication
  3. Complete research in their field of study, including answering specific question(s) in conjunction with the advisor and dissertation committee
  4. Demonstrate appropriate quantitative skills for their sub-discipline

The Doctoral degree in Hydrology requires 72 credits beyond the Bachelor degree, successful completion of a qualifying examination after the first year of study, and 1 credit of Comprehensive Examination. The Comprehensive Examination credit may count toward the required 30 credits of 700-level coursework. 24 credits of dissertation credits must be applied to the Doctoral degree, and students must sign up for these credits in the department of their advisor. A maximum of 24 credits of course work (with grades of “B” or better) from a completed master’s degree program may be allocated toward the doctoral degree upon completion and approval of a Credit Transfer Evaluation Request Form. Up to 18 credits of 700-level courses may be transferred from the master’s degree program. All work towards a doctoral degree must be completed within eight (8) years immediately preceding the granting of the degree. Credits transferred into doctoral degree from a completed master’s degree are exempt from this eight-year limit.

Note that the GPHS does not generally accept students with only Bachelor degrees directly into the Doctoral degree programs; rather, these students are first accepted into the Master’s Program and may be considered for the Doctoral degree after one year of study. Students interested in proceeding directly to the Doctoral degree should contact the GPHS Director for further guidance.

The Doctorate of Philosophy in Hydrology allows flexibility to allow students to follow one or more of the broad areas of surface water hydrology and to allow for specialization. All students receive a broad underpinning of the hydrologic sciences through the shared core courses. Additional requirements for the degree include a course in watershed hydrology to provide an overview/introduction of surface water processes and one or more specialization courses in surface water hydrology.

Consult with your advisor and the GPHS Director for more information and requirements. Doctoral degree candidates should consult the “GPHS Examination Procedure Guidelines” information package for a review of committee, qualifying and comprehensive examination procedures and scheduling.

Master of Science in Hydrogeology (31 credits Plan A, 32 credits Plan B)

Student education and research examine the occurrence and processes associated with subsurface water transport. Specific areas of emphasis include but are not limited  to: ground water contaminant transport, geochemical evolution of ground waters, nutrient transport processes in soils and ground water, vadose zone hydrology and numerical simulation of ground water, geochemistry and reactive transport. Students follow the shared core of five (5) courses that provide the fundamentals of fluid mechanics and introductions to surface and ground water hydrology and environmental chemistry as well as two credits of seminar in Hydrologic Sciences. SLOs for the degree are that students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a basic level of competency in the general field of hydrogeology
  2. Explain ideas and results through written, numerical, graphical, spoken, and computer-based forms of communication
  3. Complete research in their field of study, including answering specific question(s) in conjunction with the advisor and thesis committee
  4. Demonstrate appropriate quantitative skills for their sub-discipline

Students can pursue a Master of Science degree either with Plan A (thesis) or Plan B (non-thesis option). The Master of Science Plan A degree in Hydrogeology requires a minimum of 30 credits beyond the Bachelor degree, of which at least 18 credits (including 6 credits of thesis) must be at the 700-level. Students must sign up for thesis credits in the department of their advisor. For the non-thesis option (Plan B), a minimum of 32 credits is required with at least 15 credits at the 700-level (including 2 credits of Professional Paper). Students should consult with their advisor and the GPHS Director for guidance on choice of plan options. In general however, the Plan B option should be considered as a terminal degree. All work towards a master’s degree must be completed within six (6) years immediately preceding the granting of the degree. For more information on credit requirements, students should consult the UNR General Catalog.

The Master of Science in Hydrogeology degree allows flexibility to allow students to follow one or more of the broad areas of subsurface hydrology and to allow for specialization. All students receive a broad underpinning of the hydrologic sciences through the shared core courses. Students are expected to work with their advisors and committee members to develop a Plan of Study that best matches their research efforts and interests.

Additional Hydrogeology requirements

Students following the Hydrogeology degree track (either MS or Ph.D.) are required to complete at least one of the following courses:

  • CEE 653 - ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY (3 credits)
  • CEE 658 - ENVIRONMENTAL CHEMISTRY CONCEPTS AND DESIGN (3 credits)
  • CEE 756 - ENVIRONMENTAL CHEMICAL KINETICS (3 credits)
  • GE 685 - WASTE CONTAINMENT (4)
  • GEOL 701J - SEDIMENT TRANSPORT (3 credits)
  • GEOL 701S - FIELD METHODS (3 credits
  • GEOL 716 - LOW TEMPERATURE AQUEOUS GEOCHEMISTRY (3 credits)
  • GEOL 780 - ISOTOPE HYDROLOGY (3 credits)
  • GEOL 783 - GROUNDWATER HYDRAULICS (3 credits)
  • GEOL/NRES 784 - VADOSE ZONE HYDROLOGY (3 credits)
  • GEOL 785 - NTRODUCTION TO GROUNDWATER MODELING (3 credits)
  • GEOL 786 - CONTAMINANT TRANSPORT IN GROUNDWATER FLOW SYSTEMS (3 credits)
  • NRES 702 - SOIL BIOGEOCHEMISTRY (3 credits)
  • NRES 730 - INTERDISCIPLINARY MODELING (3 credits)

Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Hydrogeology (72 credits)

Candidates for the Ph.D. degree in Hydrogeology must satisfy all general requirements of the Graduate School and the M.S. degree in Hydrogeology. SLOs for the degree are that students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a basic level of competency in the general field of hydrogeology and in their area of research
  2. Explain ideas and results through written, numerical, graphical, spoken, and computer-based forms of communication
  3. Complete research in their field of study, including answering specific question(s) in conjunction with the advisor and dissertation committee
  4. Demonstrate appropriate quantitative skills for their sub-discipline

The Doctoral degree in Hydrogeology requires 72 credits beyond the Bachelor degree, successful completion of a qualifying examination after the first year of study and 1 credit of Comprehensive Examination. The Comprehensive Examination credit may count toward the required 30 credits of 700-level coursework. 24 credits of dissertation credits must be applied to the Doctoral degree, and students must sign up for these credits in the department of their advisor. A maximum of 24 credits of course work (with grades of “B” or better) from a completed master’s degree program may be allocated toward the doctoral degree upon completion and approval of a Credit Transfer Evaluation Request Form. Up to 18 credits of 700-level courses may be transferred from the master’s degree program. All work towards a doctoral degree must be completed within eight (8) years immediately preceding the granting of the degree. Credits transferred into doctoral degree from a completed master’s degree are exempt from this eight-year limit.

Note that the GPHS does not generally accept students with only Bachelor degrees directly into the Doctoral degree programs; rather, these students are first accepted into the Master’s Program and may be considered for the Doctoral degree after one year of study. Students interested in proceeding directly to the Doctoral degree should contact the GPHS Director for further guidance.

The Doctorate of Philosophy in Hydrogeology allows flexibility to allow students to follow one or more of the broad areas of subsurface hydrology and to allow for specialization. All students receive a broad underpinning of the hydrologic sciences through the shared core courses. Additional requirements for the degree include two or more specialization courses in hydrogeology. Students are expected to work with their advisors and committee members to develop a Plan of Study that best matches their research efforts and interests.

Consult with your advisor and the GPHS Director for more information and requirements. Doctoral degree candidates should consult the “GPHS Examination Procedure Guidelines” information package for a review of committee, qualifying and comprehensive examination procedures and scheduling.

Proposal Guidelines

Introduction

This was created to help our graduate students write a successful thesis/dissertation proposal. Once completed and approved by the student’s advisor, the research proposal is presented by the student to the student’s advisory/examining committee.

This document is meant to serve as a guide for students. Individual proposals may vary depending on the requirements set forth by the student’s advisor and thesis/dissertation committee. The overall goal of the proposal is to present research methodology in a direct and clear manner.

All proposals should address the following issues in one form or another.

  1. What is the problem being addressed?
  2. What is the hypothesis being tested?
  3. Why is the problem important and interesting?
  4. What will you DO to address the problem? If you complete the plan, will that bring us closer to an answer to the problem?
  5. Why is the research significant and important?
  6. (Ph.D. Students) What is the new or original research that you are contributing to the field
  7. Is the topic is feasible in terms of availability of funding, equipment, supervisors, data, and can the research be completed?

M.S. versus PH.D. proposals

Your advisor is the best person to provide a detailed clarification of your research expectations. The main differences between a M.S. and Ph.D. proposal and associated research are likely to be in the length and complexity of the research (not necessarily the proposal), and that the Ph.D. research must contain something new to the field of hydrology.

Suggested proposal format

  1. Cover page (1 page) – Name, email, degree for which you are a candidate, advisor, and committee’s name, title, and
  2. Project Summary or Abstract (1 page) - This is a self-contained, third-person description of objectives, methods, significance. Usually one will write this after the entire proposal is
  3. Project Description
    1. Objectives and Expected Significance
      • What are the main scientific challenges? Emphasize what the new ideas are. Briefly describe the project's major goals and their impact on the state of the art.
  • Clearly state the question you will address: Why is it important? What makes something important varies with the field. For some fields, the intellectual challenge should be emphasized, for others the practical applications should be emphasized. Why is it an interesting/difficult/challenging question? It must be neither trivial nor
  1. Background and Technical Need
    • What long-term technical goals will this work serve?
    • What are the main barriers to progress? What has led to success so far and what limitations remain? What is the missing knowledge?
    • What aspects of the current state-of-the-art lead to this proposal? Why are these the right issues to be addressing now?
    • What lessons from past and current research motivate your work. What value will your research provide? What is it that your results will make possible?
    • What is the relation to the present state of knowledge, to current work here & elsewhere? Cite those whose work you're building on (and whom you would like to have review your proposal). Don't insult anyone. For example, don't say their work is "inadequate;" rather, identify the issues they didn't
    • Cite relevant literature
    • You can build your credentials in this section by summarizing other people's work clearly and concisely and by stating how your work uses their ideas and how it differs from
  2. Research Description
    • Broad technical description of research plan: activities, methods, data, and theory.
    • This the part that counts. WHAT will you do? Why is your strategy an appropriate one to pursue? What is the key idea that makes it possible for to answer this question? HOW will you achieve your goals? Concisely and coherently, this section should complete the arguments developed earlier and present your initial pass on how to solve the problems posed. Avoid repetitions and
    • Present a plan for how you will go about addressing/attacking/solving the questions you have raised.
    • Discuss expected results and your plan for evaluating the results. How will you measure progress?
    • Include a discussion of milestones and expected dates of completion. You are not committed to following this plan - but you must present a FEASIBLE plan to convince your committee that you know how to go about getting research results.
  3. Program of Study: Include a list of all courses taken (including the number of credits and when they were taken) and all courses you are planning to take (including the number of credits and when you are planning to take them) that you will use to meet the requirements of your degree. Do not include undergraduate courses. It is highly recommended that you have the Program Director review a DRAFT of the Program of Study before your proposal

Hydrologic Sciences oral qualifying examination guidelines and study information

Introduction

Each doctoral candidate is required to pass 3 steps of the Qualifying Examination at the end of their first year of study. The purpose of this Qualifying Examination is to insure that the student is well prepared and well qualified to begin their doctoral research. The three steps of the qualifying examination are:

  • Component 1: Oral Proficiency Examination
  • Component 2: Approval of Program of Study
  • Component 3: Development, presentation, and defense of a detailed doctoral research

Oral proficiency examination detailed information

The Oral Proficiency Examining Committee administers the examination.  The Committee consists of the student’s advisor and two members, chosen by the GPHS Director. At least one member should represent a faculty member who teaches one of the Shared Foundation Core Courses.

The examining committee will provide to the student at least two weeks prior to date of the examination a list of example questions and general study areas. The student may choose to select one question from the example list and prepares a 10-15 minute oral response as their first question in the examination. The examining committee will then proceed to oral questioning to assess the student’s knowledge and comprehension of the fundamentals of hydrology, focusing in major part on the subject areas found in the Hydrologic Sciences Shared Foundation Core Courses. Typically, the exam will be two hours in length.

The examining committee will provide to the Program Director its written appraisal (see attached form) of the student’s qualifications to proceed with his/her doctoral candidacy. If the student receives a passing grade on the exam he/she will be allowed to continue doctoral candidacy. If the student receives a failing grade, the Program Director will inform the student in writing of his/her dismissal from the Graduate Program of Hydrologic Sciences.

Ph.D. comprehensive exam guidelines

Introduction

Admission to candidacy confirms that a student has successfully completed the program’s course requirements and university residency requirements. In order to gain admission to candidacy, a student must meet all the following requirements.

  1. Hold at least a "B" average in all graduate work
  2. Gain the advisory/examining committees’ formal approval for the program of study, including dissertation development
  3. Successful completion of the qualifying examination

Students pursuing doctoral degrees should file for candidacy no later than eight calendar months prior to graduation. Although the examination should be taken after completion of all course requirements, it may be taken after a minimum of 75 percent of the student's required course work beyond the bachelor's degree is completed.

The purpose of this document is to provide a set of guidelines for faculty and students for the comprehensive exam process. The goal is to provide students with a better idea of what is expected of them in terms of preparation for the comprehensive exam. This will lead to better overall performance on the exam and will provide the examination committee with a consistent “ruler” by which to judge performance.

The comprehensive exam should test a student’s ability to:

  1. To determine how well prepared the student is to conduct Ph.D. level research in the general area the student has chosen
  2. To determine the student’s ability to convey the concepts they have learned in written and oral venues

Number one above is generally done with the written portion of the exam, while number two is generally done with the oral part of the exam.

Exam components

The comprehensive examination should cover the breadth of knowledge within the field of hydrology that apply to the student’s dissertation topic and will consist of a written portion and oral examination. The exam will be developed and administered by the student’s dissertation committee with the advisor serving as the chair. All committee members are expected to participate in both the written and oral portions of the exam. In the event that one committee member cannot attend the oral exam, he/she may provide questions to the committee chair. Therefore, a minimum of four committee members must be present for the oral exam, and all members must provide written and oral questions.

 The written exam may be closed book or open book. The exam should cover concepts related to the student’s research area.

Time limits for closed book exams should be limited to two hours and can be proctored by a committee member or the student’s advisor. The candidate is expected to achieve the equivalent of an A grade.

Time limits for open book exams should be less than one day (typically eight hours). The open book exams are expected to provide an opportunity for the candidate to demonstrate (and even extend) their knowledge of a subject area closely related to their research.

Examples might include a question(s) that would demonstrate the candidate’s ability to synthesize ideas and concepts from advanced courses. Other examples might be to give the candidate a particularly challenging “homework problem” from a course that the student has taken.

The oral exam is conducted at least two weeks following completion of the written exam and is typically three hours in length. Each committee member will ask about three questions, usually taking turns around the table. When we grant a Ph.D. degree, we are, in essence, giving the student a potential license to teach at the university level. As a result, the oral exam is designed to test the candidates’ ability to think and react to questions in an articulate and coherent manner. The student should be able to articulate his/her understanding of complex concepts in front of an audience.

Students must register for the comprehensive exam (1 credit) for the semester in which the exam is to be taken. Students should register for the exam according to their advisor’s departmental affiliation (e.g. GEOL 795, NRES 795). Students with advisors residing at the Desert Research Institute or a non-UNR institution should register for the exam in the department with which their advisor holds adjunct status. Comprehensive exam credits may be counted in the total credits required for the degree.

Following successful completion of the examination, the student must submit an Admission to Candidacy Form. The student's advisory committee, graduate director of the program and the Graduate Dean must approve the form.

Preparing for the exam

The best advice for candidates studying for the comprehensive exam includes the following:

  • Study fundamental material
  • Study actively, not passively (don’t read about concepts, but practice explaining concepts as if you were teaching on the subject)
  • Get together with other Ph.D. students and/or your advisor and practice explaining simple concepts out-loud and using the board
  • Feel free to contact committee members to ask which subject areas that might be included in the exam
  • Don’t forget to review undergraduate material in Physics, Chemistry, mathematics, and statistics

Exam evaluation

After the completion of the written exams, each committee member must grade their portion of the exam within 6 days or less and notify the student’s advisor whether or not the student successfully passed those questions. If a committee member feels that the student performed poorly on a certain component of the written exam, he/she may ask follow-up questions during the oral exam. If more than one committee member feels the student has failed the written examination, the committee should decide if the student should retake the written exam, proceed on to the oral examination, or be dismissed from the GPHS.

At the end of the oral examination, the committee will vote on the success or failure of the examination process. In the event that two or more committee members cast negative votes, the examination (oral and/or written) may be repeated once if the committee approves additional study. 

Graduate Assistantships

All graduate students holding an assistantship (teaching GTA or GRA) are considered Nevada residents for tuition purposes. Non-resident tuition is only waived for the duration of the assistantship. 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 must be continuously enrolled in at least 6 graduate level credits (600-700) throughout 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.

General information about graduate assistantships

Health insurance

All domestic degree seeking graduate students, who are 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 term they are eligible (fall & spring/summer). If a student has other comparable coverage and would like to waive out of the student health insurance, it is the student’s responsibility to complete

the University online waiver form prior to the deadline. If approved, a health insurance waiver is good for the current academic year only. A new waiver must be submitted each academic year.

All international graduate students are required to 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 student health insurance information