Program handbook

The Graduate Program of Hydrologic Sciences (GPHS) is an interdisciplinary graduate program at the University of Nevada, Reno that promotes Ph.D. education in theoretical, experimental, and applied aspects of hydrology and hydrogeology. GPHS is composed of a program director and an assistant program director, and numerous graduate faculty.

The following document 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 For an archived version of a previous year's handbook, please contact the program director.

Students: Throughout your years in the GPHS your major advisor and committee members will be your primary source of guidance. Please read through this handbook and familiarize yourself with the relevant sections. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to your faculty advisor, the Program Director, or Associate Director.

All forms mentioned in the program handbook can be found on the Graduate School student forms page.

 

I. Central theme and mission statement


GPHS fosters a community of interdisciplinary scientists who gain foundational knowledge, research experience, and professional training to address challenges across the diverse fields connected by water in the Earth system.

The mission of GPHS is to provide fundamental and advanced academic training for students to become hydrologists and hydrogeologists who will understand and address critical water challenges facing the world.

 

II. Program description


Since 1962, GPHS has been an interdisciplinary collaboration between the Desert Research Institute (DRI) and the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). Faculty at DRI teach, advise, and provide research support for M.S. and Ph.D. students in Hydrology and Hydrogeology. UNR and DRI faculty engaged in GPHS fully collaborate on recruiting, colloquiums, and proposal development.

The GPHS focuses on studies of water in the environment including its role in ecosystem functions and climate science, geological and biogeochemical processes, and human-environment interactions. The goals of the program are to provide fundamental and advanced training to students in the critical fields of surface and subsurface hydrology.

Our interdisciplinary departments and partners

Our program reaches beyond academia, with faculty from UNR, DRI, and multiple local agencies researching topics including watershed hydrology, ecohydrology, contaminant transport (surface and subsurface), aqueous geochemistry, aquatic ecology, global climate change, groundwater hydraulics, vadose zone hydrology, surface water hydrology, water policy & governance, and water resources engineering. Participating faculty come from the following academic departments and agencies:

  • Biology
  • Civil Engineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Geography
  • Geology
  • Natural Resources and Environmental Science
  • Political Science
  • US Geological Survey
  • USDA Forest Service

Admission

Applications must be submitted using the Graduate School’s application process. The application deadline for the following Fall semester is December 15. The application deadline for the following Spring semester is July 15. While GPHS does admit students for the Spring semester, we advise against it so that students can participate in cohort-building that takes place during the first Fall semester at UNR.

Degrees offered

We offer M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in both Hydrology and Hydrogeology. The M.S. degree has both thesis and non-thesis options. The Ph.D. requires a dissertation.

Hydrology: Hydrology focuses on interactions of surface water in the Earth's processes, especially surface water quality, surface water-atmosphere interactions, interactions of surface water and groundwater, and surface water-vegetation interactions. Possible areas of emphasis for students include watershed hydrology, snow hydrology, isotope hydrology, and water policy & governance, aquatic ecology, stream biogeochemistry, and hydroclimatology.

Hydrogeology: Hydrogeology focuses on subsurface interactions of water in the earth's processes, especially in the vadose and saturated zones below the earth's surface. Possible areas of emphasis for students include groundwater contaminant transport, geochemical evolution of groundwaters, nutrient transport processes, vadose zone hydrology, and groundwater policy & governance, groundwater resource evaluation, and groundwater modeling.

The GPHS also administers an accelerated BS/ program in which undergraduate students at UNR in Civil Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Hydrogeology, or Ecohydrology can obtain the BS degree and an M.S. degree in Hydrology or Hydrogeology in a shorter time. More information on the accelerated B.S./M.S. program is available in section XIII.

M.S. degree learning outcomes:

Students completing their M.S. degree in Hydrology/Hydrogeology will be able to:

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

Ph.D. degree learning outcomes:

Students completing their Ph.D. degree in Hydrology/Hydrogeology will be able to:          

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

Contact information:

Dr. Alexandra Lutz, Program Director
Office: Desert Research Institute, by appointment
alexandra.lutz@dri.edu

Dr. Adrian Harpold, Associate Director of Natural Resources & Environmental Science
aharpold@unr.edu

 

III. Degree requirements


Shared Hydrology and Hydrogeology core requirements*

The classes below are the core requirements of all students in GPHS. A grade of “B-” or better is required for each of these classes, which can only be retaken once.

Table 1. Required core courses.

Course

Course title

Semesters/years offered

NRES/GEOL 614

Hydrologic fluid dynamics (3)

Fall semester, all years

GE 684

Groundwater hydrology (3)

Fall semester, all years

GEOL 616

Environmental geochemistry (3)

Spring semester, even years

NRES 682

Small watershed hydrology (4 )

Spring semester, all years

GEOL/NRES 782 

Hydrology/hydrogeology seminar (3)

Fall semester, all years

*Note: Students who have previously taken one or more of the shared core courses may request to waive these requirements. Consult with your advisor, the UNR course instructor, and the GPHS Director for more information. The course waiver document is internal to GPHS and is not filed with the Graduate School.

For a current list of elective courses, please reach out to the Program Director.

Degree requirements

Students can pursue a Master of Science (M.S.) degree with either the Plan A (thesis) or Plan B (non-thesis) option. All work towards the M.S. degree must be completed within six years immediately preceding the granting of the degree. GPHS prefers that M.S. students complete their degree within two years of starting. For more information on credit requirements, students should consult the University's General Catalog.

The M.S. Plan A degree in Hydrology/Hydrogeology requires a minimum of 31 credits beyond the Bachelor’s degree, of which at least nine credits must be at the 700-level (excluding six credits of thesis). Students must take six thesis credits, signing up for these credits through the department of their graduate advisor.

For the M.S. Plan B degree in Hydrology/Hydrogeology, a minimum of 32 credits is required with at least ten signing up for these credits through the department of their graduate advisor.

Students should consult with their advisor and the GPHS Director for guidance on the choice of plan options. In most cases, the Plan A option is preferred. Typically, the Plan B option is considered a terminal degree.

The M.S. in Hydrology/Hydrogeology degree allows flexibility for students to follow one or more of the broad areas of hydrologic sciences and to allow for specialization. All students receive a broad underpinning through the required core courses. Additional requirements for the degree include one or more elective courses..

Ph.D. degree requirements

The Doctoral degree in Hydrology/Hydrogeology requires a minimum of 60 credits beyond the Bachelor’s degree, of which at least 18 credits must be at the 700-level (excluding 24 credits of dissertation). Students must take 24 dissertation credits, signing up for these credits through the department of their graduate advisor. Ph.D. students must register for one credit during the term when they take their Comprehensive Examination. This credit may count toward the required 18 credits of 700-level coursework. Students must take 24 credits of dissertation, signing up for these credits in the department of their advisor. All work towards a doctoral degree must be completed within eight years immediately preceding the granting of the degree. Credits transferred into a doctoral degree from a completed master’s degree are exempt from this eight-year limit.

Table 2. Credit requirements for M.S. and Ph.D. degrees.

Degree

Total credits required

Total 700-level credits required

Total thesis, professional paper, or dissertation credits required

Maximum time to completion (years)

Hydrology/Hydrogeology (Thesis, “Plan A”)

31

9

6 (thesis)

6

Hydrology/Hydrogeology (Non-Thesis, “Plan B”)

32

10

2 (professional paper)

6

Ph.D. Hydrology/Hydrogeology

60

18

24 (dissertation)

8

Probation and dismissal

Please see the Graduate School's Academic Standing page.

Continuous enrollment

Please see the Graduate School's policy on Discontinuation for Non-Enrollment on our academic standing page.

Leave of absence and reinstatement

Please see the Graduate School's Leave of Absence form and policy on their student forms page.

When a student has been absent for one semester or more without an approved leave of absence, they may request reinstatement via the Notice of Reinstatement form available on the Graduate School website. This form allows the program the option to recommend the student be readmitted 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 Graduate Standing must be received by the Graduate School no later than the last day of enrollment for the semester when the reinstatement is to begin.

Elective courses

Please contact the Program Director for a list of current GPHS electives.

 

IV. Transfer credits


Transferring Credits: This information refers to 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 can be requested on the Graduate Credit Transfer Evaluation Request form, available 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 5 years prior to admission, they would have to complete the degree within one year for the course to apply to the degree.

A maximum of 24 credits of coursework (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 the Credit Transfer Evaluation Request. . Credits from a completed master’s degree will be exempt from the 8-year time limitation for those students pursuing a doctoral degree.

 

V. Program timeline


Below is shown a recommended plan, which you can use as a guide. You should also download, review, and complete the checklist for your degree program.

M.S. in Hydrology or Hydrogeology (recommended plan)

Year 1

First semester
  • Required courses:
    • GEOL/NRES 782 Hydrology/Hydrogeology Seminar* (1)
    • NRES/GEOL 614 Hydrologic Fluid Dynamics* (3)
    • GE 684 Ground Water Hydrology* (3)

Note 1: Students may take up to 9 total credits without incurring overload charges.

Note 2: CUAHSI Virtual University (CVU) course modules count for one credit each. These are 4-week modules taught remotely in the fall semester only. Students taking one or more CVU courses will need to register for GEOL 795. CVU courses change each year.

  • Complete and file the Declaration of Advisor/Major Advisor/Committee Chair form
  • Conduct a literature review
  • Formulate initial research hypotheses with their advisor
  • If applicable, transfer previous graduate credits through the Graduate School
  • Total credits = 7 (24 remaining credits)
Second semester
  • Required courses:
    • NRES 682 Small Watershed Hydrology* (4)
    • GEOL 616 Environmental Geochemistry* (3)
  • Recommended:
    • Thesis credits (1-3)
    • or, students may take a Hydrology/Hydrogeology Elective (3) but please note that this will increase the credit total to 10. Enrolling more than nine credits will incur an overload charge.
  • Complete committee selection
  • Conduct data collection/analysis as appropriate for their research project
  • Continue literature review
  • Write thesis proposal
  • Total credits = 9 (15 remaining credits)
Summer
  • Complete thesis proposal and provide it to the committee for review
  • Conduct data collection/analysis as appropriate for their research project

Year two

First semester
  • Required courses:
    • GEOL/NRES 782 Hydrology/Hydrogeology Seminar* (2)
  • Recommended:
    • Hydrology/Hydrogeology Electives (3-6)
    • Thesis Credits (1-4)
  • Conduct data collection/analysis
  • Hold a Research Proposal meeting and discuss the Program of Study with the committee
  • File completed Program of Study form with the Graduate School
  • Total credits = 8-9 (6-7 remaining credits)
Second semester
  • Recommended:
    • Hydrology or Hydrogeology Elective (3-6)
    • Thesis Credits (1-4)
  • Complete thesis (see thesis filing guidelines)
  • File Application for Graduation form with the Graduate School
  • Send the completed thesis to your committee members, two weeks before the defense
  • Send out notice of thesis defense to GPHS Director, two weeks before the defense
  • Defend thesis
  • File the Notice of Completion form
  • Total credits = 6-7 (0 remaining credits)

Graduate!

Note: All students completing their degrees need to schedule an exit interview with the GPHS director and the exit survey (online) through the Graduate School, to be completed in 1-2 months after graduation.

Ph.D. in Hydrology/Hydrogeology (recommended plan)

Year one

First semester
  • Required courses:
    • GEOL/NRES 782 Hydrology/Hydrogeology Seminar* (1)
    • NRES/GEOL 614 Hydrologic Fluid Dynamics* (3)
    • GE 684 Ground Water Hydrology* (3)

Note 1: Students may take up to 9 total credits without incurring overload charges.

Note 2: CUAHSI Virtual University (CVU) course modules count for one credit each. These are 4-week modules taught remotely in the fall semester only. Students taking one or more CVU courses will need to register for GEOL 795. CVU courses change each year.

Total credits = 7 (53 remaining credits)

Second semester
  • Required courses:
    • NRES 682 Small Watershed Hydrology* (4)
    • GEOL 616 Environmental Geochemistry* (3)
  • Dissertation credits (2)

or take a Hydrology/Hydrogeology Elective (2-3). Note: Students may take up to 9 total credits without incurring overload charges.

  • Take the Oral Proficiency Exam (or in the fall semester of Year 2)
  • Conduct data collection/analysis as appropriate for the research project
  • Continue literature review, develop a methodology to address hypotheses

Total credits = 9 (44 remaining credits)

Summer
  • Start writing your research proposal
  • Conduct data collection/analysis for Paper 1, as appropriate to the research project

Year two

First semester
  • Required courses:
    • GEOL/NRES 782 Hydrology/Hydrogeology Seminar* (2)
  • Hydrology/Hydrogeology Electives (3-6)
  • Dissertation credits (1-4)
  • Complete committee selection
  • Complete a draft of the Research Proposal and send it to committee members
  • Conduct data collection/analysis, as appropriate to the research project
  • Total credits = 9 (35 remaining credits)
Second semester
  • Hydrology or Hydrogeology Electives (3-6)
  • Dissertation credits (3-6)
  • Hold a Research Proposal meeting and discuss the Program of Study with the committee
  • Near final data analysis, start writing Paper 1
  • File completed Program of Study form with the Graduate School
  • Total credits = 9 (26 remaining credits)
Summer
  • Final data analysis, finish writing Paper 1
  • Continue data collection/analysis as appropriate for the research project

Year three

First semester
  • Written and Oral Comprehensive Exams (1)
  • Advance to candidacy through the Graduate School
  • Near final data analysis, start writing Paper 2
  • Hydrology or Hydrogeology Elective (3)
  • Dissertation credits (2)

Total credits = 6 (20 remaining credits)

Second semester
  • Final data analysis, finish writing Paper 2
  • Hydrology or Hydrogeology Elective (3)
  • Dissertation credits (6)

Total credits = 9 (11 remaining credits)

Summer
  • Near final data analysis, start writing Paper 3
  • Continue data collection/analysis as appropriate to the research project

Year four

First semester
  • Final data analysis, finish writing Paper 3
  • Dissertation credits (6)

Total credits = 6 (5 remaining credits)

Second semester

Total credits = 5 (0 remaining credits)

Graduate!!

Forms

If you need to:

  • Change program of study
  • Change advisory committee
  • Request a leave of absence

Access these forms here: Graduate School forms

Note: All students completing their degrees need to schedule an exit interview with the GPHS director and the exit survey (online) through the Graduate School, to be completed in 1-2 months after graduation.

 

VI. Committee selection


Committee for the degree

Students establish an academic committee in consultation with their advisor. This committee is formed within the first year of study and must contain at least three members, including the advisor, and at least one committee member who is from outside of the advisor’s home department. For example, if the advisor resides at DRI, one member cannot be affiliated with the UNR department with which the advisor is affiliated. If the advisor is UNR faculty, one member cannot be affiliated with the home department of the advisor. This “outside” member can be a GPHS faculty member or a faculty member from any other department within UNR. Students can include someone who is not affiliated with the GPHS or UNR on their committee if the student provides a written request to the Program Director stating why this person should be on the committee (e.g., how their expertise is essential to the research). The Program Director will then submit a request to the Graduate School to allow this person to serve on the graduate committee. If approved, this person will be affiliated with the UNR department to which the advisor is affiliated, so this person cannot serve as the outside committee member. Formal approval of all student advisory committees is made by the Graduate Dean.

For M.S. students, the completed Declaration of Advisor form must be submitted to Graduate School by the end of the student’s first semester.

Committee for the Ph.D. degree

Students establish an academic committee in consultation with their advisor. This committee is formed within the first year of study and must contain at least five members, including the advisor, and at least one committee member must be from the same department as your advisor. In addition, at least one committee member must be from outside of the advisor’s home department. For example, if the advisor resides at DRI, one member cannot be affiliated with the UNR department with which the advisor is affiliated. If the advisor is UNR faculty, one member cannot be affiliated with the home department of the advisor. This “outside” member can be a GPHS faculty member or a faculty member from any other department within UNR. Students can include someone who is not affiliated with the GPHS or UNR if the student provides a written request to the Program Director stating why this person should be on the committee (e.g., how their expertise is essential to the research). The Program Director will then submit a request to the Graduate School to enable this person to serve on the graduate committee. If approved, this person will be affiliated with the UNR department to which the advisor is affiliated, so this person cannot serve as the outside committee member. Formal approval of all student advisory committees is made by the Graduate Dean.

For M.S. students, the completed Declaration of Advisor form must be submitted to Graduate School by the end of the student’s first semester.

 

VII. Research proposal and program of study


Masters’ Research Proposal and Program of Study

For M.S. students, the Research Proposal must be submitted to their committee by the beginning of the student’s third semester. Once the research proposal is approved by the advisor, distribute it to the committee two weeks before the first committee meeting. It is the student’s responsibility to schedule the committee meeting.

The format of the research proposal is up to the discretion of the advisor but may follow the form:

  1. Introduction
    1. Significance and motivation
    2. Research objectives
  2. Background and previous work
  3. Research methods
    1. Data description
    2. Methods of analysis
  4. Anticipated products and data management
  5. Timeline for completion

Before the first committee meeting (the Program of Study meeting), the student will send their Research Proposal to committee members and complete a pdf draft of the Program of Study document. The final version of the Program of Study may be signed (via DocuSign) only after this committee meeting.

Please review the list of required and recommended coursework for the Hydrology/Hydrogeology degrees and the Graduate School Catalog to ensure that your coursework fulfills both the Program and Graduate School requirements. Note that the “outside” committee member signs as the graduate school representative and the Graduate School will not accept hand-written Programs of Study.

The Research Proposal should be submitted to the academic committee two weeks before the Research Proposal/Program of Study meeting. The student should complete a pdf draft of the Program of Study document and provide that to the academic committee. At the Program of Study meeting, the student will make a brief oral presentation of their Research Proposal to the academic committee and gain committee approval to proceed. Your committee should review, approve and sign the Program of Study (via DocuSign). If all committee signatures are in place, the Program Director will sign the document, and the document then goes to the Graduate School for signature. **Note that the Program of Study Document must be filed with the Graduate School at least one full semester before graduation. The deadline for submitting the Program of Study Document for AUGUST and DECEMBER graduation is typically during the third week of APRIL, and the deadline for MAY graduation is typically during the third week of NOVEMBER of the prior year.

Ph.D. research proposal and program of study

For Ph.D. students, the Research Proposal must be submitted to their committee by the beginning of the student’s fourth semester. Ph.D. students should plan to have completed a minimum of 3 papers, in a format and of a sufficiently high quality to be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. The format of the research proposal is up to the discretion of the advisor but typically follows the form:

  1. Introduction
    Overarching significance and motivation
  2. Paper 1 - Title
    1. Specific objectives
    2. Background and previous work
    3. Research methods
      1. Data description
      2. Methods of analysis
    4. Anticipated products and data management
  3. Paper 2 - Title
    1. Specific objectives
    2. Background and previous work
    3. Research methods
      1. Data description
      2. Methods of analysis
    4. Anticipated Products and Data Management
  4. Paper 3 - Title
    1. Specific objectives
    2. Background and previous work
    3. Research methods
      1. Data description
      2. Methods of analysis
    4. Anticipated products and data management
  5. Timeline for completion

The research proposal should be submitted to the academic committee two weeks before the Research Proposal/Program of Study meeting. The student should complete a pdf draft of the Program of Study document and provide that to the academic committee. During the Research Proposal/Program of Study meeting, the student will make an oral presentation and defense of their research proposal to the academic committee and gain committee approval to proceed. The final version of the Program of Study may be signed (via DocuSign) only after this committee meeting.

**Note that the Program of Study Document must be filed with the Graduate School at least one full semester before graduation. The deadline for submitting the Program of Study Document for AUGUST and DECEMBER graduation is typically during the third week of APRIL, and the deadline for MAY graduation is typically during the third week of NOVEMBER of the prior year.

Follow the instructions on the Thesis/Dissertation guidelines and submission requirements to file a dissertation. The signed copy of the Notice of Completion form must be submitted to the Graduate School approximately two weeks before the official end of the semester. The advisor must also sign the Final Review Approval form that goes with the final thesis submission.

 

VIII. Ph.D. Oral Proficiency Exam


The Ph.D. Oral Proficiency Exam is an oral exam administered upon the request of the Ph.D. advisor and/or the GPHS Director. The Oral Proficiency Examining Committee consists of the student’s advisor and two additional members, chosen by the GPHS Director and the advisor. At least one member should represent a faculty member who teaches one of the GPHS Core Courses.

At least two weeks before the examination date, the committee will provide a list of example questions and general study areas. The student chooses 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 proceed with additional questions to assess the student’s knowledge and comprehension of the fundamentals of hydrology from the core courses. Typically, the exam is 1-2 hours in length.

The examining committee will compile a written appraisal of the student’s qualifications to proceed with his/her doctoral degree program. If the student receives a passing grade on the exam they will continue doctoral study. If the student receives a failing grade, the student may require additional coursework. Program Director will inform the student in writing of his/her dismissal from the Graduate Program of Hydrologic Sciences.

Example questions are available upon request from the Program Director.

 

IX. Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam (Required: written and oral)


Passing the comprehensive exam is a critical part of admitting a student to Ph.D. candidacy, which confirms that a student has completed the program’s course requirements and university residency requirements. A student must also hold at least a "B" average in all graduate work and have completed the research proposal. Although the comprehensive exam should be taken after completion of all course requirements, it may be taken after a minimum of 75% of the student's required coursework beyond the bachelor's degree is completed.

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, which is generally assessed during the written portion of the exam.
  2. To determine the student’s ability to convey the concepts, they have learned in written and oral venues and to clearly convey how these concepts relate to their dissertation research, which is generally assessed during the oral portion of the exam.

Exam components

The purpose of the following section is two-fold. First, to provide a set of guidelines for faculty and students for the comprehensive exam process. Next, to provide the examination committee with a consistent framework by which to judge performance.

The comprehensive examination consists of both a written and an oral examination; It should cover the breadth of knowledge within the field of hydrology that applies to the student’s dissertation topic research area. The candidate is expected to achieve the equivalent of an A grade. 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. If one committee member cannot attend the oral exam, they 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. Committee members may participate remotely.

The written exam may be closed book or open book. Time limits for closed book exams are limited to two hours and can be proctored by a committee member or the student’s advisor. Time limits for open book exams are eight hours and can be divided across two days. 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 2-3 hours in length. Each committee member will ask several questions, usually in turn. The oral exam is designed to test the candidates’ ability to think and react in an articulate and coherent manner. The student should be able to explain 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. The comprehensive exam credit is counted towards the 18-credit 700-level credit requirement for the degree.

Following successful completion of the examination, the student must submit an Admission to Candidacy Form via DocuSign. The student's advisory committee, the Program Director, and the Graduate School must approve the form. Students should file for candidacy no later than eight months before graduation.

Preparing for the exam

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

  • Study fundamental material as it relates to the student’s research.
  • 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 practice explaining simple concepts out loud and using the whiteboard
  • Feel free to contact committee members to ask which subject areas might be included in the exam. Review undergraduate material in physics, chemistry, mathematics, and statistics as they support your knowledge in Hydrologic Sciences

Exam evaluation

After the completion of the written exam, each committee member must grade their portion of the exam within six days or less and notify the student’s advisor whether the student successfully passed those questions. If a committee member feels that the student performed poorly on a certain component of the written exam, they 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 GPHS.

At the end of the oral examination, the committee will vote on the success or failure of the examination process. If two or more committee members cast negative votes, the examination (oral and/or written) may be repeated once if the committee approves additional study. If the committee does not approve the student to retake the oral exam, the student will be dismissed from the GPHS. If the student is approved to retake the exam but again has two or more committee members casting negative votes, the student shall be dismissed from the GPHS.

 

X. M.S. Thesis


M.S. Thesis Option information

The M.S. Thesis Option is available in both Hydrology and Hydrogeology. All M.S. degree candidates must complete and successfully defend their thesis to receive their degree.

Graduate School guidelines, forms, and resources related to the thesis:

Final Review Approval – Obtain sign-off from the advisory committee chair

Notice of completion – the completed form should be submitted after all requirements have been met.

UNR general requirements for maintaining academic standing. Note: GPHS students must receive a B- or better in each graduate course (GPHS requirement) to receive credit for the course.

  • Please refer to the Nevada System of Higher Education CODE on Student Program Dismissal Procedures (SPDP) and review conference policies: (NSHE CODE, Chapter 11, Sections 1-3). If program dismissal is based upon failure to maintain required grades or a required GPA as described above, SPDP does not apply, and the student may be summarily dismissed from the graduate program.

M.S. non-thesis option information

The M.S. non-thesis option is available in both Hydrology and Hydrogeology and may be an appropriate alternative for students with a professional background and significant experience in applied hydrology and report writing.

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 before 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.

Ph.D. dissertation information

The Ph.D. dissertation option is available in both Hydrology and Hydrogeology. All Ph.D. candidates must complete and successfully defend their dissertation to receive their degree.

Graduate School forms and resources related to the dissertation:

Once all requirements have been met, students must submit a Final Review Approval and Notice of Completion form to graduate.

Final Review Approval – Obtain sign-off from the advisory committee chair

Notice of completion – the completed form should be submitted after all requirements have been met.

UNR general requirements for maintaining academic standing. Note: GPHS students must receive a B- or better in each graduate course (GPHS requirement) to receive credit for the course.

Please refer to the Nevada System of Higher Education CODE on Student Program Dismissal Procedures (SPDP) and review conference policies: (NSHE CODE, Chapter 11, Sections 1-3). If program dismissal is based upon failure to maintain required grades or a required GPA as described above, SPDP does not apply, and the student may be summarily dismissed from the graduate program.

 

XI. GPHS policy on overloads


The Graduate School defines a full workload for students as 0.50 FTE. FTE stands for “Full-Time Equivalent.” A 0.50 FTE is half of a full-time (40 hours per week) equivalent position (1.0 FTE). Any on-campus employment resulting in a total FTE of greater than 0.5 is considered overload employment. The maximum overload the university allows students to hold during the fall and spring semesters is 0.25 FTE, resulting in an overall maximum of 0.75 FTE. Overloads are not common and require approval, which is explained below.

GPHS faculty support efforts that enable students to make adequate timely progress toward their degree. They also encourage students to obtain the range of knowledge, skills, and experiences necessary for their professional development (e.g., developing research, grant-writing, teaching, publishing, and presenting their research). Consistent with these goals, the faculty value the availability of 0.50 FTE (20 hours per week) graduate assistantships or fellowships whenever possible. The faculty recognize that additional assistantships or Letter-of-Appointment (LOA) teaching positions provide an opportunity for further development. However, an overload can also hinder a student’s progress toward degree completion. The amount of progress toward degree completion lost, compared to the amount of additional development gained, generally declines substantially for students who utilize overloads across many semesters. Therefore, the GPHS policy prohibits overloads whenever students are not meeting GPHS target dates toward degree completion.

All overload employment requires the approval of the Program Director, the student’s advisor, and the student’s current employers (i.e., of the 0.50 FTE graduate assistantships) or funders (in the case of fellowships). It is the policy of GPHS faculty to scrutinize overload requests closely, particularly for students beginning their fifth year or above, before determining whether they warrant approval. First-year students are not eligible for any overloads. Second-year students are not eligible for overloads except under rare circumstances. Requests for overload must be made in writing by a student’s advisor (with support from the students’ current employers or funder) to the Program Director. Each overload request must make a case and provide adequate justification for why the overload request should be granted. The Program Director will then decide based on all the following that apply:

  1. The student complies with the benchmark policy;
  2. The overload will not unduly hinder the student’s academic progress (productivity and progress toward degree completion);
  3. The overload will provide essential elements of professional development that do not already sufficiently exist (e.g., the first or second opportunity to teach a course);
  4. The student is distinctly qualified and therefore essential to the position; the position cannot be taken by another graduate student who does not have a 0.50 FTE assistantship; and
  5. It is not possible to offset the overload activity by reallocating an equivalent portion of the student’s existing position to another graduate student who does not have a 0.50 FTE assistantship.

In cases where an overload is granted, the request form along with a memorandum detailing the nature of the additional employment must be submitted to the Graduate School. These documents must be signed and approved by the advisor, current employers, employer of the overload, and the Program Director (as evidenced by their signatures). View the Graduate School’s policy and a sample overload request form; this information is also provided in the Graduate Assistantship Handbook.

Important information concerning additional on-campus employment

Employment during Summer, Winter, or Spring break

Per the University’s Graduate Assistantship Handbook, all students (including international students) can work up to 40 hours during summer, winter, and spring breaks provided that funding is available. The University’s overload form is not required for summer break. If students take on additional employment during winter or spring break, submitting an overload form is strongly encouraged. It clarifies that any additional employment during these periods is separate from the student’s usual semester-based employment commitment. Students who are considering working more than 20 hours per week during these periods are expected to discuss such plans, in advance, with their advisor and all employers to ascertain their impact on academic progress.

Combining a Graduate Assistantship (GA) and a Letter-of-Appointment (LOA) position

Students who wish to accept an LOA position in addition to an existing graduate assistantship position are subject to GPHS’s overload policy (see above).

If a student holds only a 10-hour assistantship (0.25 FTE) and wishes to teach a 3-credit course as an LOA (part-time faculty), an overload form is not necessary. Teaching a course as an LOA is equivalent to 0.1875 FTE, and an overload memo is only required when students exceed 0.50 FTE.

If students hold only a 10-hour assistantship (0.25 FTE) and teach two (2) 3-credit courses as an LOA (part-time faculty), an overload form is necessary. With teaching each course as an LOA being equivalent to 0.1875 FTE, students’ total FTE exceeds 0.50 (0.625 FTE total), and an overload form is required.

UNR policy indicates part-time faculty (LOAs) who teach a course are entitled to a university fee waiver for the same number of total credits they are teaching. Students must contact the department in which they are teaching to determine how to obtain this waiver.

International Students

International students are limited to a 20-hour assistantship position (0.50 FTE) during the semester. They are never allowed to hold overloads during the semester. International students are eligible to work up to 40 hours per week (1.0 FTE) during the summer, spring, and winter breaks.

Financial considerations concerning summer funding/employment

Typically, under federal laws, U.S. employees must make contributions to Social Security and Medicare (the so-called Federal Insurance Contribution Act [FICA] tax). This tax is automatically withheld from employees’ payroll. Some entities, such as the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE), use a plan that is an alternative to, but otherwise equivalent to the FICA tax. NSHE employees make mandatory contributions to an investment firm called VOYA, which invests employees’ contributions on their behalf. This implies that the money plus investment proceeds belong to employees. When employees retire, they receive VOYA payments; if employees leave NSHE, they can have these funds paid out to them.

Under federal law, all currently enrolled students are exempted from making VOYA contributions. However, most students are not enrolled during the two summer months, June and July. If students are employed during the summer and are not enrolled during either the first or second summer term, they are subject to making VOYA contributions.

When students graduate or otherwise leave the university, and have made VOYA contributions, they can contact the university’s payroll office to have their VOYA contributions paid back to them.

There is a simple way to avoid having to make mandatory VOYA contributions when being employed during the summer: Students must be enrolled for at least one (1) credit during the first or second summer term (mini-term does not count).

Unless their summer employer (e.g., a department, or university center) is willing to provide tuition assistance, students must pay for this one credit themselves. If their employer does provide tuition assistance, students’ share in paying for this credit is the same as for any other credit taken during the regular semester. Note that there are one-time fees associated with enrollment, and typically these fees do not vary by the number of credits for which a student enrolls. Therefore, students should carefully consider all financial costs when deciding to enroll for one credit during the summer or not. Recall that students who make mandatory contributions to VOYA can receive this money back when they leave the university.

Students who were teaching assistants during the Spring semester immediately preceding the summer term do enjoy automatic tuition assistance for any credits taken during the summer terms. This applies also to some research assistants. The critical element is whether their assistantship stipends were paid out of a “state account” (money allocated to a department or program to fulfill its educational mission). For all assistantships paid out of a state account, assistantship employment during the Spring semester provides tuition assistantship during the summer. To find out if you were paid out of a state account, students must contact their on-campus employer.

To access this benefit, students must enroll in any summer credits (first or second summer term) by early June. Students must inform their on-campus employers that they require tuition assistance during the summer. The employer must then file some paperwork to ensure that the tuition assistance is provided for the summer. This must occur by early June, before the beginning of the first summer term.

Off-campus employment

University residency requirement for doctoral students

Doctoral students at UNR, are required to fulfill a residency requirement (see Program of Study Requirements/Instructions form). This consists of 2 consecutive semesters (Fall/Spring or Spring/Fall) of at least nine graduate credits each. However, students on 20 hours per week (0.50 FTE) graduate assistantships are required to only complete two consecutive semesters of 6 credits each semester (Fall/Spring or Spring/Fall) if they are completing the residency requirement while they are employed in those assistantships.

University time to degree completion

All requirements for any doctoral program at the University of Nevada, Reno, excluding prerequisite graduate coursework or master’s degrees, must be completed within a period of 8 years immediately preceding the granting of the degree (see Program of Study Requirements/Instructions form). See Section X of this Handbook for the Program’s benchmark policy, which complements the University policy.

Program policy on deficits

Students who were admitted to GPHS with a deficit must make it up by taking the appropriate undergraduate-level course. These courses do not count toward the completion of degrees and cannot be included in the Program of Study.

 

XII. Accelerated B.S.-to-M.S. Hydrology and Hydrogeology degrees


An accelerated bachelor's/master's program allows outstanding University of Nevada, Reno students to obtain both a B.S. and an M.S. degree in an accelerated time frame. Qualified students may complete an M.S. degree in Hydrology or Hydrogeology in this accelerated program.

Admission Requirements:

Students apply for the Accelerated Program after completing at least 75 credits towards their BS degree with a 3.2 GPA (only UNR courses are included in the GPA calculation). This will typically occur during the spring of their junior year. As part of the admission process, a student must select a faculty advisor for their graduate degree. Students should contact their academic faculty advisor for details.

Program Requirements:

Students who are admitted into the program will be allowed to take up to 12 credits of courses (at least 3 courses) from the approved list of courses (see below) for their BS degree as 600-level graduate courses. The 600-level courses selected for this purpose must be approved by the student’s BS program department and graduate advisor. Undergraduate students must receive permission from the Graduate School to register for a 600-level course. A 700-level course cannot be taken as long as the student is an undergraduate. The student must receive a “B” or better in the course for it to be considered for the graduate degree. The graduate academic advisor must be in the area of specialization that the student has selected for their graduate degree. To stay in the program, a student must maintain at least a 3.2 GPA in their UNR degree-required courses. Upon completion of all BS requirements, a student will receive the BS degree.

A student must complete the BS degree at UNR to be part of the Accelerated BS/ Program.

During their senior year, the student will apply for admission into the Graduate School. The student must meet all the requirements of the Graduate School and the GPHS. This may include a GPA and/or GRE requirement. The GRE must be taken during the 1st semester of the student’s senior year. This application for Graduate School must be completed before completing the BS degree. Students will complete all M.S. degree requirements and may apply up to 12 credits of 600-level courses (at least three courses) towards both the B.S. and M.S. degree requirements. For the M.S. degree, the student must meet the Graduate School requirement of an average of a 3.0 GPA in courses applied to the M.S. degree. Courses and/or thesis requirements will be established by the department graduate advisor.

Approved List of Courses (students may choose up to 12 credits of courses (at least three courses) from this list to take at the 600-level):

  • CEE 604 - Open Channel Flow (3 units)
  • CEE 618 - Principles of Water Quality Modeling (3 units)
  • CEE 653 - Environmental Microbiology (3 units)
  • CEE 658 - Environmental Chemistry Concepts and Design (3 units)
  • GE 684 - Groundwater Hydrology (3 units)
  • GE 685 - Waste Containment (4 units)
  • GEOL 616 - Environmental Geochemistry (3 units)
  • NRES 682 - Small Watershed Hydrology (4 units)

Continuation in the Program:

Continuation in the program requires that students maintain a grade point average of 3.2 or higher. If a student’s GPA drops below 3.2, the student will be placed on academic probation within the program for one semester. If the student raises their GPA to 3.2 or higher, he or she will be removed from probation and returned to good status in the program. If after one semester the student is not able to raise their GPA sufficiently, he or she will be removed from the Accelerated Program. At such a point they may pursue B.S. and M.S. degrees through normal requirements.

Here are the steps for the BS/ Accelerated program:

  1. Student completes and submits the accelerated degree form one to two semesters before they graduate with their Bachelor’s degree. On the form, the student indicates which graduate courses they will be taking. When the Graduate School processes the form, they will add registration permissions so that the student can get registered and they notify the student that permissions are granted.
  2. The Graduate School will provide a copy of the form to the undergrad DARS unit and the Fin Aid office. This will allow the graduate courses to count towards the undergraduate degree and allow them to count for financial aid purposes. If the student changes courses then a new form will need to be submitted.
  3. The student will apply for admission to the graduate program (as any other student does) for the term immediately following the student’s completion of the bachelor’s degree. The Graduate School and GPHS will not admit the student to the graduate program until they have earned their undergraduate degree.

Application to Pursue an Accelerated Degree Program DocuSign Powerform

Application to Pursue an Accelerated Degree Program [PDF]

Financial Impact

Students should note that graduate courses do not apply towards the 12 credits required for full-time undergraduate standing. In most cases, 12 credits are required for financial aid. Therefore, during each semester in the senior year, 12 undergraduate credits should be taken by students on financial aid in addition to 600-level courses. The 600-level courses will require payment of graduate credit tuition and/or fees.

View program requirements for the:

Civil Engineering B.S.

Environmental Engineering B.S.

Environmental Science B.S. (Ecohydrology specialization)

Hydrogeology B.S.

Hydrology M.S. or Hydrogeology M.S.

 

XIII. Resources for students


Information on scholarships and fellowships is available on our program website and the Graduate School.

The Graduate Student Association (GSA) offers scholarships, emergency funding, and travel awards. Please visit the GSA funding page for details and to apply.

Other resources: