Ph.D. in Environmental Science & Engineering

A Doctor of Science degree in Environmental Science and Engineering (ESE) is offered by the Division of Environmental and Biomolecular Systems in close cooperation with the Center for Coastal Margin Observation and Prediction. A Ph.D. in ESE prepares students for careers in academic research, teaching, regulation, and management.


The ESE curriculum provides a unified and interdisciplinary understanding of natural and engineered environmental systems, with emphasis on aquatic media, including surface waters, soils, sediments, and the subsurface. Coursework addresses scales from molecular to nano, cellular, community, and ecosystem. The program emphasizes fundamental concepts from science and engineering, including chemical equilibrium and kinetics, microbial genomics and proteomics, and computer modeling and simulation.

The curriculum is designed to ensure a common foundation of core concepts and skills, but also to allow considerable flexibility for customization to provide the optimal educational experience for each student. Core concepts and skills are taught through a series of three required core courses, with the remaining coursework consisting of advanced electives, readings groups, and special topics courses selected in consultation with the student's advisory committee.


To provide focus to the student's course of study, and guidance in the selection of courses, the ESE Ph.D. program is divided into three tracks. The tracks have different required core courses, but they overlap in the selection of elective courses. Complete documentation is available in PDF format under Current Degree Requirements.


All Ph.D. students must pass qualifying exams near the end of their first year, prepare and defend a thesis proposal in their second year, conduct original research leading to multiple peer-reviewed publications, and finally submit a written dissertation and complete an oral defense of the dissertation. The typical time to complete the Ph.D. in ESE is 5 years.

Most students accepted into the ESE Ph.D. program have Bachelors (or equivalent) degrees in the physical or biological sciences, engineering, or related disciplines (e.g., computer science). Prospective students with different backgrounds are encouraged to inquire, if they have professional or other experience that might provide adequate background. Requirements for admission to this program include all the general requirements are described on the Admissions web page

Most Ph.D. students are full time, but Ph.D. students can be part-time under special circumstances. To matriculate, students should follow the instructions on the Admissions web page.