M.S. in Environmental Science & Engineering

The Environmental Science &Engineering (ESE) Master of Science (MS) degree is offered to students at the Institute of Environmental Health by the Division of Environmental and Biomolecular Systems.

Upon completion of the program students will be equipped with:

  • Conceptual knowledge and in-depth understanding of biogeochemical links within Earth systems in environmental and public health contexts, with a particular emphasis on prediction of the effects of a changing climate on river, estuary, and ocean systems.
  • Technical know-how in using systems thinking to solve environmental and public health problems.
  • Enhanced capability and competitiveness in the development of a career related to predicting and mitigating the effects of a changing climate, particularly in health and environmental fields, with a special emphasis on river, estuary, and ocean systems. 


The Environmental Science &Engineering 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 nano to molecular, cellular, community, and ecosystem. The program emphasizes fundamental concepts from science and engineering, including chemical equilibrium and kinetics, biogeochemical cycling, and computer modeling and simulation. Collaborations with Biochemistry &Molecular Biology allow ESE students to engage in multidisciplinary research involving the application of molecular biology and genetics to environmental studies.

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 advisor.


The Environmental Science &Engineering degree program includes three concentrations of study: Environmental Science &Engineering, Estuary &Ocean Systems, and Environmental &Biomolecular Systems. 

Environmental Science & Engineering is for students who wish to focus their graduate study on the fate and transport of substances in the environment. Applications include: remediation of contaminated soils, sediments, and groundwater;treatment of water and wastewater;disinfection of drinking water;and nutrients in surface waters.

Estuary & Ocean Systems is for students interested in a multidisciplinary approach to understanding marine systems. Applications include biogeochemical monitoring, coastal oceanography, ecosystem modeling, and environmental microbiology.

Environmental & Biomolecular Systems is for students interested in a holistic view of the physical, chemical, and biological processes at the molecular, cellular and particle levels. Applications include bioremediation, assessing environmental health effects, and multiscale biogeochemistry.


Over the course of one year of full-time study, students take courses for three academic terms (fall, winter, and spring), and conduct an internship in a lab, company, or agency for the fourth term (summer). Both non-thesis and thesis options of the Master of Science degree in Environmental Science &Engineering (ESE) are available. Thesis students conduct original research and should allow two to three years of full-time study for program completion.

The M.S. degree with thesis option requires a written thesis, composed of original research, and an oral defense. Most M.S. students are admitted to the non-thesis program, but some enter directly into thesis program. Non-thesis M.S. students can convert to a thesis track with advisor approval. Some M.S. students apply for, and are admitted to, the Ph.D. program while still a student in the M.S. program. Acceptance of a Ph.D. student relies upon funding and the successful identification of a faculty member with room for a student in their research program.

Most students accepted into the ESE M.S. program have Bachelors (or equivalent) degrees in geoscience, chemistry, physics, 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.

M.S. students may be full time or part time. To matriculate, students should follow the instructions on the Admissions web page. Applications are considered year-round, but prospective M.S. students are encouraged to apply by May 15 for admission to start in the following Fall quarter. (International students should apply earlier to allow time processing visas.) Requirements for admission to this program include all the general requirements described on the Admissions web page