Specific requirements for the Ph.D. degree in MEES are as follows (for a comprehensive format of requirements, please be sure to check the appropriate checklist, found here) :


A three member Research Advisory Committee is to be formed during the first semester and meets with the student to discuss the student's progress (mainly coursework, but also basic research interests).  A report of this meeting must be filed with the MEES Program Office by the end of the student's second semester (Form can be found here). 


Every year that the student is in residence, committee meetings are to be held in order for the committee to review academic and research progress.  Reports of these meetings are due annually to the MEES Program by September 30th.  Annual Committee Report Forms can be found here. 

Course Work

  1. The student must complete a minimum of 36 credits, with at least 24 credits of course work and 12 credits of dissertation research (MEES 899 (after advancement to candidacy at UMCP). At least twelve credits of course work must be at the 600 level or above. Credits used to obtain a M.S. degree at U.M. or elsewhere cannot be transferred to the Ph.D. program. However, if a student has completed a M.S. degree, up to 16 credits of appropriate courses can be waived by petition to the MEES Office.
  2. One seminar course (MEES 608 or equivalent) is required for each year in residence (on average, up to a cap of 4). The seminar requirement is designed to BROADEN a student's exposure to the kinds of science being done within and outside of MEES through readings and discussions. Classes are typically part of a much more narrow program of study.
  3. One approved Statistics course (600 level or higher). 
  4. One graduate course representing significant interdisciplinary breadth, preferably outside the student's AOS.
  5. One course or seminar in Environmental Management (a course can satisfy #4).


A written statement detailing as specifically as possible the research to be conducted needs to be submitted to the MEES Program Office upon approval from the student's Advisory Committee.  This is usually done no more than 1 year after entrance into the program. If vertebrate animals are to be used in the research, the animal use protocol should be filed at this time, before the research is done! 


Formal application for advancement to candidacy for the doctoral degree requires successful completion of both a Comprehensive Examination and an oral Defense of the Dissertation Proposal. The Comprehensive Examination must be passed before the student can defend the Dissertation Proposal.

Comprehensive Examination

The Research Advisory Committee is responsible for administering the comprehensive examination. Since this examination must be successfully completed before the dissertation proposal can be defended, it is in the student's best interests to take the Comprehensive Examination as early as possible in the Program. The exam must be taken by the end of the student's sixth semester. This examination is intended to determine whether the student demonstrates sufficient evidence of scholastic and intellectual ability in major and related academic areas. The examination will not be a defense of the research proposal.

Areas of the examination will be chosen by the student, with approval by their Committee, from a general list formulated by the AOS Committee. One area of the examination must be chosen for interdisciplinary breadth (e.g. relating to the interdisciplinary course from the core curriculum). The examination will include a combination of written and oral sections. The Research Advisory Committee will determine whether the student passes (a minimum of four affirmative votes is required) or fails. If failed, the examination may at the recommendation of the Research Advisory Committee be taken again. In this case, the examination should be repeated within 1 year, but no sooner than 6 months after the initial examination. If the examination is failed a second time, matriculation will be canceled. The MEES Director's Office must be notified at least 2 weeks in advance of the pending examination. A report of the examination will be filed with the Director's Office following the examination.

Dissertation Proposal Defense

The Proposal Defense is an oral examination on the research proposal administered by the Research Advisory Committee. At least 2 weeks prior to the examination, the student must supply the committee members with a formal research proposal in which the following is detailed: background information, research progress to date (if any), specific objectives, and experimental design of the proposed research.

The committee is expected to examine the student on all aspects of the proposed research to determine whether the research plan is sound and whether the student has the proper motivation, intellectual capacity and curiosity, and has or can develop the technical skills necessary to successfully pursue the Ph.D. degree. The student passes if there are at least four affirmative votes. If failed, the student must redefend the proposal within 1 year. A second failure will result in cancellation of matriculation.

The research proposal should be defended within 1 year of passing the Comprehensive Examination and at least 1 year before projected completion of the degree requirements. The Director's Office must be notified of the pending examination several weeks prior to its administration and a report of the examination must be filed with the Director's Office following the examination. At the successful completion of this defense the student officially applies for Advancement to Candidacy for the Ph.D. degree and should submit the necessary forms to the Director of the MEES Program for transmission to the Graduate School. Students must be admitted to candidacy at least six months prior to the Defense of the Dissertation (final defense). 

Note: Students using vertebrates in field or laboratory research must submit a protocol to the Animal Care and Use Committee of the appropriate campus prior to the initiation of research.

Dissertation Seminar and Defense of the Dissertation Research

A candidate for the Ph.D. degree will present a public seminar on the dissertation research during the academic year in which the degree will be awarded. Students expecting degrees at the end of the summer must be scheduled for presentation before the end of May. The student and Advisor will be responsible for initiating arrangements through the MEES Office for the date and advertisement of advertisement of the seminar. The seminar will be open to faculty, students, and other interested parties. The final oral defense of the dissertation is conducted by a committee of the graduate faculty approved by the Dean for Graduate Studies (the Research Advisory Committee plus a Dean's Representative).

Nominations for membership on this committee are submitted on the designated form through the MEES Director by the student's Advisor, by the third week of the semester in which the student expects to complete all requirements, and no later than six weeks, prior to the dissertation defense. The time and place of the examination are established by the chair of the committee. The student is responsible for distributing a complete, final copy of the dissertation to each member of the committee at least two weeks before the examination date. An announcement of the final examination will be made through the MEES Office to all members of the MEES faculty at least two weeks prior to the examination. 

All final oral examinations are open to all members of the graduate faculty, although only members of the examining committee may question the candidate. After the examination, the committee deliberates and votes in private. Two or more negative votes constitute failure. The student may be examined no more than twice. Following successful completion of the final examination, a final copy of the dissertation must be supplied to the MEES Office, in addition to those required by the Graduate School.

Preparation of Dissertations

As outlined in the Program objectives, students in the MEES Program are expected to have research interests which involve interactions between biological systems and physiochemical systems in the marine, estuarine, freshwater, or terrestrial environment. As an aid in focusing a student's program in such interdisciplinary research, the student, in consultation with the advisory committee, will designate an area of research specialization and prepare a thesis or dissertation reporting the results of an original investigation in that area. The thesis or dissertation will be prepared according to the rules of the Graduate School, as set forth in the Thesis and Dissertation Manual on the appropriate campus. The final oral examination for the M.S or Ph.D. degrees will constitute a defense of the thesis or dissertation.

Graduate Program Time Limits

MEES full-time Ph.D. students will be limited to seven years in which to graduate. Students must be advanced to candidacy - pass both comprehensive examination (written and oral) and proposal defense - within six semesters after entering the Ph.D. program. Part-time students will not be held to the more rigorous MEES time limits, but to the former limits of nine years for a Ph.D. (five to candidacy)