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Professors Davis, Detwiler, Duke, and Stone; Associate Professors Capehart, Fontaine, Kenner, Kunza, Price, Sundareshwar, and Stetler.

Program Description

Measuring, monitoring, and modeling earth and atmospheric systems increasingly demands an interdisciplinary approach, because problems in earth processes impacting society often cannot be solved by studying the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and/or biosphere in isolation.Managing wildfire potential, for example, includes components of atmospheric dynamics, precipitation patterns, vegetation distribution and condition, topographic factors, and more.The key to success lies in training scientists to form interdisciplinary teams that can simultaneously tackle the broad range of processes needed to achieve understanding and prediction of such complex phenomena.

The Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences program links expertise in atmospheric science, biogeochemistry, geology, and hydrology to address regional and local issues that may also be nationally or globally significant.The fundamental objective lies in developing the predictive capability to address linkages between earth system components and land management practices in a way that benefits decision-making at regional and national levels. We use the Black Hills of South Dakota and the surrounding Great Plains as a natural laboratory for the development of methodologies to link fundamental observations of the environment across a range of temporal and spatial scales, and integrate them with state-of-the-art modeling, visualization, and analysis.

Key interrelated research themes drive the research and teaching program, building on ongoing research and disciplinary strengths already present at SDSM&T, including meteorology, biogeochemistry, ecology, geology, climatology, hydrology, remote sensing, and geographic information systems.† 

Specific examples include: 

        Carbon cycling and the potential effects of local and regional climate change, including the frequency and severity of storms, drought cycles, and wildfire potential

        Water quality and quantity as it impacts regional growth and environmental systems

        Wildfire dynamics and associated issues related to fire prevention, suppression, and post-fire mitigation

        Physical meteorology and storm processes, including impacts on hydrology and fire issues.

        In situ atmospheric measurements of storms, aerosols, trace gas concentrations, etc. using specially adapted storm-penetrating aircraft

Many South Dakota Tech faculty members who are actively involved in the AES program have externally funded research projects. These projects provide research assistantship opportunities for AES students. In addition to graduate research assistantships, support is also possible through graduate teaching assistantships and various fellowships and scholarships. AES students are strongly encouraged to work with their advisors and faculty colleagues to apply for research funding or fellowships to support their studies after the first year.

Program Requirements

Degree candidates in AES are expected to complete an approved multidisciplinary program of course work and also perform original research in a focused area. A minimum total of eighty (80) semester credit hours beyond the Bachelorís degree is required.Students entering the AES program with a previous M.S. degree in a relevant discipline are allowed to apply a maximum of twenty-four (24) semester course credit hours in an appropriate field toward the course credit requirement and six (6) thesis research credits toward the research-credit requirement. There is no language requirement in the AES program. However, all AES students are expected to be proficient in speaking, understanding, and writing the English language.Graduate students who are enrolled full time in the AES program should be able to complete their degree requirements and graduate within three (3) to four (4) years starting with a masterís degree, and four (4) to five (5) years starting from a bachelorís degree. The time required to complete the degree will vary depending on the transfer of previously earned credits, course work recommendations specified by the studentís committee, and individual research requirements.

The following key learning outcomes will be developed in all students:

a.       A core of basic and specialized scientific and technical knowledge;

b.      An understanding of the basic scientific tools of measuring, monitoring, and modeling;

c.       The ability to apply these tools to understand atmospheric and land-surface interactions;

d.      The professional skills crucial to research, including obtaining and reviewing research literature, proposing research problems, critically evaluating their own work and the work of others, and communicating in writing and orally with their colleagues;

e.       The understanding and application of professional methods and ethics in their work, and

f.        The ability to form interdisciplinary teams to solve complex problems

Students entering the program will normally already possess a foundational degree (typically the M.S. degree) in atmospheric sciences, meteorology, geology, hydrology, or environmental sciences/engineering.Students will build on this foundation by pursuing elective courses that prepare them for advanced work in their chosen specialty.The student and his/her committee are charged to prepare a course of study that will help the student become proficient in a specific research area.Great emphasis is placed on the independent origination of a research problem that will yield a new, original scientific insight.

 PhD. in Atmospheric and Environmental Studies†       †††††††††††† Credit Hours

M.S. academic core (24cr)and research (6 cr)†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 30

Required academic courses†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 10

Elective academic courses†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 13

Research credits††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 27

Total required for the degree††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††  80

 The required academic courses include:

AES 790 Seminar

This course builds professional communication skills, including writing and oral presentation, while exposing students to examples of disciplinary and interdisciplinary research.(1 credit)

AES 808Fundamental Problems in Engineering and Science

This course trains students to identify and tackle fundamental research problems; it combines literature review, proposal development, critical thinking, and professional ethics, and leads to an actual proposal in the studentís specialty for submission to a funding agency. (3 credits)

AES 792 Topics (Interdisciplinary Problems)

This innovative course brings together faculty and students to create a working group which selects a research problem, studies the literature, and develops a research plan that integrates the multiple disciplines of all the participants.Students participate in this course for 1 credit in their first year, and repeat the course in the second year for two credits, taking a correspondingly greater role in the work of the group.This course is modeled after traditional disciplinary research working groups, but is intended to facilitate the emergence of cohesive interdisciplinary teams, and to provide an incubator for new research plans and funding proposals. (3 credits)

XXXMeasuring/Modeling of Earth Systems

Students must complete at least one course in measuring and/or modeling techniques, to be selected by the studentís committee.A selection of existing courses at SDSM&T is available to fulfill this requirement.(3 credits)

A wide variety of courses are offered at School of Mines to fulfill the elective course requirement. These courses are offered by the Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Geology and Geological Engineering, Atmospheric Sciences, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, and Mathematics and Computer Sciences, and by other departments on campus as well. Listed below are examples of courses that might be included as electives in an AES program of study. These lists are intended as examples and are not at all intended to limit a student and committee as they construct an individual program.

Potential elective courses for AES:
ATM 501 Atmospheric Physics
ATM 502 The Global Carbon Cycle
ATM 503 Biogeochemistry
ATM 505 Air Quality
ATM 510 Introduction to Environmental Remote Sensing
ATM 515 Earth Systems Modeling 
ATM 520 Remote Sensing for Research I
ATM 530 Radar Meteorology 
ATM 540 Atmospheric Electricity
ATM 560 Atmospheric Dynamics
ATM 603 Biosphere-Atmosphere Interactions
ATM 612 Atmospheric Chemistry
ATM 620 Remote Sensing for Research II
ATM 625 Scaling in Geosciences
ATM 642 Physics and Dynamics of Clouds
ATM 643 Precipitation Physics and Cloud Modification
ATM 644 Numerical Dynamics and Prediction
ATM 660 Atmospheric Dynamics II
ATM 670 Boundary Layer Processes
ATM 673 Mesometeorology

CEE 521 Environmental Systems Analysis
CEE 526/526L Environmental Engineering Physical/Chemical Process Design
CEE 527/527L Environmental Engineering Biological Process Design
CEE 528 Advanced Treatment Plant Design
CEE 533 Open Channel Flow
CEE 628 Environmental Engineering Measurements
CEE 634 Surface Water Hydrology
CEE/GEOE 692Environmental Remediation Processes
CEE 723 Environmental Contaminant Fate and Transport
CEE 721 Principles of Environmental Engineering
CEE 733 Techniques of Surface Water Resource and Water Quality Investigations I
CEE 784 Modeling and Computation in Civil Engineering
CEE 785 Applications of Finite Element Methods in Civil Engineering

GEOL 516/517/519 GIS I/II/III
GEOL 633 Sedimentation
GEOE 663 Ground-water Geochemistry
GEOE 682 Fluvial Processes

Student progress and mastery will be measured using the usual instruments in a doctoral program.A written or oral qualifying exam is used to assess the studentís mastery of the M.S. coursework.A comprehensive examination is given to evaluate the studentís ability to formulate a research problem based on substantive literature review, and to test the studentís knowledge in the area of specialty.It is given in two parts:1) a written examination consisting of a review paper in the studentís field of study and a research proposal, and 2) an oral examination to evaluate the research proposal and verify the studentís understanding of the basic sciences and specialized field of study.The dissertation forms the final test of the studentís ability to perform and communicate research.The student must prepare a doctoral dissertation and successfully complete a public defense covering the scientific validity of the work, as well as the studentís basic and specialized knowledge in the field of study.

Management of the AES Program

The AES program is managed by the Office of Graduate Education.A Program Committee composed of 3-5 faculty representing different disciplines oversees the program, including setting policies and reviewing the curriculum.The Program Committee will also take measures to facilitate interaction by all faculty and students participating in the program.A Program Coordinator chairs the Program committee, and provides oversight of student affairs, including meeting with new and exiting students, tracking student progress, and conducting orientations for new students. The preceding committee is distinct from the graduate student advisory committees that provide guidance to individual AES students during the course of their academic studies. The graduate studentís major advisor serves as the chair of this advisory committee.

(Page updated 12/13/2013)

Contact Information
Dr. William Capehart
Dept. of Atmospheric and Atmospheric Sciences
MI 213
(605) 394-2291










Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology ē 501 East Saint Joseph Street ē Rapid City, SD 57701

Office: (605) 394-2291 ē Fax: (605) 394-6061