The dissertation committee oversees the doctoral student’s progress on the dissertation and provides advice and assistance as appropriate. The dissertation committee includes at least two members of the graduate faculty from within AOES Climate Dynamics. The graduate faculty consists of all tenured and tenure-track faculty members, and other scientists and scholars appointed to the graduate faculty by the Provost. The committee includes a chair, who is formally the leader of the committee, and the dissertation director (also referred to as “thesis advisor”), who takes the lead role in advising the student during work on the dissertation. The dissertation committee chair must be a full-time member of AOES, and the dissertation director must hold at least affiliate status within AOES. The position of chair and dissertation director can be held by a single faculty member.
The committee must be approved by the Climate Dynamics graduate coordinator and College of Science Dean.
Preparing a dissertation proposal is an important step in becoming an independent scientist. The proposal should be a concise document which raises a scientific question, explains why it is interesting and important, and outlines how the proposed research will answer this question. The student conducts a seminar to describe and defend the proposal before the dissertation committee.
The dissertation committee will assess the proposal and assist the student in ensuring that the topic and methodology are clear. The committee will also assess whether the student has the appropriate preparation and resources to have a good chance of completing a successful dissertation in a timely manner. It is understood that in the course of the student’s research, early results may suggest departures from the proposed plan, so that the student, in consultation with the advisor and the rest of the committee, can alter the research plan as it is executed. After successfully passing the proposal defense (as well as the program course requirements), the student is formally advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree.
The dissertation must represent an achievement in research, must be a significant contribution to its field, and should be deemed publishable in refereed journals or refereed conferences. The student prepares to defend the dissertation in consultation with the dissertation director. The student should have at least one paper submitted to a peer-reviewed journal before graduating.
The date of the defense must be agreed upon by all members of the committee, and the dissertation must be made available to the committee at least two weeks before the defense date. The student should meet with the dissertation committee for a thesis pre-defense at least 30 days before the final defense. The defense is given as a public seminar presentation of the dissertation, followed by an oral examination by the committee. When the candidate successfully defends the dissertation, the committee recommends that the final form of the dissertation be completed, and that the graduate faculty of George Mason University accept the candidate for the Ph.D. degree.