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The innovative Ph.D. program in Earth Systems and Geoinformation Sciences (ESGS) continues the well-established interdisciplinary education mission in the Sciences at Mason. See Video Promotion. The ESGS degree is based on the integration of the two scientific disciplines in Geosystems (i.e., Geosciences and Geography) with the two slightly more technology-oriented scientific disciplines in Geoinformation Sciences (i.e., remote sensing and GIS). As in practically all fields of modern science, advancement in the Earth systems sciences are facilitated by the development of new and improved technology tools. When remote sensing and GIS are used to enhance our understanding of the Earth, they are regarded as tools. However, the continued development of the “tools” themselves is also a subject of intense scientific activity. Graduates from the ESGS doctoral program will be qualified to serve as lead scientists in a wide range of activities involving geoinformatics, geosciences, geography, geographic information systems,geospatial intelligence and remote sensing. The continual expansion of the NASA Earth observation satellite constellation, the development and expansion of the geospatial data infrastructure at USGS, USGIF and other federal agencies, and the need to analyze these Earth-oriented data to achieve environmental and economic objectives will ensure a constant need for qualified scientists in these fields in the foreseeable future. Graduates will receive broad based training in the geosciences and geography as well as concentrated courses in computation and geoinformation sciences.
The ESGS doctoral program represents a gateway to an academic career for some students, and for others it will facilitate career advancement in their current fields of employment, either in the public sector or private industry. Graduates will be equipped to participate in interdisciplinary research, which is the norm in today’s research arena. In addition, students will also receive training in teaching, thereby qualifying them to join academic units in more traditional disciplinary and instruction-oriented settings or in multidisciplinary programs.
This program is intended for graduates who hold a BS or BA degree in atmospheric science, climatology, meteorology, Earth science, geology, environmental science, remote sensing and Earth observing, hydrology, oceanography, geography, or a related field. Knowledge of mathematics through ordinary differential equations is preferred. Interested applicants should contact the academic coordinator or the GGS chair for more specific advice. To apply, prospective students should complete a Mason graduate application on-line at http://admissions.gmu.edu/grad/. Official transcripts from each college and graduate institution attended, a current resume, and an expanded goals statement will be required. Applicants will also need three letters of recommendation and an official report of scores obtained on the GRE-GEN. The GRE requirement for admission to the doctoral program may be waived if the student holds a master’s degree from an accredited U.S. institution. TOEFL scores are required of all international applicants. GRE-GEN scores are required of students wishing to be considered for a GMU Presidential Fellowship. A minimum combined math and verbal GRE score of 1200/1600 (old test) and 270/340 (new test) are needed to qualify for the Presidential Fellowship.
General questions and requests for additional information should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Students must satisfy all requirements for doctoral degrees expressed in the Academic Policies section of this catalog.
The curriculum consists of 72 credits: 48-60 credits of coursework and 12-24 credits of dissertation research.
Of the course credits, students are required to take 24 credits of courses selected from a set of six core areas. Of the cores, students must complete at least one course in five of the cores and two courses in at least three of those five.
Additional requirements include a single credit of colloquium taken twice, and electives relevant to the student’s focus. A comprehensive exam and dissertation compose the non-course requirements for the degree.
Doctoral Coursework (48-60 credits)
Core Courses (24 credits)
Students must take at least one course in each of the five cores, and two courses in at least three of the five cores.
- GGS 560 – Quantitative Methods Credits: 3
- GGS 754 – Earth Science Data and Advanced Data Analysis Credits: 3
- GGS 791 – Advanced Spatial Statistics Credits: 3
- GGS 650 – Introduction to GIS Algorithms and Programming Credits: 3
- GGS 664 – Spatial Data Structures Credits: 3
- GGS 675 – Location Science Credits: 3
- GGS 692 – Web-based GIS Credits: 3
- GGS 787 – Scientific Data Mining for Geoinformatics Credits: 3
Geosciences and Physical Geography Core
- GGS 656 – The Hydrosphere Credits: 3
- GGS 657 – The Lithosphere Credits: 3
- GGS 670 – Introduction to Atmosphere and Weather Credits: 3
- GGS 721 – Biogeography Credits: 3
- PHYS 575 – Atmospheric Physics I Credits: 3
Human Geography Core
- GGS 505 – Transportation Geography Credits: 3
- GGS 533 – Issues in Regional Geography Credits: 3
- GGS 540 – Health Geography Credits: 3
- GGS 605 – Socioeconomic Applications of GIS Credits: 3
- GGS 704 – Spatial Demography Credits: 3
Geographic Information Science Core
- GGS 553 – Geographic Information System Credits: 3
- GGS 563 – Advanced Geographic Information Systems Credits: 3
- GGS 671 – Algorithms and Modelling in GIS Credits: 3
Remote Sensing Core
- GGS 579 – Remote Sensing Credits: 3
- GGS 680 – Earth Image Processing Credits: 3
- GGS 756 – Physical Principles of Remote Sensing Credits: 3
- GGS 760 – Advanced Topics in Remote Sensing Credits: 3
- GGS 777 – Remote Sensing Natural Hazards Credits: 3
Research Synthesis (2-3 credits)
- GGS 684 – Selected Topics in Geospatial Intelligence Credits: 3
- GGS 689 – Seminar in Geographic thought and Methodology Credits: 3
- GGS 792 – Seminar in Earth System Science Credits: 2
- GGS 795 – Seminar in Regional Analysis Credits: 3
Colloquium (2 credits)
- GGS 900 – Geography and Geoinformation Science Colloquium Credits: 1 (taken twice)
Electives (19-32 credits)
Credits necessary to reach 72 total credits. At least half of the elective credits taken at Mason must be from GGS courses.
Dissertation Research (12-24 credits)
Students take 12-24 credits, with at least 6 credits in GGS 999. After reaching candidacy, students must stay continuously enrolled GGS 999 until defending their dissertation.
The 2013-2014 catalog entry has errors in the Degree Requirement Section.
“All students are required to take 18 credits of courses selected from a set of three core areas: computational-quantitative, geosciences-geography, and geoinformation. Students also take 6 credits of courses in one of the four areas of emphasis listed-Geosciences (GSC), Geography (GEOG), Remote Sensing and Earth Observation (RS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Students also have the option of taking courses from two or more emphasis areas, subject to the program director’s approval. Additional requirements include a single credit of colloquium taken three times, and electives relevant to the student’s focus.“
Use the following paragraph under Doctoral Course Work as your guide-
Additional requirements include a single credit of colloquium taken twice, and electives relevant to the student’s focus.
Dissertation Committee and Candidacy Examination
All students will be assigned a temporary academic advisor when they first enroll in the department. Students should review the packet of ESGS PhD required forms on the GGS Website during their first semester. See Required ESGS PhD Forms for Students. No later than the end of the second year, each student should identify a dissertation chair to supervise his/her dissertation research. All GGS tenured and tenure-track faculty members are members of the COS graduate faculty. Non-tenure-track faculty can be appointed to the graduate faculty by the Provost. GGS doctoral committees should include at least four members of the graduate GMU faculty: it must include at least two tenured or tenure track faculty members from GGS, and at least one member of the graduate faculty from another GMU department. Non-GMU researchers/scientists who wish to serve on committees must become members of the graduate faculty, available only by appointment of the Provost, after approval by the GGS faculty. The Dissertation Chair of the dissertation committee must be a tenured or tenure-track GGS faculty member. The committee membership must be approved by the GGS Ph.D. Program Coordinator. In consultation with their dissertation chair each student will formulate a program of study mapping their coursework requirements by the end of their second year or soon thereafter. This program of study is subject to final approval by their dissertation committee and the Department Chair .
Upon the completion of all required courses, each student must take a Comprehensive Examination administered by the dissertation committee. Candidacy examination will have written and oral components. The purpose of the exam is to determine whether the student has acquired adequate general knowledge in the selected subject area, as well as much more detailed knowledge of the specific research topic planned for the dissertation. In addition, the student should be able to demonstrate a good comprehension of the interrelationships between the different Earth systems components, human and/or biological activities, and the societal aspects of these relationships. To set the scope of the exam in the appropriate context, the student should provide the committee a summary (4-5 pages) of the dissertation proposal. The summary should provide an overview of the intended research topic. This dissertation proposal summary and the courses taken by the student will be used to define the scope of material to be covered on the comprehensive examination. The oral exam is a follow-up of the written component, and offers the student the opportunity to clarify their written answers, if necessary, and to assure that the student can respond to other relevant questions. Both the written portion and the oral component can be retaken at most once each. If all of the committee members feel that the student’s performance on the written component is truly outstanding, then the oral component may be waived.
Dissertation Proposal and Advancement to Candidacy
After students have completed all required courses and passed the candidacy exam, they should prepare an acceptable dissertation proposal. After the dissertation proposal is approved and the appropriate paperwork is completed, the student will be advanced to candidacy.
The degree will be awarded on completion of the required coursework and approval of a PhD dissertation that makes an original and significant contribution to the field.
Please see the GMU Catalog Entry for the ESGS PhD for other program details. Students admitted in previous years may have diffrerent degree requirements, listed in the archived catalogs.