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tennessee technological university

School of Environmental Studies

School of Environmental Studies | Ph.D. Environmental Sciences (EVS)
Concentrations in Biology & Chemistry

AboUt the Environmental ScienceS Doctoral ProgramCIS-EVS-PHD Henry Abougor

The School of Environmental Studies offers an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program that will help 
you reach your career goals in the extensive fields of environmental science.

Our Ph.D. program endeavors to be more than a traditional "academic" program. The interdisciplinary faculty works with our graduate 
students to develop the critical thinking necessary to solve critical, real world problems.

Ph.D. Concentrations in Biology & Chemistry

The program offers two concentrations of study - Biology and Chemistry, and also addresses environmental impacts on society and culture. Course work in agriculture, geology and 
sociology are included as core courses outside the selected concentration.

  • This cross-disciplinary approach prepares graduates for the 
21st century workforce as projected by studies conducted by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Academy of Sciences (NAS).
  • If you have a Masters degree in either Biology or Chemistry, you can potentially complete your 
coursework in as little as 25 hours and the program in as little as three years!

Program Mission

The Environmental Sciences Ph.D. program's mission is to advance scholarly knowledge and promote leadership necessary to effectively address environmental problems by incorporating multiple perspectives from the sciences and other disciplines in the program's teaching and research activities.

  • As an effective interdisciplinary scientist, it is essential to understand the impact of our human 
endeavors on the environment we inhabit.
  • Our program's approach insures that students become aware of a wide range of environmental concerns with emphasis on solving complex environmental problems and that their research includes a breadth of environmental understanding beyond the boundaries of a particular discipline.
  • This broader understanding allows our students the ability to design effective means of protecting 
human health and wildlife habitat for the future and gives insight for options related to undoing the 
consequences of past environmental neglect.
  • The ultimate goal of the program is to prepare students for careers in research, management, government service, teaching, and other areas where they can make productive contributions to the solution of environmental problems.
Admission, Classification & Candidacy for Environmental Sciences Ph.D.
Questions? Contact Irene Mauk, 931-372-6246 or email

Requirements for Admission

  • Your admission as a Ph.D. degree-seeking applicant will be based on your prior academic record and letters of recommendation.

    Contact Graduate Studies


  • Requirements for admission to the doctoral program in Environmental Sciences are:

    • a bachelor's or master's degree in science, mathematics, engineering, or environmental science;
    • a grade point average of 3.0 or above on a 4.0 scale;
    • a combined score of at least 1000 on the verbal and quantitative portions of the GRE exam;
    • International students must score a 525 or above on the TOEFL.
  • PLEASE NOTE: Applicants who do not fully meet the above requirements may be admitted in Provisional Standing on the basis of a favorable recommendation to the Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies by the appropriate departmental chairperson and the director of the Environmental Sciences doctoral program. If admitted in Provisional Standing, the student must remove all deficiencies and apply for reclassification to Full Standing prior to the completion of 15 hours of graduate work.

Admission / Full Standing

To be admitted with Full Standing in the program, a student must satisfy the following departmental requirements:

  • Biology / Applicants must have:
    • a bachelor's or master's degree in a biological science;
    • a grade point average of 3.5 or above for the highest degree earned;
    • a minimum combined score of 1000 on the verbal and quantitative portion of the GRE exam, and 4.0 on the analytical writing portion;
    • a graduate faculty member must have agreed to direct the student's doctoral program;
    • financial support must have been identified for a stipend and research needs.
  • Chemistry / Applicants must have:
    • a bachelor's degree in chemistry that has been certified by the American Chemical Society or course work equivalent to this degree;
    • one year each of general, organic, and physical chemistry;
    • one semester of analytical and inorganic chemistry; one semester of instrumental analysis; and three semesters of calculus.

If an admitted student did not fully meet the above requirements they were admitted with one of the following classifications.

  • Provisional Standing:
    • This classification indicates that in the opinion of the appropriate department and the Director of Environmental Sciences, the student did not qualify for Full Standing and that specific deficiencies must be removed before the completion of 15 graduate hours.
      • Deficiencies may be either...
        • (1) insufficient undergraduate grade average,
        • (2) insufficient background preparation for the specific field, indicating the necessity for certain pre-requisite courses as preparation for pursuing the proposed graduate program, or
        • (3) lack of satisfactory scores on admission tests.
        • The student must apply for reclassification after having satisfactorily removed all deficiencies and met any special conditions or requirements as stated on their admission form.
  • Special Standing:
    • Students who declare a non-degree graduate objective or transient students who have been admitted to graduate schools of other institutions are assigned to Special Standing.
    • This classification enables a student to enroll for graduate credit in certain academic areas, but it does not guarantee that such credit will be counted toward a degree objective.
    • When a student in Special Standing has been reclassified to Provisional or Full Standing, a maximum of 9 semester credits earned in Special Standing may be counted toward a degree objective, provided approval is given by the department in which the student wishes to concentrate, the Vice-President for Research and Graduate Studies, and the Director of Environmental Sciences.
    • A student classified as Special Standing who has already completed 9 hours should file for reclassification or admittance before additional course work is undertaken.
    • NOTE: Since Special Standing students are not at that time potential degree candidates, they may be denied permission to enroll in certain courses.

Admission for Candidacy

Admission to the Graduate School in any of the categories described previously does not imply admission to candidacy for a graduate degree.

  • A student is formally admitted as a Candidate for his/her Ph.D. degree in Environmental Sciences based on the recommendation of the student's Graduate Advisory Committee.
    • The student must have:
      • Completed eighty percent of the course work in the program of study;
      • satisfactorily completed the comprehensive examination, and;
      • submitted a proposed doctoral research project (research plan) that has been approved by the Graduate Advisory Committee.
  • It is the responsibility of the student to have their research advisor submit the proper memo to the Vice-President for Research and Graduate Studies.
General Degree Requirements
Environmental Sciences Ph.D. Program

General Degree Requirements

A student must adhere to all policies and procedures governing graduate study at the University, as contained in the Graduate Catalog and administered by the Vice-President for Research and Graduate Studies.

  • A minimum of 61 semester credits of course work, including doctoral research and dissertation as follows:
    • A minimum of 43 semester credits of course work beyond the bachelor's degree.
    • These hours must include 13 semester credits chosen from EVSA 6010, EVSG 6010, EVSS 6010, EVS 7910, and either EVSB 6010 or EVSC 6010, and must include at least 12 semester credits at the 7000 level.
    • A student in the Biology Concentration is required to complete EVSC 6010 and a student in the Chemistry Concentration is required to complete EVSB 6010.
    • The remaining 18 semester credits are comprised of electives taken at the 5000, 6000, or 7000 level. Up to 18 hours of 5000, 6000 or 7000 level coursework may be transferred from an accredited graduate program.
    • For example, if a student's Graduate Committee accepted 18 hrs of his/her coursework from a previous graduate program, the coursework requirements for the PhD degree for that student would be as follows:
      • The 13 core semester credits (listed above) and the twelve 7000 level semester credits (as approved by that students Graduate Committee) for a total of 25 semester credits.
    • A minimum of 18 semester credits of research and dissertation, resulting in the satisfactory completion of a doctoral dissertation.
  • Residence of four semesters beyond the bachelor's level, with at least two semesters in continuous residence.
  • Completion of all requirements for the degree, including the dissertation within a period of eight consecutive years.
  • Maintenance of a general grade point average of 3.0.
  • Satisfactory completion of a comprehensive examination.
  • Satisfactory presentation and defense of a doctoral dissertation.
    • The Environmental Sciences Ph.D. 
degree at Tennessee Tech is a research degree requiring an orally defended dissertation.
Environmental Sciences Ph.D. Program Guidelines
Graduate Committee Composition | Program of Study | Comprehensive Examination

Graduate Committee Composition Guidelines

  • The organization and appointment of advisory committees to supervise graduate study for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Sciences shall be the same (generally) as in the master's program, the only exception being that the advisory committee shall consist of at least five members of the Graduate Faculty, plus the Director of Environmental Sciences Ph.D. Program who serves as an ex-officio, non-voting member.
  • Three members shall be from the student's area of concentration, either Biology or Chemistry.
  • Two members shall be from separate departments of the environmental science core outside the student's area of concentration.
  • Changes in a Ph.D. advisory committee must adhere to all policies and procedures governing graduate study at the University, as contained in the Graduate Catalog and administered by the Vice-President for Research and Graduate Studies.

Program of Study Guidelines

  • Following the selection of a research advisor and/or formation of the Graduate Advisory Committee, a student should begin forming a Program of Study.
  • A graduate student is required to file a program of study with the Graduate School Office by the time 15 semester hours are earned.
  • If the 15-hour deadline is not met, a hold will be put on the student's registration until it is met.
  • If changes in an approved program of study are required or desired, a substitution form should be filed by the student with the Graduate School Office.

Comprehensive Examination Guidelines


  • Before requesting that his or her major's professor schedule a Comprehensive Examination, a student must:
    • (1) have achieved Full Standing in the program and
    • (2) completed 80 percent of the course work in his/her Program of Study which should include all of the core (6010) courses.


  • The test will consist of written and/or oral portions as required by the TTU Graduate School.
    • Students in the Biology Concentration will have both written and oral portions.
    • Students in the Chemistry Concentration will take the written portion only.
      • In the Chemistry Concentration, the oral portion is satisfied by a formal oral presentation of the Research Plan.
  • The student's written portion will consist of four sections.
    • Total time for each section should not exceed eight hours.
    • Three sections will contain material from the student's area of concentration and one section will integrate material from the Environmental Sciences Core Curriculum.
    • The material from the Core Curriculum will be proctored by one of the two other advisory members and will be composed of questions from each area in the core, not to exceed a total of eight hours.
    • It is important to note that the core exam is not meant to simply repeat the final exam material from the core courses, rather it is meant to test the student's understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of this degree.
    • The oral portion of the exam (Biology only) will be administered by the student's advisory committee within three weeks of written notification of the results of the written portion of the exam. A question will be included in the oral exam that tests the student's understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of Environmental Sciences.
    • NOTE: If both written and oral exams are required, both portions must be completed during one academic semester.


  • Four-fifths of the voting members of the committee must agree that the student has successfully completed the written and/or oral portion of the exam. All four exams must be given within a two week time period. After the committee meets to discuss the results of the exam, the student will be notified of the results. The student will not be informed of any individual scores until the committee has met and made its decision. Following completion of the last exam, the committee will grade the exams and make a decision within one week of the last exam. Upon written notification the student will then have three weeks to prepare for the oral exam (Biology Division only).
  • The student will be given one additional opportunity to pass each portion of the Comprehensive Examination. Failure to pass either portion on the second try will result in the student's dismissal from the Ph.D. program.
  • A written evaluation of the student's performance on the Comprehensive Examination will be prepared by the student's advisory committee and kept on file in the office of the Director of the Environmental Sciences Ph.D. program.

Time Constraints

  • Successful completion of the Comprehensive Examination must be achieved in a timely fashion. Divisional requirements of the Comprehensive Examination must be met within a year following the completion of 80 percent of the course work in the student's Program of Study, including successful completion of all core courses.
  • It shall be the student's responsibility, in consultation with his/her advisor, to schedule this examination at a date agreeable to the whole examining committee. The committee shall be given at least two months advance notice of the Examination date in order to make preparations.
  • Any second attempts to pass portions of the Comprehensive Examination must be scheduled in the subsequent (Fall/Spring) semester.
  • Failure to follow these procedures shall result in the student's dismissal from the program.
  • Any appeal by the student for exceptions to this policy shall be made in writing and submitted to the Executive Committee of the Ph.D. program.
Environmental Sciences Ph.D. Program Forms & Plan of Study Time Schedule
Questions? Contact Irene Mauk, 931-372-6246 or email

Program Forms

Forms can be filled-in online; to make changes to saved form files, you must have Acrobat Writer.

Time Schedule for Plan of Study: Students Starting in Fall Semester


Fall Semester

Spring Semester

0 / Deficiency
1 Appointment of Advisory Committee Ph.D. Program of Study
2 Research Plan and Literature Review Seminar for Chemistry Students
3 Comprehensive Examination
4 Dissertation Seminar and Defense;
Application for Graduation must be filed no later than the first Friday of the semester.

Time Schedule for Plan of Study: Students Starting in Spring Semester

Year Spring Semester Fall Semester
0 / Deficiency
1 Appointment of Advisory Committee Ph.D. Program of Study
2 Seminar for Chemistry Students Research Plan and Literature Review
3 Comprehensive Examination
4 Dissertation Seminar and Defense;
Application for Graduation must be filed no later than the first Friday of the semester.