School of Environmental Studies

Ph.D. Program Guidelines

Graduate Committee Composition & Program of Study 

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 Agriculture, Biology, Chemistry, Geosciences, or Integrated Research. 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 

Request for Appointment of Advisory Committee

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. 

Program of Study Form - Agriculture
Program of Study Form - Biology
Program of Study Form - Chemistry
Program of Study Form - Geosciences
Program of Study Form - Integrated Research
Course Substitution Form


Comprehensive Examination


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 Tennessee Tech Graduate School.

  • Students in the Biology Concentration will have both written and oral portions.
  • Students in the Agriculture, Geosciences, and Integrated Research options (TBD).
  • 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. The 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 Descriptions.


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.

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