Atmospheric Sciences, PhD

for the Doctor of Philosophy in Atmospheric Sciences

head of the department: R. Jeff Trapp

director of graduate studies: Nicole Riemer

overview of admissions & requirements:

overview of grad college admissions & requirements:

college website:

department website:

department faculty:

department office: 3072 Natural History Building, 1301 West Green Street, Urbana, IL 61801

phone: (217) 333-2046


Graduate Degree Programs in Atmospheric Sciences

Atmospheric Sciences, MS

Atmospheric Sciences, PhD

Graduate programs leading to the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees are offered. Opportunity also exists for specializing in computational science and engineering within the department’s graduate programs via the Computational Science and Engineering (CSE) Option.


Applications for admission are encouraged from students with bachelor’s degrees in atmospheric sciences, meteorology, physics, mathematics, computer science, geography, engineering, oceanography, and related fields. It is strongly recommended that students who intend to study for advanced degrees in atmospheric sciences know the fundamentals of classical physics and applied mathematics. Applicants whose native language is not English are required to take the English Placement Test if accepted. All applicants are required to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and submit three letters of reference.

Faculty Research Interests

The atmospheric science degree programs are designed for students interested in research and applications on a wide variety of atmospheric topics. Faculty areas of research include the physics of aerosol, clouds and precipitation; atmospheric radiative processes, radar and satellite meteorology, remote sensing, convective phenomena including severe storms, synoptic and mesoscale meteorology, boundary layer meteorology, tropical meteorology, hydrometeorology, numerical weather prediction, atmospheric dynamics, climate variability and climate modeling including chemical, radiative, and transport effects; atmospheric chemistry, land-atmosphere interactions, oceanography, human and natural perturbations of global ozone and climate, biogeochemical cycles, and climate impacts, risks, and policy. This research is carried out in national field campaigns, in theoretical studies, and in numerical modeling efforts using a wide range of models.

Research Facilities

With more than 2.5 computers per person, the department maintains a capable and extensive computing infrastructure as this is a vital component of all of its educational, research and outreach endeavors. All graduate students, staff, and faculty members have a desktop or laptop computer, usually a Windows PC or Mac. There is a departmental computer lab for hands-on class exercises, computers and display projectors in classroom areas and wireless access throughout the buildings. The Department hosts a new synoptic/GIS laboratory, a data visualization laboratory, and an instruments lab all within the Natural History Building. An up-to-date high-capacity network connects these to various departmental computing resources including e-mail, file and web servers, resources provided by the campus as well as our linux-based research computing systems.

These research systems include the department's ever-expanding computing cluster, hundreds of terabytes worth of storage, other departmental systems and a number of systems specific to each faculty member's research group. These systems are used for numerical simulations, analysis and modeling of atmospheric processes ranging from the formation of individual ice crystals to century long climate simulations over the globe and are used for storing, analyzing and visualizing the results. Our faculty research groups regularly use supercomputers including Blue Waters, the NCAR Supercomputing facility, and other supercomputers nationwide.

We receive and process a large quantity of real-time meteorological data and numerical forecasts from a variety of sources including agencies like NOAA, UCAR, international sources and other peer institutions. These are available for visualization with a variety of tools to aid in the understanding of current weather events and case studies of recent major events.

Because computers are only good when they work and you understand how to use them, the department is supported by a dedicated IT staff which is responsible for maintaining everything and personally assisting users with problems, questions and accomplishing their research goals.

The department also has a suite of meteorological instrumentation designed to characterize the vertical profile of precipitation falling from clouds and storms (“SCAMP"), and has also recently acquired a new wind profiler which will be operational in 2020.

Financial Aid

More information is available on the Department Website:

for the Doctor of Philosophy in Atmospheric Sciences

For additional details and requirements refer to the department's Graduate Programs and the Graduate College Handbook

Atmospheric Sciences, PhD

Entering with approved B.S. (Direct to Ph.D.)

ATMS 500Dynamic Meteorology4
ATMS 504Physical Meteorology4
ATMS 505Weather Systems4
ATMS 507Climate Dynamics4
ATMS 599Thesis Research16
Additional approved graduate level courses (excluding ATMS 599)32
Additional approved graduate level courses (including ATMS 599)32
Total Hours96

Entering with an approved M.S. degree

Stage I Equivalent (32 Hours) Satisfied by previous Masters degree (from either within the ATMS department or an approved MS from outside the ATMS department)
ATMS 599Thesis Research16
Additional approved graduate level courses* (excluding ATMS 599)24
Additional approved graduate level courses (including ATMS 599)24
*If the previous MS degree was earned outside of the Atmospheric Sciences department, these courses must include ATMS 500, 504, 505, and 507 if equivalent courses were not taken as part of the student's M.S. degree. Equivalency will be determined by the department after review of the course syllabi.
Total Hours64

Other Requirements

Other requirements may overlap
Qualifying Exam Required No
Preliminary Exam Required Yes
Final Exam/Dissertation Defense Required Yes
Dissertation Deposit Required Yes
Minimum GPA: 3.0