Atmospheric Sciences, PhD

for the Doctor of Philosophy in Atmospheric Sciences

head of the department: Robert Trapp

director of graduate studies: Stephen Nesbitt

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

Weather and Climate Risk and Analytics, MS (online)

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 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 atmospheric chemistry and aerosols; climate modeling, processes, change, and assessments; cloud physics and radiative processes; convective-storm dynamics and modeling; extratropical cyclones and winter storms; precipitation and hydrometeorological processes; satellite and radar remote sensing; tropical meteorology and hurricanes; and weather and climate risk. 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

The Department maintains an extensive computing infrastructure, which is a vital component of all of its educational, research and outreach endeavors. A Departmental computer lab is available for hands-on class exercises. Computers and display projectors are provided in classroom areas, and wireless access exists throughout the buildings. The Department hosts a synoptic/GIS laboratory, a data visualization laboratory, and an instruments lab all within the Natural History Building. A high-capacity network connects these to various computing resources on campus as well as within the Department.

The cornerstone of the Department’s research computing capabilities is the compute cluster Keeling, which currently is composed of several thousand CPU cores and TB of storage. Keeling allows for numerical simulation and analysis 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 take advantage of  high-performance computing resources, including the Blue Waters Petascale computing facility, and the NCAR Supercomputing facility.

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

Finally, the Department has numerous capabilities for meteorological observations and measurement in teaching and research. This includes three Doppler on Wheels (DOW) mobile radars, one C-band on Wheels (COW) deployable radar, and three "mobile mesonet" vehicles. Additionally, we have:  a QuantAQ system, used to collect data on air quality; two iMET mobile sounding systems; a trailer-mounted, 915 MHz radar wind profiler, manufactured by Radiometrics; and SCAMP (System for Characterizing and Measuring Precipitation (SCAMP), which is designed to quantitatively characterize the vertical profile of precipitation particles, measure the particle size distributions and surface precipitation, and also document the scavenging of air particulates by the falling precipitation. SCAMP includes a Micro Rain Radar, an OTT Parsivel Optical Disdrometer, an MPS Particle Spectrometer, a Geonor T-200B Precipitation Gauge, a TSI Optical Particle Sizer, and a Lufft Ultrasonic Weather Station. All of these instruments can be mounted on a flatbed trailer, and transported by the Department’s Ford Cargo Van.

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