2023-2024 Academic Catalog 
    Jun 21, 2024  
2023-2024 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Environmental Sciences, PhD

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Science and Mathematics, College of

Program Description

The mission of the Doctor of Philosophy program in Environmental Sciences is to meet local, state and national needs for outstanding, interdisciplinary-trained graduates who will assume positions of responsibility in industry, government, and non-government organizations and in academia. The Environmental Sciences Ph.D. program is designed to develop environmental scientists who can function as researchers or high-level managers. This degree is awarded for demonstrated scholarly excellence in study and research that provides a significant contribution to the complex field of the environmental sciences.

This program is unique in focus, building on a core group of program faculty with recognized expertise in the departments of Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Physics, Pharmacology/Toxicology and Mathematics and Statistics. This interdisciplinary Ph.D. program consists of four areas of excellence: 1) Environmental Biology, 2) Environmental Earth Sciences, 3) Environmental Chemistry and 4) Environmental Physics. These areas of excellence will provide students with high-demand environmental skills that are interdisciplinary, yet well grounded in more traditional areas of environmental biology, chemistry, earth science, physics and toxicology.

Program Learning Outcomes

Over the course of Ph.D. studies, students in the program will learn scientific and technical skills appropriate for completing a doctoral research dissertation, which focuses on solving a particular environmental problem or addressing an important issue in environmental science.  Students will attain doctoral-level proficiency in the fundamental scientific area most closely aligned with their chosen research area (e.g., Environmental Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, and/or Physics) as well as gain critical interdisciplinary problem solving skills through an interdisciplinary core curriculum and specialty courses. Students will gain proficiency in the body of scientific literature pertaining to one or more key problems in environmental sciences and demonstrate competency in applying this knowledge to emerging issues.  Successful attainment of the outcomes will be assessed through a preliminary examination usually occurring between years 1 and 2 of the program of study.  Students will gain skills in identifying new areas of concern in the environmental sciences, in proposing scientific investigations to better understand and/or characterize these areas of concern and in carrying out experimentation to test hypotheses centered on advancing the field of knowledge pertaining to the areas of concern.  Assessment of these learning outcomes will take place through a written and oral defense of a novel research proposal.  Students will learn skills in analysis and interpretation of experimental data in the context of their chosen research problem as well as learn to draw conclusions based on these interpretations and while considering the relevant body of scholarly literature.  Assessment of these outcomes will occur through the doctoral committee’s evaluation of the student’s written and oral defense of his/her dissertation. 

Career Opportunties

Graduates of the Environmental Sciences Ph.D. Program have developed careers across the spectrum of the job market including careers in industry, government and academia.  For example, graduates of the program have moved to positions in the petroleum industry (e.g., Exxon Mobil and BP) while some have started their own environmental consulting companies.  A recent graduate is now working as an environmental specialist at Wright Patterson Air Force Base and another among our program alumni works in the sanitary sewer division of the Ohio EPA.  Among our program graduates, we have an Invasive Species Assessment Coordinator working for the state of Florida, while several of our program graduates have taken postdoctoral positions at top research institutions (North Carolina State University, Tulane University, University of Texas-Austin, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Freie Universitat -Berlin) and national labs (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Argonne National Lab), and at a US EPA laboratory with support of a National Research Council fellowship.  The first program graduate to land a faculty position did so in 2012, four years after completing her Ph.D. at Wright State.

Admissions Requirements

A student will be admitted to the Environmental Sciences Ph.D. program with a baccalaureate degree or a master’s degree from a supporting discipline (e.g., biology, chemistry, geology, or physics); satisfaction of the admission requirements as set forth by the Graduate School and the Program; and a record that indicates potential for a career in environmental sciences, as evaluated by the program’s Admissions Committee (consisting of program faculty from participating departments). Importantly, students need a commitment of support from a program faculty member prior to admission. Students should enter the program with knowledge of one of the supporting sciences and having successfully completed biology, general and organic chemistry, physics, statistics, and calculus. If a student is deficient in one of these areas, the Admissions Committee may recommend undergraduate courses that should be  completed during the first year. Determining deficiencies will be dependent on the student’s area of focus.

Admitted students will be expected to demonstrate strong academic ability. Submission of general Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores is required and scores will be used in ranking applicants for admission. Scores above 300 (Quantitative + Verbal) are generally considered to be competitive.  International students must have a TOEFL score of at least 100 iBT or a score of at least 6.5 on the IELTS.


Facilities available include a range of analytical laboratory instrumentation, computer laboratories, plant, microbe, and animal growth facilities, field sites, and office spaces associated with faculty and departments participating in the program. Numerous collaborations also exist with regional and national partners, including Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Five Rivers Metroparks, and the US EPA that provide access to resources and facilities off campus.

Contact Information

For additional information on the program including admissions requirements, application procedures, advising, course and curriculum information, program policies, program faculty research areas, student information and news/events, please contact the program office below.

Ms. Kim Napier, Administrative Specialist        
Environmental Sciences Ph.D. Program
Location: 114 Biological Sciences
Phone:  (937) 775-3273
e-mail:  kim.napier@wright.edu

Dr. Don Cipollini, Director
Environmental Sciences Ph.D. Program
Location: 114 Biological Sciences
Phone:  (937) 775-3273
e-mail: director.envsci@wright.edu

For More Information

Program Requirements:

Students are asked to master a series of core courses, advanced content electives, and seminars (see Curriculum below). These serve as an interdisciplinary base for the development of dissertation research, the most important part of the program. The institution awards the degree when the student satisfactorily completes the required work.

Waiver of Program Requirements

Students may petition to be exempted from all or part of the core curriculum, usually by scoring a passing grade on an appropriate proficiency examination. Students with a master’s degree in a relevant field of study will be exempted from appropriate course requirements and 30 credit hours. Students may also petition for waiver of credit for previous graduate courses taken in another accredited program. Advanced course credit of up to 12 credit hours may be waived providing (a) the grade attained in each course is a B or better, (b) the course was taken within four years of the actual waiver, and (c) the course relates to the area of concentration chosen in this program. Petitions for obtaining credit for laboratory experiences may be made, subject to the same credit hour limitations and time constraints as for courses. Petitions for exemption or waiver should be submitted to the program director, who will make the final decision, and who may, if necessary, seek a recommendation from the Curriculum Committee.


Each student chooses a faculty member to guide and direct the dissertation research. In addition, a supervisory committee is formed to periodically review the student’s progress. The relationship between the student, the faculty advisor, and the committee is central to the program. The committee determines when the research may be considered complete and must approve the written dissertation, as well as the student’s public defense of it. The committee certifies to the program director the competency and achievement of the dissertation.

Dept Core and Electives

I. Core Requirements: 11-12 Hours


II. Departmental Electives: 10 Hours

  • 10 credits of approved graduate electives required

III. Research

Total: 90 Hours

Research/Areas of Expertise:

This interdisciplinary Ph.D. program consists of four areas of excellence: 1) Environmental Biology, 2) Environmental Earth Sciences, 3) Environmental Chemistry and 4) Environmental Physics.

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Science and Mathematics, College of