Academic Programs: PhD

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Overview: PhD in Environmental Science & Management

The Bren School’s PhD program is designed to develop the broad knowledge, analytical powers, technical skills, and creative thinking demanded of leaders in Environmental Science & Management. Students pursue the PhD of Environmental Science and may add an emphasis in Economics and Environmental Science. The program is also designed to accommodate a wide range of research interests, from those highlyfocused in a particular discipline to strongly interdisciplinary.

What distinguishes Bren PhD training from that of a conventional disciplinary department?

  • Focus on a wide variety of environmental issues
  • Multidisciplinary in nature and individualized in implementation
  • Highly personalized
  • Vibrant and dynamic intellectual community
  • Diverse interests and expertise of faculty
  • Emphasis on communication between and among disciplines

Students on a small boatThe PhD program at Bren is a mentoring program, with each student working closely with one or more Bren professors in his or her area of expertise. Admittance to the PhD program requires the support of a Bren School faculty member who agrees to be the student's sponsor.

Many new PhD students enter the program with a faculty advisor — in most cases, the particular professor has agreed to sponsor them (the exception is PhD students intending to focus on economics or political science).  Because of the large number of areas in which a PhD student can specialize, there are few universal requirements. Students plan their academic program in consultation with the sponsor and, eventually, their PhD committee. All courses offered by the Bren School are open to PhD students. Courses are also available in such other departments as Geography, Earth Science, Economics, Political Science, and Ecology, Evolution & Marine Biology, as well as others.

Bren faculty engage in research that crosses traditional disciplinary boundaries, and students are encouraged to do so as well. While we encourage broadening disciplinary perspectives, we expect that each student will become an expert in one field, whether it has an interdisciplinary or disciplinary focus. We uphold the traditional requirements that the PhD dissertation be of exceptional quality and an original contribution to knowledge. 

Students who wish to obtain a stronger multidisciplinary background before focusing on one research area should consider enrolling in our MESM program and applying to the PhD program in the second year. A master's degree is not required for admission to the PhD program, although some professors prefer that applicants have a master's.

Application deadline for Fall 2016 matriculation is December 15, 2015.

See a list of current and past PhD students and their research topics.

PhD Program Requirements

The PhD program requirements are highly individualized, as detailed in the Bren School PhD Guidelines. There is no specific unit requirement for the PhD program. The PhD is not a unit-count degree but a research Student wearing a wet suit in Tahitidegree awarded upon demonstration of academic excellence and performance of original research. PhD students complete an individual program of study determined in consultation with their PhD committee. The only universal requirement is that each student complete at least one of each of the following interdisciplinary seminar courses prior to graduation:

  • ESM 595PB — exploration of a problem oriented-topic (e.g. management of invasive species, fisheries management, climate change and policy responses).
  • ESM 595SB — development of important skills such as preparing proposals, writing manuscripts and statistical methods.
  • ESM 595SS — students attend faculty research presentations and discuss and analyze the research in a separate session under the direction of the instructor of the course.
At the end of the second year but no later than the end of the third year, the PhD committee prepares a written examination that tests the student’s knowledge of his/her specialization in the context of Environmental Science & Management as well as research skills, problem-solving skills, and ability to perform academic work.

After passing the written exam, the student prepares a written dissertation proposal, and the PhD committee conducts an oral examination. The oral examination is based on the dissertation proposal, readiness to do the required research, and preparation and aptitude for completion of the PhD program.

Upon successful completion of the oral examination, the student is eligible to advance to candidacy. Advancement normally occurs in the third year, but must occur no later than the end of the fourth year in the program.

For the PhD degree, students must present a dissertation demonstrating the ability to conduct significant, independent, and original research in their major field. Upon completion of the dissertation, a public lecture on the research must be presented, followed by a closed-door defense before the PhD committee.  

In summary, the guidelines require that PhD students:
  • Form a PhD committee (1st year)
  • Complete an individual program of study
  • Complete 3 interdisciplinary seminars
  • Pass a written examination (normally at the end of 2nd year but no later than the end of 3rd year)
  • Prepare a dissertation proposal (3rd year)
  • Pass an oral examination (normally at the end of 3rd year but not later than the end of 4th year)
  • Prepare the dissertation
  • Defend the dissertation (normally no later than the end of the 6th year) 

Other Training Opportunities for PhD Students

PhD student in a laboratoryCertificate in College and University Teaching (CCUT)
The UCSB Certificate in College and University Teaching (CCUT) is designed for students who wish to demonstrate superior competence and experience in preparation for teaching at the university or college level. Certificates are awarded in conjunction with a PhD degree.

Graduate Program in Management Practice (Technology Management Program, College of Engineering)
For doctoral students across the UC Santa Barbara campus seeking a structured and diploma-enhancing business education, the Technology Management Program offers a UC-wide recognized graduate certificate.

Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Marine Science
A multidisciplinary program bringing together marine faculty from across the UCSB campus to provide graduate training leading to the Master of Science and the Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Marine Science.

PhD Emphasis in Technology and Society
This optional emphasis is a degree supplement that provides multi-disciplinary training for graduate students planning dissertations dealing with the societal implications of technology.

Bren Communications Center

The Bren Communications Center supports students in developing their skills in a range of academic and professional communication tasks. Communications Center staff can help students generate ideas, organize information, visualize data, revise drafts, and polish your documents in a supportive one-on-one environment. We also offer workshops to enhance the clarity of your writing.

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