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POSE PhD Degree

The Physical Ocean Science and Engineering Ph.D. program trains graduate students to achieve the highest level of proficiency in research. Mathematics, fundamental sciences, ocean sciences and engineering sciences are combined to provide a personalized program of study and research. All graduate students work in close cooperation with the faculty on their dissertation area.

The Ph.D. requires a minimum of 27 course credit hours and 9 dissertation credits. In total, a student’s doctoral program must include a total minimum of 36 credits. The student must meet a campus residency requirement of at least one continuous academic year. If a student has earned a Master's degree at the University of Delaware, this can be used to fulfill the residency requirement. In addition student must pass a qualifying examination and students shall defend their theses in an open oral examination chaired by the advisor.

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Required Courses

MAST 691 Fluid Dynamics in Marine Systems (or CIEG 639 Ocean Fluid Dynamics)

MAST 690 Intermediate Engineering Mathematics

MAST 811 Oceanographic Data Analysis

MAST 693 Waves in the Marine Environment

MAST 655 Geophysical Fluid Dynamics

MAST 882 Physical Ocean Science and Engineering Seminar (once/year)

MAST 661 Introduction to Ocean Modeling (or approved alternate modeling class)

MAST 669 Doctoral Dissertation (9 credits)

One three-credit course outside of the POSE Program


At least 3 of the required credits should be taken outside of the Program of Ocean Science and Engineering and may include significant components from other departments. Required courses include courses in mathematics and engineering sciences designed to insure that Ph.D. candidates have the basic skills in Physical Ocean Science and Engineering needed to conduct dissertation research.

The purpose of the course work is to provide a solid foundation for original research in the field of study and, within the limits of available time, to extend the student’s knowledge outside that field. Students will work with their advisors to determine what additional coursework must be completed and how many research credits must be taken to complete the degree.

Students matriculating from other universities may petition to have these courses waived if their course of study included equivalent courses.

For students holding a Master's degree in an appropriate field of study, the coursework from the Master's degree will be taken into account in the design of the doctoral program. All courses in the program are selected with the approval of the student's advisor.

Individuals matriculated as regular SMSP students in the Physical Ocean Science and Engineering Program must register for MAST 882 (POSE Seminar) in one semester during each year of residence. Regular students may substitute an equivalent seminar course with approval of the Program Director. Individuals matriculated as sustaining students are exempt from the seminar requirement.

Doctoral Committee Schedule

Each doctoral committee shall consist of not less than four and or more than six members. The selection of members of the doctoral committee is made by the student and the advisor. This is forwarded via the department chairperson or a program director and respective college deans to the Office of Graduate Studies. The doctoral committee is composed of the student's advisor, who is also the chair of the committee, members from the SMSP faculties, and one member from an outside academic or research unit. At least two committee members, one of which is the committee's chairperson, represent the major field of interest.

Qualifying Examination

This examination is usually taken near the completion of the required credits of course work beyond the bachelor's degree

Doctoral students must demonstrate to their doctoral committee that they have acquired a comprehensive grasp of their field of study through a qualifying examination (written and oral) before they are admitted to formal candidacy.

The examination process begins when the student submits a dissertation proposal to his/her committee at least four weeks before the written and oral examination. Then the student consults each member of the Doctoral Committee for advice on any specific preparation that the committee members suggest. Any committee member who is not fully satisfied with a student's preparation for the formal exam will advise the Doctoral Committee chairperson promptly.

The qualifying exam is a comprehensive written and oral exam. This examination is designed to test the student's preparation for the proposed research. It measures the student's preparation, including knowledge about the area of physical ocean science and engineering, the student's capability to apply knowledge gained in courses, and the student's qualifications in written and oral communication. Qualifying exams are not open to the public. In general, doctoral committees should strive to achieve consensus concerning the student's performance and quality of work.

The exam is administered in two sections approximately a week apart. The advisor administers the written exam and chairs the oral. The written exam usually consists of one independent exam of at least two hours duration set by each of the committee members and administered over two or more consecutive days. The student is admitted to the oral phase only after passing the written phase. At the oral exam, the student gives a brief review of the research plan and then answers questions from each committee member related to the dissertation proposal and the student's coursework. In the case of dissenting votes, the majority opinion rules. Upon successful completion of the qualifying exam, the committee members signify agreement by signing the appropriate graduate office form. The possible outcomes of the qualifying exam are:

a) Passed; candidacy form signed

b) Passed, but additional work required (self-study or formal course); form signed. If the doctoral committee recommends passing but with additional study or course work, the advisor will ensure that the student meets these recommendations promptly.

c) Failed, but to be offered a second complete exam after, in most cases, one semester of additional preparation; memo of record from advisor via the Department Chairperson or College Dean to the Office of Graduate Studies. If unsuccessful a second time, the student will not be permitted a third attempt, and matriculation in the program will be terminated.

d) Failed, no re-examination; form signed and matriculation in the Ph.D. program will be ended.

e) Students who fail the qualifying examination may petition for admission into the Master's degree program.

Dissertation Defense

Upon completion of the dissertation, a final oral examination must be passed, consisting of a defense of the dissertation and a test of the candidate's mastery of the fields covered in the program. The final oral examination is open. It is conducted by the student's committee and chaired by the student's advisor. To permit adequate time for the committee to review the dissertation, all copies of the tentatively completed dissertation (subject to revisions required by the examining committee) must be deposited with the program director and the respective college offices at least two weeks before the date of the final oral examination. The advisor shall submit certification of a successful defense to the Office of Graduate Studies through the respective college deans.


All full-time graduate students are required to attend departmental or college seminars in their fields of study. Students will also make presentations at departmental or college seminars. Students are encouraged to attend other University seminars that may be pertinent to their research.

POSE PhD Sample Schedule

Fall Year 1

MEEG 690 Intermediate Engineering Mathematics

MAST 691 Fluid Dynamics in Marine Systems

MAST 811 Oceanographic Data Analysis

Spring Year 1

POSE Seminar

MAST 655 Geophysical Fluid Dynamics

MAST 693 Waves in the Marine Environment

MAST 661 Introduction to Ocean Modeling


Fall Year 2

Course outside of POSE

Elective Course


Spring Year 2

POSE Seminar



Research proposal and committee formation - Qualifying examination


Fall Year 3


Spring Year 3

POSE Seminar



Fall Year 4


Spring Year 4

MAST 869 Dissertation

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CEOE School & Departments

School of Marine Science & Policy

Advancing the understanding, stewardship, and conservation of estuarine, coastal, and ocean environments.

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Department of Geological Sciences

Discovering how geological processes have operated over various time scales to create and influence the planet’s surface environments.

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Department of Geography

Investigating the interactions between people and the environment and the processes that explain the location of human and natural phenomena.

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College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment • 111 Robinson Hall • Newark, DE 19716 • USA • Phone: 302-831-2841
Geography: 302-831-2294 • Geology: 302-831-2569 • Marine Science and Policy: 302-645-4212 • E-mail: ceoe-info@udel.edu

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