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Student Spotlight

Ph.D. Degree Requirements


The requirements of the program are flexible to accommodate the diverse interests and needs of students. Students, however, must meet the following requirements.

Committees and Coursework

  1. The Ph.D. guidance and dissertation committees must consist of at least five members. Three of the five members (including the chair) must be NRESS faculty, and committee members must be from more than one academic department.  Students are strongly encouraged to include at least one off-campus member. Off-campus committee members must hold a Ph.D. degree and be approved by the student's advisor, the NRESS Program, and the Graduate School Dean. Students should select their guidance committee in a timely manner, within one year for full-time students and two years for part-time students.
  2. All students in the program will take NRES 997 Interdisciplinary Research, and one course in each of four core areas: Natural Sciences, Ethics/Policy/Law, Methods and Seminar. Any course used to satisfy the Natural Sciences, Ethics, and Methods core areas must be at least 3 credits. The Seminar course must be interactive and must be at least 1 credit. Independent study courses may not be used to satisfy core requirements. The Guidance Committee determines which courses on campus will satisfy these requirements.
  3. Students entering the program without a Master's degree are expected to complete a minimum of 36 credit hours. There is not a specific credit requirement for students who have completed a M.S. or M.A. degree. Final credit requirements are determined by the guidance committee and may include additional coursework necessary to enhance the student's selected field of study and/or correct any deficiencies in the student's previous program. Students may apply a maximum of 12 credits of independent study and/or seminar courses to their total course requirement.

    Graduate level courses taken prior to admission may be transferred in to the program and applied to the total only if they were not taken while matriculated in another degree program. The graduate school allows 12 credits from UNH or 8 credits from other institutions. Transfer of credits must be approved by the advisor, the guidance committee and the graduate school. Please check the graduate school catalog for more information on the regulations governing transfer of credits and other regulations applicable to Ph.D. students.
  4. Language proficiency may be required at the discretion of the student's advisor/committee. If so required, a student would need to show proficiency in one foreign language or one computer language.


Each student is required to pass three examinations, each of which has both a written and oral component. Additional preliminary examinations may be administered before the three required exams as the committee deems necessary. Performance on such an exam would determine areas where the student may need additional coursework or could result in the student's removal from the program.

  1. Comprehensive exam. The student must prepare an extensive written answer to one question from each committee member that covers the basic concepts and factual material deemed essential for the student's program. Three weeks are allowed for completion of the exam, after which the student gives an oral presentation to the committee. This exam is taken within three years of initiation of graduate study in the program. The committee may require a student to repeat part or all of the comprehensive exam if the student's performance is deemed unsatisfactory.
  2. Proposal exam. The student must present a written summary of the proposed dissertation research topic to the committee and complete a public oral presentation of the proposed research. Please notify the Program Coordinator of your public presentation at least two weeks in advance by sending an email with the following information: proposal title, advisor, building, room number, and time. The Program Coordinator will create a flyer for posting and distribute the announcement to the NRESS and UNH community.
  3. Final exam. The student must complete the written Ph.D. dissertation prior to the final exam. Once written, the student is required to complete an oral defense of the dissertation, which will include both a public presentation and examination by the student's committee. Please notify the Program Coordinator of your public dissertation defense at least two weeks in advance by sending an email with the following information: dissertation title, advisor, building, room number, and time. The Program Coordinator will post this information on the Graduate School Website, create a flyer for posting, and distribute the announcement to the NRESS and UNH community.

A student may be required to take additional courses following either the comprehensive or proposal exam, or may be removed from the program following failure of any of the required exams.

Students are advanced to candidacy after successfully completing the comprehensive exam, proposal exam, and all coursework required by the guidance committee as summarized on the coursework approval form.