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NREM PhD Degree Program

NREM Graduate student in Forestry

The PhD degree in NREM is awarded only to students with outstanding scholarly achievement. Applicants for the PhD program with academic records that do not match NREM MS core requirements will be expected to incorporate these into their PhD program. To meet the integrative, multi-disciplinary intent of this program, a set of graduate level courses (Primary PhD Core) will be required of every student regardless of his/her selected specialization area. In addition, a set of electives will also be required. These electives are meant to provide background in research methods and depth in the student’s specialization area. The remaining degree requirements will be met by dissertation credits (NREM 800). All PhD students must pass a written and oral Comprehensive Examination (described below) before being advanced to candidacy. The student’s dissertation committee is responsible for designing and administering the Comprehensive Examination.

Requirements of PhD Degree

Primary PhD Core (7 Cr)

  • NREM 611 Resource and Environmental Policy (3)
  • NREM 612 Predicting and Controlling Degradation in Human-Dominated Terrestrial Ecosystems (3)
  • NREM 701 Research Seminar in NREM (1)

Electives (24 Cr)

  • Graduate research methods (6); 500-level or above
  • NREM graduate courses (9); 500-level or above
  • Other graduate courses for specialization from within or outside of NREM (9); a maximum of 9 credits of upper-division undergraduate course credits (400-level) allowed

Dissertation (1 Cr)

  • NREM 800 Dissertation (1)

PhD Comprehensive Examination Policy

The final outcome of the comprehensive examination is the acceptance of the student to the PhD candidacy in NREM.  Based on this examination, the student’s committee will determine if the student: (i) is ready, (ii) needs to take more courses to remediate deficiencies in her/his training, or (iii) that the student is not fit for the NREM PhD program.  In the process of administering the examination, the committee will test the rigor of the student’s training as: (i) a scientist in general (that the student can follow the scientific method and procedure to address a research problem and also has the analytical skills to conduct research), (ii) a scientist in NREM (has in-depth knowledge of what makes her/him unique compared to other graduates of UH that might have similar interests; in other words, a NREM student focusing on hydrology should not only be trained to deal with a hydrology problem but also should be able to address the natural resources and environmental management implications of that problem as compared to a hydrology graduate from Civil and Environmental Engineering, Geology and Geophysics, or Geography), and (iii) a scientist in her/his specialty area (for example, a NREM PhD student with a specialty in hydrology should have more in-depth expertise in hydrology than other NREM PhD students working in other specialty areas). 

Based on this understanding, the comprehensive examination questions can cover: (i) her/his specialty (i.e., hydrology, forest ecology and management), (ii) general topics related to NREM (i.e., core courses, background knowledge), (iii) knowledge of general research methods (i.e., statistics, analysis methods, etc.), and (iv) the proposed dissertation research.

Requirements

  1. Take Written and then Oral Comprehensive Examinations on proposed dissertation research, courses, and specialty area when most coursework (~80%) and the research proposal have been completed.

  2. Required public Seminar on Research Proposal (publicly advertised at least two weeks in advance).

  3. Required public Seminar on Dissertation Defense (publicly advertised at least two weeks in advance).

Guidelines:

Written Exam:

  • Student should begin scheduling and preparing for the examination at least 3 months in advance.

  • Questions will be contributed by each committee member.

  • Questions from each Committee member should be related to course work and/or reading materials provided by the Committee member and from the proposed dissertation research.  The student will send a list of courses that s/he has taken at UHM, and elsewhere to Committee members. All committee members should already have a copy of the research proposal.  The student will also consult with each member individually for instructions as to areas to prepare for the exam.

  • No more than 24 contiguous hours to complete each committee member’s examination question(s), to be administered on same or separate days over a period not to exceed two calendar weeks.

  • Open or closed book, at each committee member’s discretion.

  • Committee members will have at least one week to review the answers and provide a grade of Pass, Low Pass, or Fail.  Committee members may meet with the student to provide feedback from the examination.

  • Passing the written exam requires NO more than one failing grade from the committee.  That is, if two or more members issue a failing grade on their questions, the written exam is considered a FAIL.

  • In the event of a failed written exam, the student will have one more opportunity to take another written exam within six months with the same examining committee.

  • If the student passes the written exam, s/he will then proceed to the oral exam as described below.

Oral Exam:

  • The oral examination will be on the research proposal and on the written examination.

  • The primary deciding factor is whether the student has sufficient course background and knowledge to be able to conduct the proposed research activities and whether the research activities are doable and of sufficient academic rigor.

  • In the event of a failed oral exam, the student will have one more opportunity to take another oral exam within six months with the same examining committee.

Students Applying to PhD Program

Admission to Ph.D. after finishing NREM M.S.

An NREM Ph.D. student who also completed his or her M.S. in NREM and has subsequently been accepted into the NREM Ph.D. program has the option to take directed reading (NREM 699) for half of the required elective credits (12 of the 24) if NREM courses that are applicable to the student’s degree have already been taken as part of the M.S. degree plan. At least 6 of the non-NREM 699 credits must be for graduate research methods courses. Also, the student is still required to take all 7 credits of NREM Ph.D. core classes. In the case where a student took some/all of these core credits as electives during their M.S. degree program, an equivalent number of 600-level credits (but not NREM 699) must be taken.

Admission to Ph.D. without finishing NREM M.S.

A currently enrolled NREM M.S. student can be admitted into NREM’s Ph.D. program prior to completing their M.S. degree if ALL of the following criteria are met:

    1. Unanimous approval by the student’s M.S. committee
    2. Record of excellent academic achievement including, at a minimum:
      • Maintaining a GPA >3.5 in the M.S. NREM program
    3. The student has the proven ability to undertake independent research, which can be demonstrated by ALL of the following:
      • Authored/co-authored (student as 1st author) a minimum of 1 presentation at a national or international professional conference
      • Authored/co-authored (student as 1st author) a minimum of 1 peer reviewed journal article
      • Accrued at least 2 years of meaningful research experience at school, jobs etc.

Admission to Ph.D. from B.S.

A student with only a B.S. degree can be admitted directly into NREM’s Ph.D. program if ALL of the following criteria are met:

    1. A faculty member agrees to advise the student and commits to at least 3 years of funding
    2. Record of excellent academic achievement including, at a minimum:
      • Undergraduate GPA >3.5
      • Average verbal, quantitative and written GRE scores >75th percentile
    3. The student has the proven ability to undertake independent research, which can bedemonstrated by ALL of the following:
      • Authored/co-authored (student as 1st author) a minimum of 1 presentation at a national or international professional conference
      • Authored/co-authored (student as 1st author) a minimum of 1 peer reviewed journal article
      • Accrued at least 2 years of meaningful research experience at school, jobs, or internships

For additional information, refer to the Graduate Student Guide.