Jul 02, 2022  
2020-2021 SDSM&T Academic Catalog 
2020-2021 SDSM&T Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences Program

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Contact Information

Dr. William J. Capehart, Program Director
Mineral Industries 213
(605) 394-1994
E-mail: William.Capehart@sdsmt.edu

Advisory Council

Associate Professors Capehart (Civil and Environmental Engineering), French (Physics), Kliche (Mathematics), and Kunza (Chemistry, Biology and Health Sciences); Research Scientist III Clabo (Civil and Environmental Engineering)


MS Program:

Associate Professors Capehart, French, and Kliche; Assistant Professor Kunza; Research Scientist III Clabo

PhD Program:

Professor Kenner;  Associate Professors Capehart, Clabo, French, Kunza;  Research Scientist III Clabo

MS and PhD in Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences

The Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences (AES) Program studies the physical, chemical, and biological processes that affect the composition and dynamics of the weather, climate and ecosystems. Research is directly linked to undergraduate and graduate programs that provide a fundamental understanding of the earth system, and opportunities for applied research, theoretical research, and technical training to prepare students for careers in meteorology, atmospheric science, ecology remote sensing and environmental technology.  

Research Areas

Current research projects include field investigations of thunderstorms; applications of weather radar data to rainfall measurements and remote inference of cloud microphysical characteristics; numerical modeling of clouds ranging in size from small cumulus to severe storms including storm electrification, lightning, and lightning-influenced atmospheric chemistry; analysis of field observations and numerical simulations of complex surface ecosystems; land-surface hydrology; satellite remote sensing; land-surface/atmosphere exchange processes; climate change; fire weather prediction and modeling; biogeochemical cycling; and ecological modeling. In addition, our faculty, as active research scientists, are currently involved in activities to disseminate scientific knowledge to wider audiences and improve and enhance scientific literacy and educational opportunities for the people of South Dakota, Northern Great Plains, and beyond.

Degree Options

The AES MS degree offers a thesis option, a non-thesis option, and an accelerated MS option. 

The AES PhD program offers a research dissertation option.

Accelerated MS option

An accelerated MS degree program is open to undergraduate students at SD Mines.  Students admitted to the accelerated program may apply up to 9 credits of approved 400/500/600 level AES coursework, or approved electives for the BS degree requirements, taken as undergraduate to the MS.  All elective courses must be approved in advance of registration by the student’s major professor or program coordinator.

Additional policies concerning accelerated MS degrees can be found in the requirements and policies applied to all graduate degrees  by the Council of Graduate Education.


Students will have comprehensive knowledge of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences.

  • Atmospheric and Environmental MS and PhD graduates should have deep knowledge of principals the physics and dynamics of the earth system, ecology and climate system. 

Students will be able to perform effective research in Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences.

  • All Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences PhD graduates are expected to be able to independently formulate scientific hypothesis of atmospheric & environmental phenomena, and test those hypotheses through the integration of observation, theory and, where appropriate, simulation.
  • All Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences MS and PhD graduates are expected to be prepared for advanced and leadership-track career paths in research, operations or educational within the Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, and adjacent disciplines.

Students will communicate effectively.

  • All Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences MS and PhD graduates will communicate in writing about scientific and technical concepts concisely and completely.
  • All Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences MS and PhD graduates will organize and communicate ideas using words, mathematical equations, tables, graphs, pictures, animations, diagrams, and other visualization tools.

Financial support

A limited number of fellowships and assistantships are available to qualified students.  Research assistantships are tied to specific funded projects are awarded at the discretion of the projects’ faculty investigators.  Inbound students are expected to work with faculty on acceptance to identify research projects and available research funding opportunities.

Inbound applicants with GPAs over 3.0 are eligible for assistantship and fellowship consideration.

Background requirements

Applicants to the AES MS Program’s Meteorology Specialization are expected enter with a strong background in physics, chemistry, mathematics through differential equations, and meteorology.  Students entering the program without a degree in meteorology or similar degree, are expected to take necessary support coursework with the guidance and mentoring of the program’s faculty.

Applicants to the AES MS Program’s Environmental Sciences Specialization are expected enter with a strong background in biology, chemistry, and ecology.

Applicants to the AES PhD Program’s Meteorology Specialization are also expected to enter the program with a strong research background and be capable of pursuing and independent research program.   An MS degree is not required to enter the PhD program.

Admission requirements

Admission criteria is a combination of GRE scores, undergraduate and post-graduate transcripts, and recommendations from references from faculty, mentors and employers in the fields of science and/or engineering. 

Strong English proficiency is expected for admission.

Successful applicants typically have GRE scores above the 50th percentile.

MS program applicants with GPAs below 3.0, but otherwise strong applications may be admitted with provisional status without assistantship eligibility for their first semester and may be considered for assistantships or fellowships in subsequent semesters.

Transfer credits

Policies for transferring credits from outside institutions can be found in the requirements and policies applied to all graduate degrees  by the Council of Graduate Education. All transfers are subject to approval by the student’s advisor or advisory committee.

Additional expectations with respect to government employment

Candidates wishing to seek employment in the National Weather Service or other government career paths should work with their academic advisors to ensure that their programs of study will satisfy any government requirements.

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