Ph.D. Certificate Program

Biogeoscience Advanced Graduate Certificate Overview

Ph.D. students enrolled in any of the three participating departments, Boston University qualify to complete the “Certificate Program in Biogeoscience.” The architecture behind the requirements and programmatic features for the certificate program draws, in field-appropriate ways, on elements of time-tested models. Admission to the certificate program requires a one-page application describing the student’s background and the relevance of the certificate to their Ph.D. research. The one page application is reviewed by the program chair and advisory committee, with admission based on the student’s potential and match of interests with the program’s mission.

Upon successful admission, students are required to complete 16 credits of course work. Twelve of the 16 credits require successful completion of three four-credit courses, one in each of three focal areas: biogeophysics, biogeochemistry, and methods in biogeoscience (see below). The remaining four credits are satisfied by a yearlong colloquium and practicum in biogeoscience, two-credit courses offered in the fall and spring semesters, respectively. Mid-course Ph.D. students are also eligible for entry into the program. Because mid-course students will have completed some of the required four-credit courses, only minor adjustments in course work are generally required to complete the program. Mid-course students are also be required to participate in the colloquium and practicum in biogeoscience.

The certificate program is designed such that requirements can be fulfilled as part of, and not in addition to, requirements for the Ph.D. degree in the student’s home department. Many students will complete more than the 16-credit requirement for the certificate because of their interest in the subject matter. Each student admitted into the program is required to constitute a five-member Ph.D. committee. At least two of the members must be drawn from participating faculty, one of whom must be outside of the student’s sponsoring department. This latter requirement, in combination with the coursework requirement, ensures strong, interdisciplinary education and training in biogeoscience.

Colloquium and Practicum in Biogeoscience

This full year seminar course focuses on topics and applied problems in the biogeosciences. Each semester fulfills two units of credit. The fall colloquium includes talks by participating faculty and speakers from outside BU, followed by an intensive reading and discussion period. This course is taught annually, and serves as a focal point for students and faculty participating in the program. The responsibility for this colloquium is rotated on an annual basis among the participating faculty. In addition to providing a foundational course in interdisciplinary research, the colloquium introduces new students to faculty research at Boston University and brings together the Boston University-based community of scientists in the field of biogeoscience. All participating Ph.D. students are encouraged to attend the research presentations beyond the year in which they are enrolled for course credit. Depending on the subject matter and instructor, students may be allowed to take the colloquium and practicum more than once.

For the intensive reading and discussion portion of the colloquium, students are assigned two papers to read in advance of the presentation by the faculty member or visiting speaker. On Tuesday, students attend the research presentation and have an extended question and answer period with the speaker. On Thursday, enrolled students meet with the colloquium organizer to discuss both the pre-selected papers and the research presentation. Bagels, coffee and tea are provided on Thursdays to create a comfortable setting and to help students form a cohesive group.

In the spring semester, students complete a practicum in biogeoscience, the second two-credit course. The practicum focuses on an in-depth analysis of an emerging topic in the biogeosciences. The practicum is designed to teach students how to read and organize information from the primary literature, develop basic data synthesis techniques, and prepare a position paper. The specific topic varies from year to year, and is determined by the faculty member organizing the practicum. It is highly recommended that the yearlong seminar (colloquium & practicum) be taken in sequence. This is not required, however, because extenuating circumstances such as spring admission to the program and travel for research, could exclude interested and otherwise qualified students.

Biogeoscience Course Offerings


  • CAS GE 503 Micrometeorology: Energy and Mass Transfer at the Earth’s Surface
  • CAS GE 504 Physical Climatology
  • CAS GE/BI 525 Plant Physiological Ecology
  • GRS ES/GE 683 Geodynamics II: Fluids and Fluid Transport
  • CAS ES/GE 514 Dynamic Land Surface Hydrology
  • CAS ES 515 Transport Processes in Soils
  • CAS ES 533 Quantitative Geomorphology
  • CAS ES 541 Coastal Processes


  • CAS ES 576 Aquatic Geochemistry
  • GRS BI/ES 643 Terrestrial Biogeochemistry
  • CAS BI/GE 530 Forest Ecology
  • GRS BI 648 Biodiversity and Conservation Biology
  • GRS GE 656 Terrestrial Ecosystems and the Carbon Cycle


  • CAS GE/BI 529 Modeling and Monitoring Terrestrial Ecosystems Processes
  • GRS GE 650 Field Methods in Environmental Science
  • CAS GE 502 Remote Sensing of Environment
  • CAS GE 516 Applied Data Analysis for Environmental Science
  • CAS GE 505 Geographic Information Systems
  • CAS ES 573 Analytical Methods in Geochemistry
  • GRS ES 771 Isotope Earth Sciences

For information on how to apply, please contact the academic program coordinator, Ms. Nora Jane Watson ( Prospective students are also encouraged to contact Pamela Templer (, the Director of the Biogeoscience Program.