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PhD Academics

The Bren School PhD in Environmental Science and Management program academic requirements are highly individualized for your mentorship-based experience.

The Bren PhD is a research degree awarded upon demonstration of academic excellence and performance of original research. As such, there is no specific unit requirement. As a PhD student at Bren, you will complete an individual program of study guided by your doctoral committee.

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Academic Requirements

All Bren PhD students must complete the following interdisciplinary seminar courses prior to graduation.

ESM 512: Research Ethics and Conduct
This course introduces the ethical principles that apply to scientists to incoming PhD students of the Bren School. We will discuss key concepts and cases in research conduct and research ethics including: (1) Brief history and basic terms and concepts in ethics; (2) Plagiarism and authorship; (3) Falsification and fabrication; (4) Peer-review process; (5) Human subjects & bioethics; (6) Conflict of interest; (7) Policies and protocols to prevent research misconduct; and (8) Miscellaneous ethical issues in the academic environment. We will also review historical cases of research misconduct, and we will analyze recent retraction cases.

ESM 513: Environmental Research Design
Introduces disciplinary traditions of knowledge creation and explores how these traditions motivate different approaches to research design. Students develop a series of short research proposals on environmental topics to hone their ability to frame effective research questions, and match those questions to appropriate research designs. By giving interdisciplinary environmental scholars a deeper understanding of other disciplines, the class empowers students to engage in more effective interdisciplinary collaboration and communication.

ESM 514: Collaborative Interdisciplinary Research
This course provides the opportunity to engage with the potential and challenges of cross- and multi-disciplinary research collaboration. Students will engage with practical and strategic elements of conducting research. The class is organized around eight issues and challenges that arise during the research process, from formulating a research question to forming a team of collaborators and fundraising to navigating the peer review process. Through activities, discussions and examples, the class will help demystify different stages of the research process and provide practical tools to help students succeed in the transition from consumers to producers of knowledge.

Academic Timeline

First year: Students form their PhD committee and begin an individual program of study.

Second year: At the end of the second year of the PhD program, but no later than the end of the third year, the PhD committee prepares a written examination that tests the student’s knowledge of his/her specialization in the context of Environmental Science & Management as well as research skills, problem-solving skills, and ability to perform academic work.

Third year: Students prepare a dissertation proposal. At the end of the third year, typically, students pass an oral examination.

Fourth & Fifth years: Students prepare their PhD dissertation. Students must present a dissertation demonstrating the ability to conduct significant, independent, and original research in their major field.

Fifth year: At the end of the fifth year, students defend their PhD dissertation. Upon completion of the dissertation, a public lecture on the research must be presented, followed by a closed-door defense before the PhD committee. 

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PhD Emphases & Certificates (optional)

PhD in the area of Political Science

While not a formal PhD emphasis, many Bren PhD students study a topic in the area of environmental politics and policy. Several Bren faculty advisors specialize in political science and hold joint appointments with the UCSB Department of Political Science. Their research focuses on finding institutional solutions to environmental problems -- the formal and informal rules that guide action at multiple levels. These advisors have provided a guide for prospective PhD students interested in political science.

PhD Emphasis in Economics and Environmental Science

PhD students in the Bren School or the Economics Department may choose to supplement their PhD program by establishing an emphasis in Economics and Environmental Science (EES). Students who pursue this option acquire a deep and expert knowledge of economics, as well as an understanding and appreciation of the research questions and methods of a natural science that complements their economics research.

PhD Emphasis in Environment and Society

Doctoral students from over fifteen departments at UCSB may add the emphasis to the PhD in their home department. The PhD Emphasis in Environment and Society provides UCSB doctoral students training and mentorship in interdisciplinary environmental studies and sciences beyond the scope of their normal degree programs. Receive additional training and mentorship in areas such as global political economics, social justice, energy justice, environmental politics, population ecology, and more.

PhD Emphasis in Technology and Society

This optional emphasis in Technology and Society offered by the UCSB Center for Information Technology and Society provides multi-disciplinary training for graduate students planning dissertations with themes of information technology and society. Gain additional training and mentorship in societal implications of information technology, including studies in media, television, new media, science education and instruction, data visualization, and the relationships between the arts, music, and technology.

PhD Emphasis in Climate Sciences and Climate Change

This Interdepartmental PhD Emphasis in Climate Sciences and Climate Change offered by the UCSB Department of Geography provides doctoral students a broader understanding of the physical principles governing climate on Earth, climate changes associated with natural variability and anthropogenic forcings, and the impacts of climate change on the environment and society. The PhD emphasis provides graduate students with both core-training opportunities to gain access to methodological expertise across UCSB as well as to interact with Faculty, Researchers and graduate students in disciplines other than their own. The PhD Emphasis formally acknowledges and builds upon existing collaborations among the departments and the Bren School listed herein.

Certificate in College and University Teaching

The Certificate in College and University Teaching (CCUT) is designed for doctoral students who wish to demonstrate superior competence and experience in preparation for teaching at the university or college level. The Certificate is awarded in conjunction with a PhD or MFA degree upon completion.

Graduate Program in Management Practice

For highly motivated graduate students across the UC Santa Barbara campus seeking a structured and diploma-enhancing business education, the Technology Management Program offers a UC-wide recognized graduate certificate. The Graduate Program in Management Practice (GPMP) is open to UC Santa Barbara master's degree students and PhD candidates from any major. This program provides a path for innovative and dedicated students to gain in-depth understanding of cutting-edge entrepreneurial and business practices in global-technology based companies.

Are you ready to solve environmental problems?

Request more information, get to know the Bren School, or start your online application.

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