Earth and Environmental Sciences

Program Category: PhD Programs
Chair: Jerry McManus
Director of Graduate Studies: Sidney Hemming
Degree Programs: Full-Time: MA, MPhil, PhD

The goal of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (DEES) is to educate future scientists who may follow careers in academia, research, government, and industry. Along the way, our students move swiftly from receiving knowledge to creating it. All the facilities and equipment necessary for modern studies in the Earth and environmental sciences are available for students in the department. Most of our faculty are scientists based at the renowned Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, located on its own beautiful wooded campus, and most DEES students conduct their research at LDEO. LDEO is one of the largest geoscience research institutions in the country, guaranteeing a broad and deep education, with ~150 post-Ph.D. scientists, most of whom may serve as students’ advisors. LDEO is the biggest research institute within the Columbia Earth Institute, an umbrella organization uniting all of the Earth-oriented science being conducted at Columbia, and connecting the sciences with policy and social sciences. Some of our students are based at the American Museum of Natural History with advisors in the Departments of Earth and Planetary Sciences or Paleontology, and other students conduct their research at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) with advisors who are Research Scientists there. GISS is part of NASA and is located near the Morningside campus. Scientists at GISS conduct theoretical and experimental research in climate, planetary atmospheres, and astrophysics. Some members of DEES have joint appointments in Columbia’s Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics and Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering.

The 21st century will be the century of the geosciences, with climate change and sea-level rise, volcanic, earthquake, tsunami hazards, and the need for carbon sequestration just a few of the many challenges. An exciting development in 2020 is the founding of the Columbia Climate School, the first new School at Columbia in 25 years, and Lamont/AMNH/GISS will be at the center of it, making geoscience research here even better than it already is.

For our PhD program, passion about the Earth and environmental sciences is the main ingredient we are looking for in students. Even if you lack some key background courses (math or chemistry for instance), we often admit students who take them the summer before or during their first semester of enrollment. Our Ph.D. students are guaranteed graduate fellowships covering 12 months of salary for 5 years, as well as Columbia housing. Moreover, to give students a measure of independence and flexibility, each one receives a research allowance of $1000 per year.

Special Admissions Requirements

In addition to the requirements listed below, all students must submit one transcript showing courses and grades per school attended, a statement of academic purpose, a personal statement, and three letters of evaluation from academic sources.

All international students whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate degree is from an institution in a country whose official language is not English must submit scores of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or IELTS.

For more information, refer to our Admissions Information and Frequently Asked Questions pages.


An undergraduate major in engineering or in one or more of the natural sciences is required.

Strongly recommended: one college year, with high record of chemistry, mathematics, and physics. Additional competence is required for graduate work in certain branches.

Application Requirements

*GSAS will accept up to four recommendations, regardless of the number required by your program of interest. However, to be eligible for admission at GSAS, at least TWO letters must be submitted by academic recommenders.