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Sciences PhD

Program outline (cliquez ici pour la version française)

Unique characteristics – why consider the Environmental Sciences PhD program?

The distinctive feature of the program lies in its’ multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approach. The program fosters the development and the integration of knowledge from various research fields associated with the Environmental Sciences. Our goal is to train students to become high calibre researchers that specialise in one or several disciplines of Environmental Sciences. Students will develop the ability to formulate research problems, analyse the dynamics of environmental systems, devise research strategies, and carry out independent and original research based on a criteria of excellence.

The philosophy of the program demands that current and future Doctors of Environmental Sciences are and will be capable of understanding and facing complex problems that transcend their own discipline, as candidates will be called to work in concert with professionals and specialists from various research fields. Through a program of comprehensive training, we prepare students so that they will be recognized nationally and internationally for their active participation and clear contributions towards the resolution of natural or anthropogenic environmental problems.

Methods of training – Teaching goals and resources

The training of scientists capable of transcending disciplinary borders, establishing interfaces with different disciplines in the Environmental Sciences and who are conscious of the dynamic interrelationships within an environment, is the primary objective of the PhD program. To achieve this end, the program depends on active participation of faculty members from various departments, particularly those from the departments of Chemistry, Geography, Biological Sciences, Sociology, Education, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences and other. The program is an integral component of the Institute of Environmental Sciences (IES) and benefits from the IES’ multi-departmental resources and facilities. Further, resources and facilities from various inter-university research centres such as CINBIOSE (Centre of Interdisciplinary Research in Biology, Health, Society, and the Environment), GEOTOP (Geochemistry and Geodynamics Research Centre), CFR (Centre for Forest Research), GRIL (Inter-university Research Group in Limnology and Aquatic Environments), ESCER (Centre for the study and simulation of regional scale climate) and TOXEN (Research Centre in Environmental Toxicology) are readily available. There is also a multilateral agreement in place with UQAC, UQAR, UQAT and UQTR, that allows students to use resources from each of these partner institutions or to be registered in these institutions.

The PhD program draws expertise from approximately 96 professors from various university departments and government laboratories entitled to supervise students. Faculty members are leaders in their fields and provide the highest quality research training.

Some information on students

As of April 2012, more than 125 PhD students were registered in the program, enrolled at UQAM, UQAC, UQAR, UQAT, or UQTR.

Students come from various educational backgrounds and diverse geographical origins; thus, bringing different points of view and stimulating charged discussion, from which new concepts and ideas to resolve or alleviate environmental problems emerge (cf. lists of current students and graduates)

Since the programs’ inception in 1987, 239 students have obtained their PhD degree. Many of our graduates now occupy teaching and/or research positions at accredited universities, government institutions, or work in the private sector. Graduates with a PhD in Environmental Sciences are active researchers in various countries in the Americas and Europe, in particular.

Program structure

The program (total of 90 credits) requires the development and writing of a thesis (60 credits) on an original research subject related to the Environmental Sciences, and based on a thesis proposal (ENV9301; 3 credits) submitted at the beginning of the PhD program. The thesis proposal, written in a manner similar to a grant application, is presented and evaluated by the student’s advisory committee, which consists of the student’s supervisor (potentially a co-supervisor) and two other researchers knowledgeable in the proposed field of study.

Multi-disciplinarity is stressed by means of involvement in a number of mandatory activities:

  • the basic course requirement Dynamics of Environmental Systems (ENV9501; 6 credits, given jointly by several faculty members from different disciplines) (this course requires a functional knowledge of spoken French);
  • Interdisciplinary Seminars on Environmental Issues (ENV9101 and ENV9200; 3 credits each, given at the beginning and near the completion of the PhD program, by 2 professors);
  • Environmental Synthesis (ENV9402; 9 credits). This activity, essentially a written review and oral examination on a subject different from (but related to) the student’s thesis, constitutes the pre-doctoral examination;
  • A multi-disciplinary course of your choice (see list of available course options).
  • A graduate-level course offered by one of the participating departments or alternatively in another University if pre-approved.

Research fields

The Environmental Sciences PhD program includes a diverse array of research fields; notable among them are: Environmental Biotechnology, Water Cycle & Water Quality Research, Applied & Theoretical Ecology (such as alternative forest management), Atmospheric & Ocean Sciences Research, and Environmental Toxicology.

The thesis is conducted under the supervision of a faculty member in a research field such one of those mentioned above, or in an area of research related to Environmental Sciences.

Conditions of admission

The conditions of admission include a Masters degree or equivalent in Chemistry, Physical Geography, Applied Mathematics, Biological Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Atmospheric Sciences, Earth Sciences, or in another [D1]discipline related to the proposed field of study, with a grade point average of at least 3.2 out of 4.3, or equivalent. Applications from candidates with an average lower than 3.2 but greater than 2.8 out of 4.3 will be reviewed by the Admissions and Evaluation sub-committee, which will make the final recommendation for possible admission into the program.

In certain cases, applicants having only a Bachelor’s degree, but possessing a strong background knowledge, training and experience in the proposed field of study, may be considered for admission. Evidence of prior research experience (i.e. published papers) is usually sought in such cases.

To be able to succeed in this graduate-level academic setting, the student must have sufficient knowledge of both French and English (oral and written).

A preliminary project outline of the thesis, written by the student, must accompany the admissions application. Additionally, an agreement of acceptance, in principal, from the student’s potential supervisor is required upon submission of the application form. The project outline should confirm that the necessary material and financial resources are available to carry out the research within the standard time limits to complete the program. This will allow the Admissions committee to assess the applicant’s background knowledge, the feasibility of the research, and to determine the compatibility of the proposed research within the scope of the Environmental Sciences PhD program.