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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Graduate Student Handbook

AOS Handbook: Program Overview

This handbook is intended for graduate students who are pursuing M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. The UW-Madison Graduate School is the ultimate authority for granting graduate degrees at the University. The Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (hereafter AOS) administers its graduate degree program under the authority of the Graduate School.

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general University requirements. Program authority to set degree requirements beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the AOS faculty. The policies described in this handbook have been approved by the program faculty as a whole. Degrees and course requirements may change over time. However, students must meet the degree and course requirements in effect when they entered the program. In addition, administrative procedures and processes can change over time.

Students are required to follow the procedures and processes listed in the current handbook. The information in this handbook should also be supplemented by individual consultation with your advisor and committee so that individual needs/interests and all degree requirements are met. Additional information is available via the Department’s graduate program web page. Students may also wish to consult the Graduate School’s web page for current students.

Key Terms Where these regulations refer to the “chair,” this typically means the chair of AOS. “Graduate chair” refers to the AOS associate chair for graduate studies. “Faculty” refers to the faculty of AOS.

Key Individuals and Roles (as of May 2024)

  • Department Chair: Prof. Ankur Desai (, 608-265-9201)
  • Associate Chair of Graduate Studies: Prof. Larissa Back (, 608-262-0776)
  • Graduate Program Manager, Research MS and PhD.: Dee Van Ruyven (, 608-262-2827)
  • Graduate Program Manager, Professional MS: Kaitlyn Heinlein (, 608-262-0777)
  • Department Administrator: Christi Balas Levenson, 608-262-2829)
  • Research Administrator: Carolyn Lipke (, 608-890-4381)
  • Department Systems Programmer: Pete Pokrandt (, 608-262-3086)

Program statistics/prospects Our faculty has long maintained breadth and special strength in three areas:

  • Climate systems, including the ocean
  • Satellite meteorology and remote sensing
  • Weather systems, including synoptic-dynamic meteorology

We pursue research with a combination of theory, modeling, and diagnostic studies. We support this work with a foundation of first-year graduate core courses, and an appealing range of electives for both graduate and undergraduate students. Many other excellent course opportunities are found in more than a dozen related science departments on our campus. We collaborate closely with research groups on satellite/remote sensing and climate systems including the Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC), the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS), the Center for Climate Research (CCR), and the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE). The department is home to the Wisconsin State Climatology Office (SCO).

Since 1948 we have grown into one of the best-known departments in our field of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. We aim to sustain strong, nationally recognized graduate and undergraduate programs. At any one time, we typically have 60 graduate students in the program, and we graduate about 15 Ph.D. and M.S. students each year. Our graduates obtain employment in academia, in research labs, and in the commercial sector. M.S. students normally finish within 2-2.5 years. The Ph.D. typically requires 4 additional years, though it is possible to complete the degree more quickly in some cases.

Program Structure and Governance Currently the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (AOS) has several faculty and support staff. The faculty of AOS are:

  • Adames-Corraliza, Ángel (Associate Professor)
  • Back, Larissa (Professor, Associate Chair of Graduate Studies)
  • Desai, Ankur (Professor, Department Chair)
  • Henderson, David (Assistant Professor)
  • Henderson, Stephanie (Assistant Professor)
  • Hitchman, Matt (Professor)
  • Holloway, Tracey (Professor, joint appointment with Civil and Environmental Engineering and in the Nelson Institute)
  • Lang, Andrea (Associate Professor)
  • L’Ecuyer, Tristan (Professor, Director of Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies)
  • Maroon, Elizabeth (Assistant Professor)
  • Martin, Jonathan (Professor, Faculty Director of Professional MS, Associate Chair of Undergraduate Studies)
  • Morgan, Michael (Professor, ON LEAVE)
  • Oyola-Merced, Mayra (Assistant Professor)
  • Petty, Grant (Professor)
  • Pierce, Brad (Professor, Director of Space Science and Engineering Center)
  • Rowe, Angela (Assistant Professor)
  • Vimont, Dan (Professor)
  • Wagner, Till (Assistant Professor)
  • Zanowski, Hannah (Assistant Professor)

In addition to the above faculty, a number of academic staff researchers, both inside and outside AOS, are actively involved in supervising AOS graduate students on funded research projects, especially within SSEC, CCR, and SAGE. A complete listing of faculty and affiliated research staff, along with links to faculty and staff web pages, can be found here.

Day-to-day management of the department is overseen by the department chair and department administrator in consultation with the two associate chairs.

Major policy decisions and other departmental initiatives are generally referred to the full faculty (consisting of all tenured and untenured professors), which typically meets the first Wednesday of each month during the academic year. These meetings are open and are often attended by representatives from the staff and graduate students.

Much of the specialized governance work of the faculty is delegated to a variety of standing committees, the most significant of which include

  • Alumni Committee: Responsible for maintaining ties between the department and AOS alumni and for overseeing the production of the annual newsletter.
  • Assessment Committee: Oversees annual activities mandated by the college to assess and report on the quality of selected aspects of our undergraduate and graduate programs.
  • Awards Committee: Identifies and, where appropriate, pursues opportunities to seek recognition for deserving members of our students, staff, and faculty.
  • Colloquium Committee: Schedules outside speakers for our Monday Colloquium series and facilitates travel arrangements.
  • Curriculum Committee: Broadly responsible for monitoring and responding to issues relating to our undergraduate and graduate curricula, including course proposals, degree requirements, learning objectives, etc.
  • Graduate Admissions Committee: Meets in early Spring Semester to evaluate applications for Fall admission to our graduate program and at other times as needed.
  • Graduate Program Committee: Consisting of the department chair, the associate chair of graduate studies, both program coordinators, the department administrator, and up to two faculty and two student representatives, this committee oversees the conduct of the graduate program and responds to specific policy issues as they arise.
  • Merit Review Committee: Consisting of the Department Chair and two elected faculty, this committee conducts the annual merit review exercise for faculty and academic staff.
  • Advancement Process Committee: The Advancement Process (AP) committee is a major standing committee in the AOS department. Its membership consists of at least five AOS faculty members who serve up to three-year terms and the Graduate Program Coordinator. The AP committee meets each semester to review and provide recommendations to the full faculty on student advancement

In addition to the above committees, the Executive Committee, consisting of all tenured professors, is responsible for decisions related to personnel hiring and retention, salary, and allocation of departmental resources. Unlike departmental meetings, Executive Committee meetings are closed.