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Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (AOS)

PhD (ISCED 2011 level 8)



The Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (AOS) offers graduate study under the sponsorship of the Department of Geosciences. The Princeton AOS graduate program emphasizes theoretical studies and numerical model studies of the global climate system, and applicants are expected to have a strong background in natural sciences and mathematics.

The AOS program benefits from the research capabilities of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory(GFDL) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Many GFDL scientists are active in the AOS program as lecturers, and major supercomputer resources within GFDL are accessible to students for their research. The Department of Geosciences, with its activities in physical and chemical oceanography, paleoclimatology and atmospheric sciences collaborates with GFDL in providing a comprehensive program of courses and seminars.

The flexible graduate program offers students opportunities for research and courses in a wide range of disciplines, including geophysical fluid dynamics, atmospheric physics, atmospheric chemistry, biogeochemistry of the land and ocean, atmospheric modeling, ocean modeling, climate dynamics, global climate change and paleo-climate. Through the Science, Technology and Environmental Policy (STEP) Program at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Princeton Environmental Institute, students can explore climate- [and air pollution-] related policy.

How to Apply

A student applying to the program is expected to have met the requirements for a bachelor’s degree in physical science, engineering, or mathematics prior to enrollment.

We encourage students to apply online.

Other information may be obtained by visiting Princeton University's Graduate School Admission website.

All applicants to the program are required to submit the results of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test.

Program of Studies

A student usually takes seven to ten courses during his/her first two years to prepare for the General Examination.  The General Examination is normally administered in the spring of the second year. This exam consists of two parts. Students take a written examination covering the basics of meteorology, oceanography and geophysical fluid dynamics.  Each student is also asked to give an hour-long seminar in which he/she presents and defends his/her work on an original research problem.

When the student passes the General Examination, he/she pursues research for the Ph.D. thesis. This may or may not be a continuation of the research that was used as the basis for his/her General Examination seminar. Normally the thesis is finished at the end of the student's fourth year in the program. Each thesis must be approved by the student's faculty advisor and two other faculty members who act as readers. The student defends his/her thesis at the Final Public Oral Examination. Final acceptance of the dissertation is conditional on passing this examination.


The Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Program (AOS) occupies Sayre Hall on Princeton’s Forrestal Campus (located about 3 miles from the main University Campus). Sayre Hall is home to a portion of the AOS Program’s students and faculty, as well as the administrative offices. Across the street from Sayre Hall, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory(GFDL) maintains a high level of collaboration with AOS and is home to the majority of the AOS Program’s students and faculty.

All students have access to the main GFDL computing facility, which includes an Altix cluster of 8000 processors with a peak performance of 50 teraflops, attached to 515TB of near-line storage and 17PB of tape archive. Access to these facilities is through a network of Linux workstations.

Financial Aid

All first year graduate students are supported by a Science and Engineering fellowship from Princeton University’s Graduate School (stipend plus tuition). Additional support during the next four years can be from a variety of sources, including the AOS Research Program cooperative agreement, project grants awarded to individual faculty members from industry or government, or through Assistantship in Instruction. A few University fellowships are also available. Students are also encouraged to apply for National Science Foundation, Department of Energy and/or NASA Fellowships. Various funds are also available to support summer studies, fieldwork, and other research away from campus.

Medical Insurance

All enrolled graduate students are automatically enrolled in the Student Health Plan (SHP) insurance coverage, which covers off-campus specialty care and hospitalization. Students may also elect to participate in optional vision and dental plans that provide benefits beyond those included in the SHP for an additional fee.

Structural components
Laboratory training
Practical/Field work
Research Project

ISCED Categories

Conservation and environmental management
Physical and chemical oceanography