The Handbook is the official source of information about the graduate program. We encourage you to contact us if you would like to clarify any points of confusion. 

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Welcome to the Graduate Program in Land and Atmospheric Science (LAAS) at the University of Minnesota. The Department of Soil, Water, and Climate (SWAC) created this graduate program in 2009. It is a science-based interdisciplinary program focused on the fundamentals of Earth system processes related to land and atmosphere and their coupled interactions. Students have the option to develop a program based on one of the more traditional areas in atmospheric science or soil science or to design their own interdisciplinary course of study bridging the two disciplines. 

Our program has 44 faculty members that advise students and serve on graduate examination committees, and an approximate 4:3 faculty-to-graduate student ratio. Environmental science topics constitute the majority of research conducted in the department, with a core focus on the emerging area of land-atmosphere interactions. 

The co-Directors of Graduate Study are Profs. Dylan Millet and Fabián Fernández.

This handbook does not reflect the most current information and protocols regarding COVID-19. Please regularly refer to the University’s Covid-19 website for updates.


The Land and Atmospheric Science Graduate Program has no formal tracks or emphasis areas, but instead allows students to design a curriculum that addresses their interests within the scope of the program. 


Research topics in Land and Atmospheric Science are diverse and highly interdisciplinary. Graduate students and faculty work together on both applied and basic science problems. Current research is focused on: biogeochemical cycles of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus; climate variability and change; impacts of climate variation on natural and managed ecosystems; the sources, transport, and fate of pollutants in soil, air, and water; environmental and atmospheric chemistry; improving and protecting land, air, and water quality; developing sustainable practices to ensure high quality agricultural products; and modeling the complex interactions between the land and atmosphere. 

Research in LAAS is funded through many sources including the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, United States Department of Agriculture, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, State Agencies, Commodity groups, endowments and other sources.

Department, College, and University

Department of Soil, Water, and Climate

The Department of Soil, Water, and Climate (SWAC) currently has 31 faculty members, with 28 based on the St. Paul Campus and the others based at Research and Outreach Centers (ROC) in Crookston, Lamberton, and Waseca. USDA-ARS scientists also hold adjunct professorships in Land and Atmospheric Science. They participate fully in all departmental activities, including guiding graduate students and serving on departmental committees, but do not teach formal courses. 

We participate in two of the undergraduate majors and three undergraduate minors in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS): 

  • Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management 
  • Agricultural Industries and Marketing 
  • Climatology
  • Soil Science
  • Water Science

The Department is housed in Borlaug Hall, the Soil Science Building, and the Crops Research Building. 

College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Sciences

The Department of Soil, Water, and Climate is one of thirteen departments in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS). Other CFANS departments include Animal Science; Applied Economics; Agricultural Education; Agronomy and Plant Genetics; Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering; Entomology; Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology; Food Science and Nutrition; Forest Resources; Horticultural Science; Plant Biology; and Plant Pathology.

The Minnesota Agricultural Research And Outreach Center

The Minnesota Agricultural Research and Outreach Center was established by the state legislature in 1885, two years before Congress allocated funds to set up agricultural Research and Outreach Centers at land grant universities in each of the states. As an integral component of the three-part function of the land grant university system - teaching, research, extension -  the Center’s mission is to organize and support not only University of Minnesota scientists who conduct research on the production, processing, marketing, distribution, and quality agricultural products, but also those who study ways to improve forests and forest products, human nutrition, family and community life, recreation and tourism, and overall environmental quality in Minnesota. Although the Center’s research projects range from the very basic to the highly applied, all are mission-oriented. Above all else, the emphasis is on high-quality research that meets the long- and short-term needs of Minnesota and its people. 

Research and Outreach Centers

CFANS leads ten unique Research and Outreach Centers (ROC) in communities throughout Minnesota. The centers support research that enhances the quality of agricultural production, human health, renewable energy and the environment, and disseminate the benefits of this research to the public.

  • Cloquet Forestry Center — Cloquet
  • North Central Research and Outreach Center — Grand Rapids
  • Northwest Research and Outreach Center — Crookston
  • Southern Research and Outreach Center — Waseca
  • Southwest Research and Outreach Center — Lamberton
  • West Central Research and Outreach Center — Morris
  • Rosemount Research and Outreach Center — Rosemount
  • Horticultural Research Center — Chaska
  • Sand Plain Research Farm — Becker
  • Hubachek Wilderness Research Center — Ely

University of Minnesota 

The University of Minnesota, founded in the belief that all people are enriched by understanding, is dedicated to the advancement of learning and the search for truth; to the sharing of this knowledge through education for a diverse community; and to the application of this knowledge to benefit the people of the state, the nation and the world. The University's threefold mission of research and discovery, teaching and learning, and outreach and public service is carried out on multiple campuses and throughout the state.

The University of Minnesota was chartered in 1851, seven years before the Territory of Minnesota became a state. It began as a preparatory school, was beset by financial crises during its early years, and was forced to close during the Civil War. In 1869 the University reopened its doors with 9 faculty members and 18 students. Two students graduated at the University’s first commencement in 1873. The first PhD was awarded in 1888 and the Graduate School celebrated its 100th anniversary during the 1987-88 academic year. 

Today the University is one of the largest in the U.S. On the Twin Cities campus alone there are 16 colleges, 275 departments, and more than 20,000 employees and 50,000 students. The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities has three campuses – East Bank (Minneapolis), St. Paul Campus (St Paul), and West Bank (Minneapolis). The University system also includes branches at Duluth, Morris, Crookston, and Rochester.

University & College Leadership

Joan T.A. Gabel President
Rachel Croson Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost
Scott Lanyon Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education
Brian Buhr Dean, CFANS
Milena Saqui-Salces Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Programs, CFANS
Frances Homans Associate Dean for Academic Programs and Faculty Affairs, CFANS
Beverly R. Durgan Dean, University of Minnesota Extension
Michael Schmitt Associate Dean, University of Minnesota Extension
Anne Ruud Graduate Programs Specialist, CFANS

Department Facilities & Services

General Information and Office Staff

The main office of the Department of Soil, Water, and Climate is located in 439 Borlaug Hall. The office staff serves as a source of information on University procedures and policies. The staff will help you with any questions or problems you may encounter. If you need to meet with the Department Head, inquire with the office staff or reach out to Kari Jarcho via email

Administrative Staff

Kari Jarcho 439 Borlaug Graduate Program Coordinator
Aimee Gillespie 439 Borlaug Communications Specialist
Nicole Smiley 446 Borlaug Administrative Director

The Accounting Office/dropbox is located in 442 Borlaug Hall. 

There are three departmental rooms: 375 Borlaug, 438 Borlaug, and S415 Soils. These rooms are scheduled for meetings, classes, seminars, and other gatherings. There is a wellness room in 444 Borlaug that can be used for nursing, prayers, or meditation. Rooms can be reserved via Google calendar or by contacting the main office.

Mail & Packages 

Graduate student mailboxes are located in 435 Borlaug Hall. Messages and mail are distributed to mailboxes daily. If you plan to be absent for an extended period of time, please let the main office know if you need any special handling for your mail. The campus post office is located in the St. Paul Student Center and a mailbox is located at the main entrance of Borlaug Hall with a 4 PM pickup time. 

Packages are normally delivered to the main office (unless too large). Please complete the signout sheet for any package you are picking up. If you have large equipment coming on a pallet, please inform office staff of expected arrival and have a backup plan in place if needed. Large items can be delivered to the loading docks in Borlaug Hall or the Soil Science Building.


Keys to offices and research laboratories can be obtained from the main office. There is a $5 deposit per key when keys are issued which will be refunded when keys are returned. You will need a valid University of Minnesota ID to be approved for access to the building. 


Campus buildings are locked weeknights, Saturday afternoon, and all day Sunday. Many people have access to building facilities during working hours. Keep items of value out of sight, preferably locked in a desk or cabinet. We encourage you to keep your offices and labs locked when you are not around. Windows should be closed for the evening. If you have valuable articles taken from your workplace, please report it immediately to the University police and the main office. UMN Police (non-emergency): (612) 624-2677 | [email protected] 

UMN Email and ID Card 

Claim your UMN email address

You will receive an email at your personal email address with a link to activate your UMN email. Please be sure to follow that link as soon as possible, as the temporary password associated with the link will expire after a certain period. For other information regarding your UMN email account, visit the website: https://my-account.umn.edu/claim-acct 

Get your U Card 

You will receive your first U Card from the U Card Office in Coffman Memorial Union. 
See their website for hours and appropriate forms of identification to bring with you.


Department Newsletter

A weekly newsletter, The Profile, distributed to your departmental email address, is used for departmental announcements, seminars, meetings, job vacancies, social activities and to introduce new people in the Department. Read the most recent newsletter here.

We encourage you to use the newsletter for any announcements you might have; send them via email to Aimee Gillespie for inclusion in the next newsletter. 

The University has a daily student newspaper, Minnesota Daily.

Bulletin Board

The main Departmental Bulletin Board is located outside the Department Office, 439 Borlaug Hall. There you will find information on departmental and interdepartmental seminars, conferences, and social activities, along with information on scholarships, fellowships, special course information and other pertinent announcements. 

Job Postings 

Information regarding available positions is posted in The Profile and on the LAAS Job & Internship Board. The information includes various notices of postdoc and faculty positions available at other institutions.



The Department has a Google Calendar with events, seminars, holidays, and other important dates.

You can import your Canvas calendar to Google Calendar. The calendar feed will contain events and assignments from all of your Canvas calendars.

Computer Room

Computers, printers and graphic arts equipment are available for graduate student use. The computer equipment is stationed in S521 Soils under security arrangements. Guidelines and resources are posted in the computer room.

Printing and Photocopies 

The photocopy machine is located in Room 446 Borlaug Hall and requires a code. Graduate students needing to use the copier for their research or TA duties must get an account number from their PI or instructor. Instructions for connecting to the printer are on the SWAC intranet. There is also a copy center in the St. Paul Student Center across from the bookstore.


Telephones are set up according to your advisor’s recommendation. The main office can also provide you with a departmental phone list. Please let the main office know of any changes.


This self-help guide provides instructions for setting up and using your UMN voicemail.  


The communications specialist will create and update your webpage on the LAAS website.

University Directory 

St. Paul Facilities

Greenhouses and Plant Growth Facilities

Greenhouse space is managed by the Resources Coordinating Team; contact Pam Warnke (612-625-3153; [email protected]) for specific questions regarding these facilities or visit the following website for more information: https://www.maes.umn.edu/faculty-researchers/plant-growth-facilities/greenhouses  

Growth Chambers 

The Department of Soil, Water, and Climate operates 6 Conviron and 2 EGC controlled environment chambers located in 196 Borlaug Hall. They are equipped with fully programmable temperature, lighting, and humidity controls. A user fee is assessed to cover operating expenses. Be sure to determine if a greenhouse will work as well as a growth chamber before requesting this premium space. To get access to the chambers, contact Thor Sellie (612- 625-2712; [email protected]). 

Research Analytical Laboratory & Soil Testing Laboratory

The Department of Soil, Water, and Climate operates these facilities to serve the soil testing needs of the public and of researchers, and to help support the research done at the University. The facility performs chemical analyses on a fee-per-sample basis. See the laboratory service request sheets available in Crops Research 135 for available tests and prices. Their websites are: http://soiltest.cfans.umn.edu/ and https://ral.cfans.umn.edu/

Soil and Plant Sample Handling, Cold Storage, General Storage, Autoclaves

Cold storage is available in 174A and 174B Borlaug Hall and 7 Crops Research. Label, date and inventory your items. 

General storage is available in several locations. See your advisor if you need storage space. Do not use greenhouse rooms, hallways, or other common areas for this purpose. 

Autoclaves and instructions for their use are in 290 Borlaug. Access must be obtained by bringing your UCard to the main office. 

Larger quantities of soil or plant material can be dried, stored, cleaned, ground or otherwise prepared for analysis in the Crop Service building. Containers have been provided for disposal of plant and soil material; do not dispose of them in the dumpster. Please see Thor Sellie for assistance (612-625-2712; [email protected]).

Equipment Maintenance & Fabrication

Wood Shop

There is a wood shop available for use in the Agronomy Seed House; while the equipment is older and limited it is in good working condition and available at no charge. 

Electronics Shop

There is an electronics shop that can provide assistance and help you source supplies: https://depot.ece.umn.edu/

Machine Shops 

There is a machine shop on the St. Paul campus: https://cbs.umn.edu/machine-shop

There is also a mechanical shop in the Farm and Grounds Maintenance Building (1866 Dudley Ave.) operated by Ag. Services (612-625-7817). Vehicle and equipment maintenance and service is available for a fee.


Vehicles can be rented on a daily/weekly/monthly time period from Fleet Services. The service is very convenient and parking is available at no cost. For more details see their website at https://www.pts.umn.edu/fleet/vehicle-rental

The University of Minnesota vehicle use policy can be viewed at the following URL: http://policy.umn.edu/finance/vehicles


We will do whatever we can to provide you with a safe work environment but this is only possible if you practice safe work habits. Safety should be practiced at all times, especially while operating equipment, using or being around hazardous materials, or working outdoors under extreme conditions. Project leaders and supervisors are responsible for the safety and well being of their employees, and are required to instruct you in safe procedures for working in your workplace. 

Safety training is required of all employees and includes both video and in-person training depending on the employee’s work environment: https://dehs.umn.edu/cfans-safety-training

To document this training, please use the CFANS “Worker Training Requirement Checklist”. Training should be updated as the work environment of the employee changes, noting these changes on the checklist. Annual refresher training is also helpful and should be documented as well. Finally, while the supervisor has responsibility to provide training, employees must also be aware of hazards in their work environment, ask questions as needed and obtain safety-related guidance whenever the work situation calls for it. 

For minor cuts and scrapes, there is a supply of bandages, gauze, antiseptic etc. in the Soil, Water, and Climate main office, 439 Borlaug Hall, as well as a very well stocked first aid cabinet located in room 412 Borlaug Hall. 

Bring any safety concerns you may have to a member of the safety committee. 


In conclusion, our Department has some excellent research facilities available for you. Please use them fully, but don’t abuse them. If we all treat these facilities with care, they will be available in good order the next time you want to use them.

Campus Facilities and Services

Student Support Resources

University Regents Scholarship

The Regents Scholarship Program covers a portion of tuition costs for eligible employees enrolled in the University of Minnesota credit-bearing courses. To download an application or more information about eligibility, the website is https://onestop.umn.edu/finances/regents-scholarship-program 

International Services 

Counseling and advisory services are provided for personnel from other countries by the International Student and Scholar Services in 190 Humphrey School, (626-7100). It provides assistance to those seeking information about visa regulations; federal, state and local regulations governing foreign nations; English language; and other educational, social and personal problems.

Police Escort Service 

The University of Minnesota Police Department offers an escort service to the University community and is available 24 hours a day during the school year. Call 612-624-WALK.

All-Gender Restroom Map 

All-Gender restrooms are available across campus. To locate them, reference this online map.

Boynton Health Service 

St. Paul Clinic is a small satellite clinic. The staff includes licensed and certified physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, licensed practical nurses, and certified medical assistants. Located at 109 Coffey Hall, St. Paul, MN 55108. Hours vary and are listed on their website.

Career & Internship Services  

Located in the Student Affairs Office. Provides assistance to those students who wish to learn more about themselves as they develop in an educational setting. Counseling services include the areas of academic or educational decisions, vocational or career planning, personal or family problems, marital relationships, and other concerns. Assistance is offered to develop reading and study skills (190 Coffey Hall, 625-3115). Assistance for career related questions can be directed to the St. Paul Campus Career Center, which is located in 198 McNeal Hall. 

Athletic Facilities 

The University offers extensive indoor and outdoor athletic facilities and opportunities for use by all students, staff and faculty. Students may purchase reduced price tickets for intercollegiate athletic events. The recreational sports program is designed to provide opportunities for students to participate in a wide variety of competitive and noncompetitive, organized and informal sports activities. Gyms are located in Minneapolis and St. Paul, housing basketball, volleyball and racquetball courts, swimming pools, etc. Outdoor facilities include tennis courts and golf courses. The rec center website can be found here

On-Campus and Off-Campus Housing Information 

Housing information may be obtained from the Housing Offices: Comstock Hall, 210 Delaware Street SE, Mpls. Campus (4-2994) and 190 Coffey Hall, St. Paul.
Visit the housing website.


Bus Service 

The Campus Shuttles connect the Minneapolis/St. Paul segments of the Twin Cities campus. 

The Metro Transit bus line also runs between the Minneapolis and St. Paul Campuses and throughout the metro along with the rail lines. Schedules are also available in Minneapolis and St. Paul Campus Student Unions. 


Parking is available on a per day or contract basis. The nearest lots are on Gortner (ramp), Upper Buford Circle and on the Fairgrounds. Parking availability is through Student Commuter Contract Services--lotteries are held each semester. Announcements for scheduled lottery drawings are stated in the MN Daily campus newspaper. Further details are available from the Parking Services Office (612-626-7275) or https://www.pts.umn.edu/park

Other Options 

The Transportation Services Division also provides information on rail lines, bicycling resources, and using walking paths through tunnels during inclement weather at http://pts.umn.edu/ 

Places to Eat on Campus 

The St. Paul Student Center offers a few options nearby (Terrace Café Food Court, Subway, and the Gopher Spot) and Lori’s Coffee House and Mim’s Café are right across Cleveland Ave from campus at Buford Ave. Hours vary and may change during the summer months. 

There are extensive vending machines located on the second floor in McNeal Hall. A microwave and change machine are also available.

The Nutritious U Food Pantry provides fresh and healthy food to students that struggle to get enough to eat. Any student can visit the food pantry, no proof of need is needed. 
Rebecca Leighton, advisor | (612) 301-2248 |
[email protected]

Human Resources

The administrative director Nicole Smiley serves as the Department Human Resource officer and provides information and sources to contact regarding any personnel or grievance matters. 

Contract and governing documents that cover the various positions at the University of Minnesota are located here.


Student payroll is handled by finance. All time is recorded in MyU:My Finances. There are tutorials available to help you navigate the system. Most human resource functions are available at MyU, including viewing paychecks, updating your W-4, changing your W-2, and viewing your sick leave balance. 

All nonresident aliens must work with payroll staff and with International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) to ensure that their human resource information is properly recorded. 


The administrative director serves as your Graduate Assistant Employment Benefits contact person. A benefits packet is distributed by the administrator to new employees in the department, and other relevant forms are available on the Graduate Assistant Employment Benefits website.



You can find basic information about purchasing on the SWAC intranet.

The accounting staff will assist you with ordering supplies, equipment and repairs as authorized by your research advisor. When ordering, you can use either a Purchasing Card (requires approval by supervisor before a card is issued to you) or a Purchase Order. When using a Purchasing Card, remember to give companies the University’s tax exempt ID number listed on the back of the card. Use the billing address that is listed on the informational sheet that comes with your purchasing card. Process justifications for all purchases on your card in a timely manner at My Wallet in the Purchasing tab at MyU. 

Purchase Order forms are on the SWAC intranet. Orders from the University Storehouse and Fisher Scientific can be made online. You must have an account set up in advance, please see the Accounting Office for help in getting an account set up. The UMN purchasing website lists purchasing thresholds and steps to go through BEFORE purchasing an item.  


University policies for reimbursements are outlined here.


Travel authorization and expense report forms must be submitted for University travel. This is handled by the accounting office in 442 Borlaug Hall. Requests for advance travel funds must be processed at least three weeks prior to traveling. Any travel requests require approval by your project leader. Details on the University of Minnesota Travel Policy can be found online or by asking the accounting staff. The UMN travel website lists per diem and mileage rates along with other useful information when traveling on University business. 

Department Programs and Events


An orientation session is conducted for new LAAS graduate students each fall. Pertinent information is presented at this session as well as a tour of the department facilities.

Social Events  

There are several traditional social activities which occur in the department each year. They range from Explore All Traditions (EAT) Night, to holiday parties, to social hours. The graduate students generally organize a weekly happy hour and send emails out about events. 

Graduate Student Luncheons 

These are luncheons put on by the graduate students to raise money to fund the LAAS Graduate Student Association. They usually include a Welcome Lunch, EAT Night, and a holiday lunch. 

Departmental Seminars 

Department seminars are held at 4 PM on Wednesdays. Everyone is encouraged to attend.

The Kuehnast Lecture in the Fields of Meteorology and Climatology is held every fall.

The William E. Larson and Raymond R. Allmaras Emerging Issues in Soil and Water Lecture is held every spring.


The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Libraries is one of the largest library systems in the country with over 7 million books, 109,000 journals, 13 locations, and expert librarians for each department on campus. The Libraries are committed to offering a full range of services for instructors, researchers, and students at the University of Minnesota. 

Library Liaison for the Department of Soil, Water, and Climate

Megan Kocher
82 Magrath Library
[email protected]

Megan is available for one-on-one or group consultations on literature searching, databases, citation managers, pdf organization, copyright, data management, impact factors, and finding grant funding.

St. Paul Campus Libraries

Magrath Library
(Agricultural, Biological, and Environmental Sciences)
1984 Buford Avenue (4-2233)

Natural Resources Library
(Forestry, Entomology, Fisheries, and Wildlife)
375 Hodson Hall (4-9288)

Veterinary Medical Library
(Veterinary Medicine)
450 Veterinary Science (4-4281)

Minneapolis Libraries

Biomedical Library
East Bank
Diehl Hall (6-2227)

Walter Library
(Science & Engineering)
East Bank Walter Library (4-2006)

Wilson Library
(Humanities and Social Sciences)
West Bank Wilson Library (4-3321)

Visit this website for hours and locations of all 13 campus libraries.


The University of Minnesota Libraries have a robust website where you can search collections, chat 24/7, access online databases, journals, tools, and access library services.

Subject-specific Databases

The University Libraries offer access to thousands of journal databases. Our subject librarians have created guides with the top databases in each field. These guides are useful as a starting point in your own field or when selecting databases for interdisciplinary research. Search by subject or course.

Circulation Policies

  • Use your UCard to check out books from the libraries
  • Use the Library website to have books sent to any library on campus for pickup
  • The initial loan period for graduate students, faculty, and staff is 13 weeks, but items can be renewed for up to 2 years if they are not recalled.
  • There is no limit on the number of items that can be checked out at one time.

Interlibrary Loan

Use the Libraries’ Interlibrary Loan service to request books, articles, and other materials that the library does not own. Books requested through this service will be delivered to the campus library of your choice, and most journal articles will be delivered electronically. This service is free of charge.

Course Reserves

For various courses taught in the Department of Soil, Water, and Climate, library materials may be placed on reserve at the instructor’s request. Items on reserve are available on request at the selected library’s service desk. Reserve items may be checked out of the library for two hours at a time when the library is open.

Policies and Practices

A) Administration of the Graduate Program

1) The Graduate School 

The LAAS Graduate Program operates within the general policies and practices of the Graduate School. Details pertaining to the general regulations and organization of the Graduate School are outlined in the Constitution and Bulletin of the Graduate School; both faculty and graduate students should be familiar with these documents. Information summarized in this document is provided as an additional guide to those specifically concerned with advanced studies in Land and Atmospheric Science at the University of Minnesota. 

2) The Graduate Advisory Committee and Director(s) of Graduate Studies 

The general policies of the graduate program are established by the LAAS Graduate Faculty, and are administered by the Graduate Advisory Committee and the Director(s) of Graduate Studies. The Committee is concerned with a number of activities aimed at serving both faculty and graduate students in the maintenance of academic standards without impinging on the student-advisor relationship. Problems related to the progress of a graduate student may be directed to the Committee by either the student or faculty advisor. The Director(s) of Graduate Studies chairs the Graduate Advisory Committee, and is the facilitator for a range of program activities, and signatory for most program documents. Membership of the Graduate Advisory Committee includes the Director(s) of Graduate Studies, four faculty members in the program (three if there are two program co-Directors), and an LAAS student representative. The faculty members span the disciplines in the program and include representation from atmospheric and soils faculty. Members serve elected terms of three years and are eligible for consecutive terms. 

B) Selection of Candidates for Graduate Studies

1) Applications for Admission to the Graduate School and for Financial Assistance 

Applications are completed online. Application materials including official transcripts and TOEFL scores (when applicable) are submitted to the Graduate School; while departmental forms along with three letters of recommendation, and other program specific materials can be posted electronically. While departmental forms along with three letters of recommendation, and other program specific materials should be posted electronically with the application, if an edit or addition is needed, contact Kari Jarcho via email at [email protected]. .

2) Evaluation and Selection of Applicants 

Applicants judged as qualified by the Director(s) of Graduate Study and by the Graduate Advisory Committee are recommended for admission to the Graduate School. The Graduate School will notify the applicant of the decision to accept or reject, but subsequent information on the conditions of appointment and the possibility of financial support will be supplied by the program. The formal review process will normally take 4-6 weeks once all documents have been received. This formal application selection procedure does not preclude faculty members from making preliminary contacts, interviews, and evaluation of potential applicants; these types of contacts are encouraged, particularly if the applicant seeks funding. However, it should be made clear to the applicant during this process that any tentative commitments are subject to approval of the LAAS Graduate Advisory Committee, the Director(s) of Graduate Studies, and the Graduate School. 

3) Basis of acceptance into the Graduate Program of Land and Atmospheric Sciences 

Each applicant will be judged on their overall record, including their undergraduate/graduate training and GPA, letters of recommendation, research or related experience, and personal statement. Particular emphasis will be placed on the student’s performance in upper division courses and in those courses most pertinent to their emphasis area. Competence in English speaking and writing is required.

International students will also be expected to demonstrate English proficiency equivalent to achieving a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score meeting the Graduate School minimum (a score of at least 79 on the Internet-based TOEFL with section scores of 21 on writing and 19 on reading [550 on the paper-based test]). Scores of at least 4 on the Test of Written English (TWE) are also recommended. These scores are not, in themselves, sufficient to permit the student to undertake unrestricted coursework, but are considered adequate for limited coursework on topics familiar to the student. 

Applicants with identified shortcomings in their application but who are judged to have sufficient academic strength to warrant their admission may be accepted on conditional status. The following conditions will then prevail:

  1. a faculty advisor will be assigned on a temporary basis, 
  2. the academic record will be reviewed each semester by the Graduate Advisory Committee, 
  3. unsatisfactory progress in coursework will result in termination of graduate enrollment, 
  4. conditional appointments normally will not carry stipends for at least the first semester. 

The conditional appointment may not extend beyond two semesters. Within this period, the student must be cleared of conditional status by the Graduate Advisory Committee and must have made final arrangements for a faculty advisor. 

Applicants to the LAAS PhD program are expected to have an MS degree or equivalent in a related field of science. Students with a BS degree and outstanding scholarship can request direct admission to the LAAS PhD program. Each request will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the Graduate Advisory Committee. Evidence of outstanding scholarship may include: peer-reviewed publications, a pre-doctoral fellowship, a National Science Foundation Fellowship, high GPA, or strong previous research experience. Current MS candidates who exhibit outstanding scholarship may request transfer to a PhD degree program after completion of their first two semesters of coursework. 

4) Diversity 

The Graduate School embraces the University of Minnesota’s position that promoting and supporting diversity among the student body is central to the academic mission of the University. We define diversity to encompass many characteristics including (but not limited to) economic disadvantage, special talents, evidence of leadership qualities, race or ethnicity, gender identity, a strong work record, and disability. A diverse student body enriches graduate education by providing a multiplicity of views and perspectives that enhance research, teaching, and the development of new knowledge. A diverse mix of students promotes respect for, and opportunities to learn from, others with the broad range of backgrounds and experiences that constitute modern society. Higher education trains the next generation of leaders of academia and society in general, and such opportunities for leadership should be accessible to all members of society. The Graduate School and its constituent graduate programs are therefore committed to providing equal access to educational opportunities through recruitment, admission, and support programs that promote diversity, foster successful academic experiences, and cultivate the leaders of the next generation. 

5) Financial Support

While acceptance into the Graduate School is a requirement for receiving financial assistance, Graduate School admission does not automatically assure the availability of such assistance. Financial assistance is most frequently in the form of research or teaching assistantships that are awarded to the best qualified applicants. Because research assistantships are generally funded through external research grants, their availability is difficult to predict and will vary with time. Most assistantship stipends are based on 0.5 FTE (full-time equivalent) appointments, although appointments at other FTE levels may be made on occasion. Advanced students may be eligible for appointment at a higher FTE rate under some circumstances. Half-time research assistants are expected to carry out research activities during the period of their stipend. The actual time spent on such activities varies, and in some cases, such as summer, may be more than 20 hours per week. The schedule of research is arranged with the advisor. 

Retention of a regular appointment is contingent on continued registration and satisfactory performance in the academic, research, and teaching aspects of the graduate program and the availability of assistantship funds. You must register each semester that the appointment is held during the academic year. Registration during the summer session is not required. 

Graduate students not on a regular assistantship may be supported by fellowships administered by the Graduate School or by non-University agencies, and some may be self-supporting. The same standards of performance and the same obligations to assist in teaching activities pertain to all LAAS graduate students irrespective of status of financial support. 

6) Prerequisites 

Student course admission prerequisites are as shown below. Students admitted with deficiencies will be informed of the courses they are required to take before the completion of their degree to address those deficiencies. The course list will be developed by the Director(s) of Graduate Studies in consultation with the student’s faculty advisor.

Basic Sciences 

Students are expected to have taken a minimum of four of the following courses (or their equivalent): Calculus I (Math 1271 or Math 1142), Linear Algebra (Math 2243), Physics I (Phys 1011) and II (Phys 1012 or ES 3131), Introductory Biology (Biol 1009), Chemistry I (Chem 1021) and II (Chem 1022), or Introductory Statistics (STAT 3011). 

Environmental Sciences 

Students are expected to have taken a minimum of two of the following (or similar) courses: Issues in Environment (ESPM 1011), The Atmosphere (ESPM 1425), Introductory Soils (Soil 2125), Earth and Its Environments (Geol 1001), Introductory Microbiology (ESPM 3612 or Microb 3301), or Introductory Ecology (Biol 3407).

International Students 

International students are strongly encouraged to apply. The International Student and Scholar Services at the University of Minnesota has excellent resources available to assist international students in the application and visa process. They also provide academic and personal counseling. Find out more online: https://isss.umn.edu/   

LAAS Degree Requirements

MS plan A and B and PhD


The program aims to educate and train students in the fundamentals of Earth system processes related to land and atmosphere and the coupled interactions between the two. Coursework consists of unifying core classes in Land & Atmospheric Science for all students, plus graduate electives spanning soil science, ecosystem processes, and atmospheric science.

The LAAS program offers no formal tracks. Students may choose either a Soil Science or the Atmospheric Science area of interest or, in consultation with their graduate committee, may design a rigorous course of study that spans across these areas, according to their own specific focus within Land & Atmospheric Science (for example, biogeochemical cycling, environmental chemistry, biometeorology, etc). 

Students should work closely with their advisors to determine a suitable set of courses for their particular area of study. These courses should give the student skills to address scientific problems that are inherently multidisciplinary. Courses selected for the Degree Program must be approved by the advisor and Director of Graduate Studies, preferably by the end of the first year after admission. 

Registration Requirements and Deadlines 

All admitted and current full-time students need to be registered for a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 14 credits by the deadline for fall and spring semester. Important dates and deadlines are available online.

Special Registration Categories 

As you approach the end of your studies, you will have a choice of options to remain enrolled but not take coursework. These special registration categories have different benefits and costs. Please work with your advisor and program coordinator to find out what will work best for your situation. Explanations of the different options can be found online.

Assignment of Advisor

The Director(s) of Graduate Studies will appoint a research advisor at the time the student enters the graduate program. The advisor assists the student in planning their academic program and will start the student on the research phase of the program as soon as feasible. It is considered implicit in all advisor-advisee affiliations that the entering student has the opportunity during the first two semesters in residence to change advisors, providing mutually satisfactory arrangements can be made with all the staff members concerned, particularly where assistantship appointments are involved. The Graduate Advisory Committee may be asked by staff members or by students to assist in such arrangements. Students with a program already well under way are advised that changes in the advisor affiliation may result in additional time for degree completion and may jeopardize any previous arrangements for financial assistance. 

When you have identified a faculty member and they have agreed to serve as your major advisor, contact the Graduate Program Coordinator, Kari Jarcho (in the instance where this was not already established at the time of admittance). The advisor will be recorded in University records and forwarded to the Director(s) of Graduate Study for approval. If you change your thesis topic and need to change your major advisor or co-advisor, you may do so in the same way. All MS and PhD students are expected to complete an annual review form.