Graduate Program Head

Mary Ann Bruns

Program CodeBGC
Campus(es)University Park
Degrees ConferredDual-Title
The Graduate Faculty


Students electing this degree program through participating programs earn a degree with a dual-title in the Ph.D., e.g., Ph.D. in (graduate program name) and Biogeochemistry.

The following graduate programs offer dual-title Ph.D. degrees in Biogeochemistry:

  • Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Engineering (ENV_E)
  • Geosciences
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • Plant Pathology
  • Soil Science

The Biogeochemistry dual-title degree program is administered by the Department of Geosciences with support from the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management for the participating graduate programs. A program committee with representatives from participating departments maintains program definition, identifies courses appropriate to the program, and recommends policy and procedures for the program's operation to the dean of the Graduate School and to the deans of the participating colleges.

The dual-title degree program is offered through participating programs in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, College of Agricultural Sciences, College of Engineering, Eberly College of Science, and the Intercollege Graduate Degree Programs.

The program enables students from several graduate programs to gain the perspectives, techniques, and methodologies of Biogeochemistry, while maintaining a close association with major program areas of study.

Admission Requirements

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements listed in GCAC-208 Dual-Title Graduate Degree Programs.

Graduate students with research and educational interests in biogeochemistry may apply to the Biogeochemistry dual-title degree program. For admission to pursue a dual-title degree under this program, a student must apply to (1) the Graduate School and (2) one of the participating major graduate programs; and then subsequently to (3) the Biogeochemistry program committee. Students may only apply to the dual-title program once they have been accepted into a major program. Once a student has been accepted to a major program, application to the dual-title degree program can occur immediately or at a later time, such as upon matriculation. The application to the dual-title degree program, however, must be accepted before the qualifying examination in the major program is scheduled.

Candidates must submit transcripts of their undergraduate and graduate course work, a written personal statement indicating their interests in the interdisciplinary area of Biogeochemistry and the career goals they hope to serve by attaining a Biogeochemistry dual-title, and a statement of support from their dissertation adviser, if assigned. A strong undergraduate preparation in the basic sciences is expected, with evidence of an interest in multiple disciplines.

Degree Requirements

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements listed in GCAC-208 Dual-Title Graduate Degree Programs.

To qualify for a dual-title degree, students must satisfy the requirements of the major graduate program in which they are enrolled, in addition to the minimum requirements of the Biogeochemistry program. Students are required to have two advisers from separate disciplines: one individual serving as a primary adviser in their major degree program (i.e., Soil Science, BMMB, Material Science & Engineering, Chemistry, Ecology, Environmental Engineering, Geosciences, or Plant Pathology) and a secondary adviser in an area within a field covered by the dual-title program who is a member of the Biogeochemistry Graduate Faculty. The major program adviser normally will also be a member of the Biogeochemistry Graduate Faculty. The two faculty advisers can represent different academic programs, but this is not required, as faculty from a scientifically diverse department could represent very different areas of expertise.

To fulfill the course requirements for the dual-title in Biogeochemistry, students must complete a total of 15 graduate credits chosen in consultation with the adviser from an approved list of courses in the areas of:

  • biochemistry and microbiology,
  • environmental chemistry,
  • environmental engineering,
  • geochemistry,
  • materials science and engineering,
  • and soil science.

All students must pass a qualifying examination that includes an assessment of their potential in the field of biogeochemistry. In all cases, the result of a single qualifying exam for both entrance to the student's major Ph.D. program and this dual-title program will be reported to the Graduate School. The qualifying examination committee must include at least one member of the Biogeochemistry Graduate Faculty. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs' Graduate Faculty may serve in a combined role. Because students must first be admitted to a graduate major program of study before they may apply to and be considered for admission into a dual-title graduate degree program, dual-title graduate degree students may require an additional semester to fulfill requirements for both areas of study and, therefore, the qualifying examination may be delayed one semester beyond the normal period allowable.

The student's Ph.D. committee must include at least one member of the Biogeochemistry Graduate Faculty. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs' Graduate Faculty may serve in a combined role. If the chair of the committee representing the student's major degree program is not also a member of the Graduate Faculty in Biogeochemistry, the member of the committee representing Biogeochemistry must be appointed as co-chair. The field of Biogeochemistry must be integrated into the comprehensive examination.

A Ph.D. dissertation that contributes fundamentally to the field of Biogeochemistry is required. A public oral presentation of the dissertation is required, which may be part of the final defense within the major degree program.

Ph.D. candidates must complete a dissertation on a topic that contributes fundamentally to the fields of both the student’s major degree program and Biogeochemistry. In order to earn the dual-title Ph.D. degree, the dissertation must be accepted by the Ph.D. committee, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School, and the student must pass a final oral examination (the dissertation defense).


A graduate minor is available in any approved graduate major or dual-title program. The default requirements for a graduate minor are stated in Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-600 Research Degree Policies and GCAC-700 Professional Degree Policies, depending on the type of degree the student is pursuing:

Student Aid

Graduate assistantships available to students in this program and other forms of student aid are described in the Tuition & Funding section of The Graduate School’s website. Students on graduate assistantships must adhere to the course load limits set by The Graduate School.

A limited number of Research Assistantships are also available through the Biogeochemistry dual-title degree program.


Graduate courses carry numbers from 500 to 699 and 800 to 899. Advanced undergraduate courses numbered between 400 and 499 may be used to meet some graduate degree requirements when taken by graduate students. Courses below the 400 level may not. A graduate student may register for or audit these courses in order to make up deficiencies or to fill in gaps in previous education but not to meet requirements for an advanced degree.


Campus University Park
Graduate Program Head Mary Ann Victoria Bruns
Program Contact

Mary Ann Victoria Bruns
Dept. of Ecosystem Science and Management
116 Ag Sciences Industries Bldg
University Park PA 16802
(814) 863-0779

Program Website View