This document is a formal description of the final graduation requirements for the Masters in Earth and Space Sciences, Applied Geoscience (MESSAGe), including the Masters exam. It supplements the description provided in the MESSAGe Program Guide.
In lieu of a Masters Thesis, MESSAGe students complete a set of final graduation requirements. This consists of three parts: an oral examination, a written technical report, and a final presentation. These three components each represent different aspects of mastery of applied geosciences, and together are the culminating work for the Masters in ESS, Applied Geosciences.
Full-time students will typically complete all three components during the Autumn and Winter Quarters of their second year. Students must be registered for two credits of ESS 601 during the writing and presentation quarter.
The oral comprehensive exam is designed to evaluate the candidate's independent problem-solving ability and mastery of the content of required MESSAGe courses. The exam is administered by the examination committee, assigned by the Program Director, and typically consisting of faculty who teach required MESSAGe courses. The exam committee will produce a suite of Applied Geoscience problems or scenarios in advance of the exam dates, drawing from material in the MESSAGe core, field and seminar courses. At the exam each student will meet individually with two members of the exam committee and a graduate-student or alumni observer. The examiners will ask each candidate to address two or more problems or scenarios, with follow-up questions, during the course of a 45-minute exam. Students may or may not receive the same exam questions as each other. Example exam questions will be distributed with a study guide in advance of the exam.
The oral comprehensive exam will typically be scheduled during the first week of the quarter in which the student intends to graduate, and all candidates will take the exam in the same two- or three-day period. The exam is pass/fail. Candidate responses will be evaluated by each examiner and an evaluation is produced. Exam results will be delivered confidentially after all candidates have been examined. A candidate who does not pass the first exam may schedule a retake no sooner than two weeks after the first exam. If a candidate does not pass after three tries, the examination committee may assign additional coursework or other further study. In that case, the oral exam must then be taken again in a subsequent quarter, after the committee's requirements have been met.
The written technical report demonstrates completion of a significant independent project and showcases the candidate's written communication skills. The technical report is a summary of the MESSAGe capstone investigation. It should include a statement of the objectives of the investigation, a description of methods, a summary of observations, and the findings of the study. The report should be approximately 15 pages, not including figures or references. Data and calculations can be included in appendices to the report. Students should anticipate at least two rounds of revisions from their reading committee before submission of the final technical report. Please refer to Technical Report format and timelines.
A complete first draft of the final technical report is due to the student's reading committee no later than the start of the 4th week of the quarter in which the student intends to graduate. The final draft is due two weeks prior to final presentation of the internship findings. The report is reviewed by the student's reading committee (see MESSAGE Program Guide) before approval is granted for the final presentation. The report is assigned a numeric grade based on the evaluations of the reading committee. The grade for the report, combined with the grade for the presentation, is reported on the transcript as the grade for ESS 601A. Technical reports that are incomplete or insufficient may be returned for revision. If a final technical report is returned for revision, the candidate will not receive approval to give the final presentation, and graduation is delayed.
A candidate may submit a Masters Degree Request to the Graduate School once they have passed the oral exam and the technical report has been approved.
The final presentation showcases the candidate's ability to communicate technical material to a diverse audience, and serves as the University-required final examination. The final presentation is a 20-minute talk, accompanied by a digital presentation, that reviews the objectives, methods, and findings of the candidate's capstone investigation. The candidate will respond to questions from the audience following the talk. The presentation must be attended by the student's reading committee and, when possible, the project’s external mentor. The final presentation is open to other members of the UW community and general public.
The final presentation must be held before the last day of classes of the quarter in which the student intends to graduate. Most candidates will present within the same two-day period. The presentation is evaluated by the student's reading committee, who produce a numeric grade. The presentation grade, combined with the grade for the technical report, is reported on the transcript as a grade for ESS 601A. If a presentation is significantly deficient, candidates may be asked to revise the talk and present again.
All three components of the MESSAGe Masters exam must be successfully completed before the degree is conferred.