Apply To CAPS
We are always looking for highly qualified and enthusiastic students for PhD study in the Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies.
1. How do I apply to CAPS?
You cannot apply to CAPS directly. You must send a regular PhD application to one of the academic departments we are affiliated with. See below for a list of these departments. Your statement of purpose should clearly indicate that you are interested in CAPS and which professors (both inside and outside that department) you are interested in working with.
2. Which department should I apply to?
The right department to apply to depends on several factors:
- your undergraduate major and previous academic training
- the department you wish to have on your doctoral degree
- the affiliation of the CAPS professor(s) you wish to work with
There is often more than one reasonable choice because: a) most CAPS faculty are affiliated with more than one department and b) it is not always necessary to be in the same department as your primary advisor because CAPS and Carnegie Mellon are quite flexible about co-advising.
In general the five departments listed below are open to applicants with undergraduate degrees from other technical fields, but Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering have qualifying exams closely tied to their core disciplines, so applicants should be willing to learn core concepts they may not have learned in their undergraduate training. Course requirements, qualifying exam procedures, and other degree requirements vary from department to department. See the table below for guidance and links to the departments for more information.
If you are unsure about which department to apply to, you should contact one of the CAPS faculty.
3. Do I need to apply to more than one department?
In general, there is no reason to apply to more than one department. Your statement of purpose should discuss what kinds of research you wish to do and which CAPS professors you are interested in having as an advisor. CAPS and Carnegie Mellon are small and collaborative. Promising applications can be shared with professors outside the department you apply to.
4. Should I contact CAPS faculty?
Applicants are encouraged to contact CAPS professors, especially when they have specific questions, for example about which department to apply to. We do tend to get a lot of email, and it’s easy to get behind when travelling. If you do not get a prompt response to an email inquiry, you should not hesitate to try resending after about a week or so.
Please keep a few things in mind when emailing. Admissions of PhD students depend largely on what proposals get funded, which is an ongoing process. Proposals are often funded during the admissions process, so it’s difficult to predict exactly how many PhD students we will be accepting in any given year. In general, the answer to the question “will you take new PhD students this year?” is yes. For the same reason, it can be difficult to answer questions about what exactly what projects are available, but a professor’s past publications and information on this web site are a good guide to the types of work we do. As letters of admission are sent and applicants make campus visits, it becomes easier to answer this question. Curriculum vitae are useful for forming an idea of the applicant, but we cannot make a full evaluation without a complete, official application with statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, etc.
5. What else should I do to be a competitive applicant?
Applicants are always strongly encouraged to apply for any external fellowships they are eligible for. For US applicants, the NSF Graduate Research Fellowships and EPA STAR Fellowships are the first to look at.
Your statement of purpose should mention that you are interested in CAPS.