Graduate Students

Students on the 2015 Planetary Surface Processes Field School at Upheaval Dome, Utah.

The Collaborative Specialization offered through Western Space is Canada’s first and only graduate program in Planetary Science and Exploration. Established in 2008, this is Western Space’s flagship training program, currently hosting more than 35 Masters and Doctoral candidates. This program already ranks among the top five worldwide in terms of number of students, many of whom are major scholarship recipients. As of January 2015, 103 students have participated in the program and have been offered a wealth of planetary science graduate courses unparalleled at any other Canadian institution.

At Western Space, we believe in providing student opportunities to gain hands-on experience by conducting research both in and beyond the confines of the traditional laboratory, at planetary analogue field sites. Our students have the opportunity to engage in planetary analogue missions and are invited to actively contribute to current and future space missions. 

The Collaborative Specialization also emphasizes:

Original student research: Faculty members must have active research programs with funds sufficient to support their students’ research.

Hands-on Experience: Laboratory or field work that can include planetary science field school; opportunities to work at planetary analogue field sites including impact craters around the world, the Canadian Arctic, Antarctica, and more; working on planetary analogue missions; or even working on real space missions.

Small group discussions of past and ongoing reseach: The Planetary Science Seminar Course and attendance at the weekly Planetary Science Research Forum provides students the opportunity to discuss and engage on a wide range of research topics.

An interdisciplinary approach: Students will develop a well-rounded interdisciplinary view of the field to place in context the specialized area in which they choose to perform their research through their home department.

Prospective Students

Why Study Planetary Sciences?

Planetary science is an interdisciplinary field encompassing aspects of Earth Sciences, Physics, Astronomy, Chemistry, Biology, Engineering, Geography, History, Philosophy, and many other allied subject areas. The focus of planetary science is on understanding the origin and evolution of planets and planetary systems and of life itself, with emphasis on the exploration of our own solar system. 

Is Planetary Science right for me?

Planetary Science speaks directly to many broad, important questions of particular relevance in today’s society. Climate change (planetary atmospheres), the origin of life on Earth (astrobiology), and sustainability (planetary surfaces) are among the topics covered under the broad umbrella of planetary science.

Planetary science combines aspects of many disciplines. It offers opportunities to follow your interests, discuss and take part in cutting edge planetary exploration, find opportunities for summer fieldwork and hands-on laboratory work, and collaborate with space agencies and private partners.

 

Admission Requirements

The Collaborative Graduate Program in Planetary Science and Exploration welcomes applications from all potential students, but those with a demonstrated interest in planetary science and exploration as indicated by prior course work, research or involvement in space-related student groups will be given preferential consideration. In all cases the normal admission criteria appropriate to each home department program will apply.

To apply to the Graduate Program in Planetary Science and Exploration, prospective students must first apply to the graduate program in their department of interest and then specify planetary science. The application process and requirements to different departments vary, so you are encouraged to explore the graduate pages of your department of interest (listed below), and Western’s School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. Please note that enrollment in the Collaborative Specialization in Planetary Science and Exploration is currently restricted to students enrolled in one of the graduate programs offered through the Departments of Earth Sciences, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Geography, or Physics and Astronomy; however, students from other programs may enroll in Planetary Science and Exploration classes, and may unofficially participate in the program.

MSc and PhD degrees in Planetary Sciences awarded by Western are distinguished by the discipline of the candidate’s host Program, i.e. PhD in Geophysics with a Specialization in Planetary Science and Exploration.

Degrees Offered

Master's in Planetary Science

In addition to the thesis and additional courses that may be required by the graduate program of the home department, all Master’s students in the Collaborative Specialization in Planetary Science and Exploration are required to participate in the following courses and activities:

  1. Planetary Science Short Course, PLANETSC 9603. This intensive, week-long course provides incoming students with the background they need to place their specific research project in the wider Planetary Science field.
  2. Participation in the Planetary Science Seminar. The Seminar is a milestone (pass/fail based on attendance), and runs weekly during the fall term of each year.
  3. Presentation of research, either orally or as a poster, at the Annual Graduate Planetary Science & Exploration Research Day (Space Day). This will be attended by members of the student’s advisory committee and will constitute one part of an advisory committee meeting.
  4. Attendance at the weekly IESE Research Forum, and MSc and PhD defence lectures of fellow students.
  5. Research thesis undertaken according to regulations in the home program, but the research topic must be within the core Research Themes of IESE.

Doctor of Philosophy in Planetary Science

In addition to the thesis, comprehensive exam, and additional courses that may be required by the graduate program of the home department, all Doctoral students in the Collaborative Specialization in Planetary Science and Exploration will be required to participate in the following courses and activities:

  1. Planetary Science Short Course, PLANETSC 9603 (if not taken previously). This intensive, week-long course provides incoming students with the background they need to place their specific research project in the wider Planetary Science field.
  2. One additional half-course in Planetary Science (PLANETSC) at the 9000-level or higher. This may be taken in addition to the requirements in the home department OR as a single substitution of the requirements of the home department at the discretion of the advisory committee and the departmental graduate program.
  3. Participation in the Planetary Science Seminar. The Seminar is a milestone (pass/fail based on attendance), and runs weekly during the fall term of each year.
  4. Presentation of research, either orally or as a poster, at the Annual Graduate Planetary Science & Exploration Research Day (Space Day). This will be attended by members of the student’s advisory committee and will constitute one part of an advisory committee meeting.
  5. Attendance at the weekly IESE Research Forum, and MSc and PhD defence lectures of fellow students.
  6. Research thesis undertaken according to regulations in the home program, but the research topic must be within the core Research Themes of IESE.