Frequently Asked Questions by Prospective Students

Answers by Alex Turner represent personal views, not necessarily the University of Washington policy.


Q: Will you be taking any new students?
I aim to take a new student every 1-2 years.

Q: Should I write to you if I am thinking about applying?
Absolutely! Feel free to reach out and indicate what your research interests are. That way I'll know to look for your application in December.

Q: I don't have an atmospheric science background. Is that a problem?
Not necessarily. My work touches on a number of areas in Earth Science and my own background was in Mechanical Engineering. I recruit graduate students with a diversity of backgrounds ranging from applied math to chemistry to ecology and everything in between. Some students may come in with little physics while others may have zero chemistry. Gaps are expected, and the purpose of your courses at UW will be to fill these gaps.

Q: I don't have much programming experience. Is that a problem for joining your group?
No. Many incoming students have little or no scientific programming experience. This can be learned on the job.

Q: What are the admission criteria?
There are many paths to graduate school and some of the best students come from non-traditional routes. I'm less concerned about test scores and more interested in knowing how you will contribute to a vibrant and collaborative research environment. To that end, some factors that make for a strong application are: passion about your decision to pursue a PhD, previous research experience, and strong letters of recommendation from those who know you well and can speak to your ability to be successful at UW.

Q: When is the application deadline? When will I hear about admission?
The application deadline in early December for admission to the following Autumn quarter. Check the departmental web site for the exact date. Decisions are sent out beginning in late January all the way through late March/early April.

Q: Should I apply for external fellowships?
Yes! I only plan to admit students that I can financially support, but it is always helpful to have your own funding. It would give you more freedom in your research and it looks great on a CV. Examples of external fellowships you can apply for are the NSF GRFP, the DOE CSGF, the DOD NDSEG, the NASA FINESST, the UCAR Next Generation Fellowship, and the Hertz Fellowship.

Q: What kind of research projects will I be able to get involved in? How soon will I be able to start my research?
You will have some freedom within the general sphere of activity within my group. Check out the research interests page to get an idea of our research directions. The first year is important for laying a foundation for your PhD research. So the first year will likely entail coursework, immersing yourself in the relevant literature, and gaining familiarity with the tools needed to conduct your PhD research (e.g., learning how to run an atmospheric model). The summer after the first year is an important time because you can really dive into your PhD research.