Howard University Graduate Program in Atmospheric Science (HUPAS)

The Howard University Graduate Program in Atmospheric Science (HUPAS) is an advanced degree-granting interdisciplinary program offering the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in atmospheric science. Established by the Howard University Board of Trustees in 1997, the Program is affiliated with the Departments of Chemistry, Mechanical Engineering and Physics and Astronomy.  HUPAS is dedicated to preparing students from traditionally underrepresented groups for leadership careers in atmospheric science and related fields.  HUPAS is aiding federal agencies such as NOAA and NASA, as well as industry and academia diversifying this niche area of the workforce while engaging in leading research directly relevant to national security, commerce and environmental security.  In a relatively short period of existence HUPAS has emerged as an exemplar in realizing Howard’s mission by delivering experiences of exceptional quality to students; helping to attract a cadre of strong, socially responsible scholars and educators; impacting diversity statistics on the national production of atmospheric scientists, and contributing to critical societal needs through research.

HUPAS faculty are recognized experts in mesoscale meteorology, climate modeling, air quality modeling and field observations, atmospheric physics, atmospheric chemistry, and mechanical engineering.  Feel free to contact HUPAS faculty members.

Research Areas

HUPAS continues its commitment toward maintaining active research programs in the atmospheric sciences and meteorology. Faculty members are currently involved in various projects supported by national agencies including NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), DOE, and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In most cases, both undergraduate and graduate students are actively involved in these research programs and work closely with faculty and research staff. Present projects are directed at both local and global issues using models and through analysis of observations. Brief descriptions of current projects are given below (listed alphabetically).

Air Pollution/Urban Meteorology
Observation, simulation, and numerical modeling of polluted coastal urban boundary layers. Specific interests include the alteration of weather and climate elements in cities due to urbanization and air pollution and the effects of the new urban climate on the spread of pollutants through the urban environment; Chemical modeling and data assimilation focused on the ability of air quality models to make forecasts of ozone and PM2.5 and the impact of atmospheric chemistry on multiple scales (local, regional and global scales).  Profs. Sakai, Wilkins, Ajoku, & Chiao

Climate Change – Atmospheric Dynamics
Theoretical and numerical analysis of global and regional climate change as a result of both natural and anthropogenic factors. This work involves understanding how atmospheric variability affects and interacts with climate, and through simulations and analysis of global climate models. Profs. Ajoku, Chiao, Das & Ichoku.

Fire Weather and Wildfire Dynamics
Observations and simulations of conditions leading to severe fire weather in California. Field measurement campaigns, including the use of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), are focused on making in situ observations of fire-induced winds, fire front propagation, fire-plume temperature and moisture perturbations, and resulting convection. Measurements and modeling of smoke emissions including PM2.5, Black Carbon and greenhouse gases and their impacts on local air quality and climate. Profs. Wilkins, & Ichoku

Mesoscale Processes
Emphasis on mesoscale waves dynamics, orographic precipitation and clouds, downslope winds, and drainage flows; Characterization of water vapor, wind, and aerosol variability on the sub-pixel scale using ground-based Raman lidars and other passive and active profiling systems for satellite cal/val and climate reference studies. Profs. Sakai & Chiao

Boundary Layer Meteorology
Observational and modeling studies of boundary layer evolution in mountainous terrain. Specific topics include the development and dissipation of cold air pools and the evolution of valley and slope circulation systems. Ongoing research is focused on field studies conducted in various locations to determine the role of low-level winds on the transport of ozone and other pollutants in the Washington-Baltimore corridor. Profs. Chiao & Sakai.

Tropical Meteorology
Observational and modeling studies of hurricane rapid intensification processes; Studies of tropical cyclogenesis and Saharan dust effects in the Atlantic region; Characterization of the impacts and microphysical evolution of aerosols from Saharan dust outbreaks and African biomass burning from ship-based field observations. Profs.  Chiao & Ajoku.

Weather Systems and Forecasting
Research topics include synoptic, mesoscale, and convective weather systems via numerical modeling, analysis of observations, and theory. Prof. Chiao

Research Centers

The NOAA Center for Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology (NCAS-M) and the Beltsville Center for Climate System Observation (a NASA University Research Center) are two major research centers at Howard that are affiliated with HUPAS that provide much of the research support for students and faculty.  HUPAS faculty research is also supported by individual faculty research grants. Students enrolled in the HUPAS M.S. program should take a minimum of 24 credit hours including at least nine from Atmospheric Chemistry I & II, Atmospheric Physics I & II, and Geophysical Fluid Dynamics I & II. The remainder of the course credit hours must be taken from recommended electives.


Each student may be required to take a general entrance examination upon admission into the program. This examination is designed to identify deficiencies in the prerequisite areas and to allow for placement out of the introductory atmospheric sciences courses. A thorough preparation in physics and mathematics is necessary for successful graduate study in atmospheric sciences. If atmospheric chemistry is to be the area of specialty, a strong chemistry background is also required. A typical applicant will have an undergraduate degree in chemistry, physics, mathematics, meteorology, engineering or atmospheric sciences to be considered for HUPAS. Some background experience in computers or computer programming is strongly advised.

Because of the interdisciplinary nature of atmospheric sciences, students may be required to specify a concentration within the parent department which is most directly related to their area of study in atmospheric sciences. The particular concentration will then dictate which core and elective courses in the parent department will be necessary for the program student. 

Departmental master’s degree students with a specialty in atmospheric sciences should take at least six credit hours from the core HUPAS electives and one additional course from the HUPAS curriculum. Students enrolled in the HUPAS Ph.D. program should take a minimum of 36 credit hours including Atmospheric Chemistry I and II, Atmospheric Physics I and II, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics I and II, Remote Sensing of the Atmosphere, and Atmospheric Radiation. The remainder of the course credit hours must be taken from recommended electives. Departmental Ph.D. degree students with a specialty in atmospheric sciences should take at least nine credit hours from the core electives and two additional courses from the HUPAS curriculum. Students with no more than nine semester credit hours of approved courses having a grade of B or better can be transferred into the program from another university.

Most applications are completed and submitted in the late fall or early spring of the applicant’s senior or final year in college.

Research and Teaching Assistantships

There are opportunities for financial support in HUPAS by working on specific research projects as part of your graduate program. If you are interested in being considered for a research assistantship, please contact an individual faculty member.

As you continue the official application process with the University, you will be contacted directly by HUPAS regarding the potential for financial support under a research project. Research assistantship stipends typically range between $30K and $40K annually.

HUPAS offers several teaching assistantships each semester. Ph.D. candidates are encouraged to inquire about these positions following their first semester in the program. These are typically part-time, hourly positions, which may involve grading, class laboratory assistance, or teaching.


Master of Science Requirements

Each student wishing to qualify for candidacy for the Master’s degree in Atmospheric Science must:

  1. Demonstrate general proficiency in mathematics through introductory differential equations and physics through Newtonian mechanics. Students failing to exhibit proficiency will be required to take leveling courses to be determined by the Atmospheric Sciences Committee;
  2. Pass at least one of the three written proficiency examinations in one of the three general areas;
  3. Make an oral defense of their thesis proposal; and
  4. Write and defend an original thesis.

Doctor of Philosophy Requirements

Each student wishing to qualify for candidacy for the Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science degree must:

  1. Demonstrate general proficiency in mathematics through introductory differential equations and physics through Newtonian mechanics. Students failing to exhibit proficiency will be required to take leveling courses to be determined by the Atmospheric Sciences Committee;
  2. Make an oral defense of their thesis proposal;
  3. Write and defend an original thesis; and
  4. Pass written qualifiers prepared by the HUPAS faculty in the area of specialty. 

All credentials must be sent to:

Howard University Graduate School 
Office of Graduate Recruitment and Admissions
2400 Sixth Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20059