Applying to Environmental Schools & Programs - What to Expect

by Dr. Lynn Hildemann, Associate Professor and Associate Chair; Stanford University, Civil & Environmental Engineering Dept.
Applying to Environmental Schools & Programs - What to Expect

Dr. Lynn Hildemann specializes in air pollution engineering. Her research interests include atmospheric chemistry, characterization of source emissions, dispersion modeling, and indoor air pollutants. She is currently studying the sources, chemistry and fate of organic pollutants, with a focus on aerosols. Major areas of research include investigating the sources and size distributions of indoor particulate matter (including allergens), and characterizing the uptake of water by organic aerosols.

Dr. Hildemann is a 1991 recipient of the Presidential Young Investigator award, a 1993 recipient of the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator award, and the 1998 recipient of the American Association for Aerosol Research's Kenneth T. Whitby award, recognizing outstanding contributions to aerosol research by an early-career scientist. She earned her B.S. (1980), M.S. (1983), and Ph.D. (1989) from the California Institute of Technology.

For admission to a graduate environmental program in Stanford's Civil & Environmental Engineering Department, we have developed a website describing our admissions criteria, and addressing other questions commonly asked by our applicants.

Briefly, for graduate admissions, we qualitatively weigh each applicant's strengths and weaknesses in 4 areas:

  1. Academic preparation (as reflected by the strength of their undergraduate school, and their transcript)
  2. GRE scores (especially the quantitative and analytical scores)
  3. The statement of purpose (to see how well the applicant's interests and abilities match with the focus areas of our program)
  4. The recommendation letters (as a reflection of what our colleagues view as the applicant's strengths and weaknesses)

The advice I give my own advisees for preparing as strong an application as possible is:

  1. Make sure your letter writers know you well --- a detailed, insightful letter from a mere faculty member carries much more weight than a generic letter from a university vice president.
  2. Make sure at least 2 of your letters are from academicians in a scientific or technical field - these letters tend to carry more weight than those from employers, and will be most easily understood and interpreted by the professor reading your application.
  3. In writing your statement of purpose, make sure you answer the following three questions:
    (i) Why are you interested in the environmental field?
    (ii) Why do you want to do graduate studies?
    (iii) Why are you interested in doing your environmental studies at this specific school?

Related Articles