Frequently Asked Questions for Prospective Group Members


I don’t have any experience in research. Can I still do research with you?

Yes — every researcher starts their career without research experience! If you’re interested in a research project but unsure about your preparation, the best thing to do is get in touch.

What kind of project would I work on?

There is a wide variety of possible research projects. Much of our research involves theoretical modeling of planetary atmospheric evolution and habitability, but students can end up working on topics as varied as Mars geological analysis and study of present-day Earth climate. 

Do you take students for research during the semester? What about for summer projects?

Undergraduate research projects can be for the summer, for a semester, or for a year or more — it really depends.

What is the best way to get in contact? 

Just send an email to the PI (Robin Wordsworth).

What projects did past students work on, and what are they doing now?

Past undergraduate students have worked on topics including the effect of giant impacts on Mars, the evolution of water on icy moons such as Ganymede, carbon cycles on rocky exoplanets and the behaviour of raindrops in diverse planetary atmospheres. Students have gone on to diverse careers in academia and industry, including PhDs at institutions such as Caltech and MIT.

What funding sources are available for Harvard and non-Harvard undergraduate students?

There are quite a few funding sources available. The EPS webpage is an excellent resource: https://eps.harvard.edu/undergraduate-research-opportunities.

Who can I contact about accessibility?

Please contact the Harvard Accessibility Education Office: https://aeo.fas.harvard.edu/.

Graduate Students and Postdocs

What kind of research projects will I be able to get involved in? 

As for undergraduates, there is a wide variety of possible research projects related to planets both in and outside the solar system. Our work is primarily theoretical and numerical, although opportunities to perform analysis of planetary data and laboratory experiments also exist. A great way to get a feel for our range of research interests is to check out the Publications page.

How soon will I be able to start my research?

As soon as you arrive. Taking courses is a major component of the first two years of a US graduate program, but learning to be a researcher takes time, and so all students in the group also devote a significant part of their time to research from the first semester onwards.

What is the typical career path of alumni from your group?

It is common for group members to continue in academia, although group members have also pursued careers in industry after graduating. A PhD in climate science provides diverse opportunties in academia, education and industry.

What financial support can I expect?

Once enrolled, all graduate students are provided generous financial support, including research and teaching assistantships, full tuition, and a research allowance. Prospective students are encouraged to apply for outside funding from agencies such as the National Science Foundation prior to gaining admission.

Where do I go to apply? When is the application deadline? When will I hear about admission?

If you are interested in applying to the EPS or SEAS graduate programs, please visit these pages for more information:




Do I need to take the GREs to apply?

GRE scores are not considered in applications to the Wordsworth Group.

Department-wide GRE policies are evolving, so for up-to-date information please refer to the EPS and SEAS links above.

Can I switch research advisers or work with more than one adviser during my PhD?

In short, yes. Our work is highly interdisciplinary, and it is common for students to collaborate with other faculty in the department and elsewhere. While it is most usual for students to have a single primary advisor throughout their PhD in our department, changing supervisors is permitted throughout the PhD.

When a student is admitted, they are assigned a first year advisor. Unless students have an outside fellowship the first year of funding derives from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS). This system is set up so the student can explore the scientific possibilities within the department before deciding upon a dissertation topic and PhD advisor.  By the end of the spring term, first-year students submit their Plan of Study, which includes their proposed PhD advisor and advisory committee.

Is there a qualifying exam on the road to the PhD? When can I expect to graduate?

All candidates for the PhD degree are expected to take the oral examination by the end of their fourth term in the program. The purpose of the oral examination is to determine a student’s depth and breadth of scholarship in a chosen area of specialization. The exam will assess the student’s originality, capacity for synthesis and critical examination, intensity of intellectual curiosity, and clarity of communication. Students typically graduate in 5 to 6 years.

© Robin Wordsworth 2021