College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences2021-2022

School of Earth and Sustainability

Geology, Master of Science

Learning Outcomes

Purpose Statement

The Geology Program offers a thesis-based, multidisciplinary MS degree in Geology with the objective of educating students for success in the private sector, government employment, or further pursuit of graduate studies.  During the two-year program, students use geological, geobiological, geophysical, geochemical, and numerical-modeling techniques to examine geological problems and develop explanations for the processes that produced them.  Students learn to study what is known about a subject and then identify what is not yet understood.  Based upon observations, they develop testable hypotheses about a poorly understood geological  process, design a study to test these, and then carry this study out, learning new analytical techniques along the way. They then write this work into a thesis and present and defend their work in a public session.  In many cases, the thesis is then turned into a published journal article.
The program requires that students develop a breadth in their understanding of geology, taking MS-level courses in at least three of four major subdisciplines in earth sciences and 7-8 academic courses overall.  The breadth of the graduate-level course offerings is indicated by the four subdisciplines from which they choose, which are 1) “Hard-Rock” geology (primarily courses focusing on igneous and metamorphic rocks), 2) “Soft-Rock” geology (sedimentology and paleontology courses), 3) Geophysics, Structure, and Tectonics, and 4) Hydrogeology and Quaternary Geology.  Faculty members and the Geology Graduate Program Coordinator work closely with the student in designing a program of courses that is appropriate for that student’s thesis work and aspirations. The course work allows the student to expand his or her understanding of geology, both in breadth and in depth.  By the end of the first year, the student should have the geological base to begin work on a thesis.  The thesis advisor mentors the student in developing a thesis proposal for a mutually agreeable research project, and oversees the student’s research and academic progress. The thesis represents a significant contribution to the science and typically involves a year or more of concentrated effort.  Funding for the research primarily comes from external funding sources, through proposals written by the students and/or their advisors.  Students from the program have the opportunity to do internships with companies in the mining or petroleum industries and with government agencies.  Graduates have found employment in all aspects of geology, from extractive industries to environmental geology, government agencies, and academia. 

Student Learning Outcomes
  • Summarize current research questions and approaches in one or more subfields in Earth sciences.         
  • Write at least one research proposal that presents a testable hypothesis, outlines the types of data needed to test the hypothesis, and describes how the collected data will be used to test the hypothesis   
  • Demonstrate the ability to evaluate literature in three of the four sub-disciplines of hard rock, soft rock, geophysics, and quaternary geology. 
  • Demonstrate facility in a variety of research methods and subsequent data analysis related to their research.   
  • Demonstrate mastery of the material and an ability to communicate the results and significance by presenting their research orally or in poster format.         
  • Communicate the results of research carried out independently or as part of a team via publication of peer-reviewed articles, maps, meeting abstracts, technical reports and as a thesis.         
  • Critically evaluate the literature and place their scholarship into the broad context of subject knowledge in geology.      
  • Write a thesis in which the motivation for the research is outlined, methods are described, data and interpretations are clearly separated, prior work is appropriately referenced, and the significance of the work is articulated.

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