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Earth Science

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Earth Science

Students applying for admission to the M.S. or Ph.D. programs in the geological sciences should have an adequate background in geology and/or in the appropriate related sciences and mathematics. Students with a geology degree should have had undergraduate courses that include crystallography and mineralogy, optical mineralogy, igneous and metamorphic petrology, sedimentary petrology, and structural geology, plus at least a year each of chemistry, physics, and calculus. For a program in geochemistry, students with an undergraduate geology degree may be required to include additional chemistry as part of their M.S. programs. New students will meet with a faculty committee during the first week of classes in order to evaluate their academic backgrounds and determine course work required to make up any deficiencies.

Graduate Programs in Earth Sciences

Environmental Geology
Geomorphology and Surficial Processes
Marine Geochemistry
Earth Systems History
Sedimentary Geology

Incoming graduate students with a bachelor’s degree in geology/earth science should have completed a suitable field camp program prior to coming to NC State. In the event that this is impossible, he or she will be expected to attend the NC State camp during the summer following their first year in residence at NC State.

Research Activity

Independent research is an integral part of a graduate program and should be your major consideration in the selection of a graduate school. An MS applicant should have determined a general area of research interest within the broad area of geology; Ph.D. applicants should be thinking in terms of a specific focus and individual faculty with whom to conduct their research study. Material to consider in comparison of departments includes the faculty research interests, graduate courses, student research activities, and facilities needed to support your research. As we realize this is an important decision, you are urged to directly contact the faculty member(s) whose professional interests are most closely allied with your own.

Research in the earth science program at NC State tends to concentrate in the following general areas:

1) Tectonic research is focused on lithospheric plate margins and stresses structures, metamorphic petrology and basalts produced in modern and ancient orogenic belts. Studies usually combine field and analytical work and often focus on the complex Piedmont Province rocks of the southeastern United States.

2) Outcrop and subsurface studies of ancient sedimentary strata tend to focus on detrital-dominated stratigraphic intervals. Studies usually combine various aspects of petrography, geochemistry, facies architecture, reconstruction of depositional environments, seismic stratigraphy and basin evolution.

3) Research in recent sediments includes studies of fluvial and coastal transport and depositional processes. Investigations of shelf sediment distribution patterns may involve shipboard time. Other studies focus on geochemical sedimentary problems, including diagenesis of organic rich sediments.

4) Sedimentary geochemistry, stable isotope geochemistry and radiochemistry use well equipped laboratories to address problems in both modern sediments and ancient strata. Areas include modern near-shore and shelf environments, ocean paleoclimatology, and aqueous environmental systems.

5) Research in hydrogeology and hydrology focuses on groundwater flow, groundwater exchange with surface water bodies (rivers, canals, lakes), watershed hydrology, and the use of naturally occurring chemical tracers in quantifying water flow and mixing. Recent projects have involved studies in Florida, North Carolina, and Costa Rica.

Since research is a major purpose of graduate study, students should attempt to complete their required coursework as early as possible in their program. This will permit the final semester to be devoted to completion of their research study. You will be strongly encouraged to present your results at an appropriate professional meeting. Actual preparation of your thesis or dissertation usually will follow a format adaptable to publication in a professional journal.

Other Information

If you decide to enter the program at NC State, you should plan to arrive a few days before the semester starts in order to become familiar with the department, meet with your advisor, complete registration if necessary, and determine your office assignment. Several required meetings are associated with the start of classes, and you will be informed of their specific dates by letter. These events include the following:

  • An orientation meeting is held for all new graduate students, usually during the first week of classes. Office spaces and temporary advisors listings will be available. The initial advisor assignment is for the first semester only; during this first semester M.S. students should select a graduate program advisor who most clearly parallels their area of research interests.
  • All students with geology Teaching Assistantship duties will meet one or two days before the start of classes, bringing their class schedules with them. At this time, laboratory and teaching assignments for the semester will be distributed. As a general guideline in the determination of T.A. assignments, one hour of preparation time is allocated for each teaching contact hour in laboratory or class.
  • Usually during the first week of classes (well before the end of add/drop period), incoming M.S. students will meet with a faculty committee to evaluate their academic background. A similar meeting for new Ph.D. students is conducted by the student’s advisor and an ad hoc research committee.
  • Soon after your arrival, you should obtain a copy of the Graduate School Catalog. It details the specific sequence and timetable of steps to be met for both the M.S. and Ph.D. degree programs. Ultimately, the student is responsible to ensure these steps have been met.