2017-2018 General Catalog 
    Mar 25, 2018  
2017-2018 General Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Geology and Geophysics

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College of Mines and Earth Sciences
Address: 115 S. 1460 E. Rm. 383, Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0111
Office: Frederick A. Sutton Building (FASB)
Phone: 801-581-7062
Website: www.earth.utah.edu

Department Chair: Thure E. Cerling, Ph.D.
Director of Undergraduate Studies: John M Bartley, Ph.D.
Director of Graduate Studies: Gabe Bowen, Ph.D.
Academic Advisor: Michelle Tuitupou, 383 FASB, 801-581-6553

Earth scientists apply the principles of chemistry, physics, mathematics, and biology to understand the composition, structure, and history of the Earth, and the processes that govern them. Earth science investigations encompass fieldwork, laboratory analyses, and theoretical studies. Research objectives include advancing fundamental understanding of how the Earth works and how it has evolved through time, and applications of such understanding to societal needs and problems such as locating and characterizing mineral, energy, and groundwater resources, assessing earthquake and other geologic hazards, and evaluating and remediating environmental contamination.

Specialized facilities include computer laboratories for teaching and research, laboratories for chemical and physical characterization of rocks and minerals, and laboratory and field equipment for geological engineering studies.

Research is carried out in mineralogy; igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary petrology; structural geology, economic geology, stratigraphy, paleontology, marine geology, isotope geology, geochemistry, exploration and earthquake seismology, hydrogeology, geomechanics, environmental remediation, paleomagnetism, electromagnetics, gravity, remote sensing, and thermal studies.

The department has extensive research and teaching collections of rocks, minerals, and fossils. Digital data from regional earthquake and GPS networks and extensive seismic reflection and refraction data are also available. A seismic modeling laboratory with workstations focuses on synthetic seismogram and seismic data processing. Laboratories for the study of rocks and minerals are equipped with microscopes, X-ray diffraction equipment, QEMSCAN, cathode luminoscope, fluid-inclusion apparatus, electron microprobe, atomic absorption equipment, induction coupled plasma mass spectrometer, and light stable-isotope mass spectrometers. Specialized geophysical instrumentation includes GPS receivers; gravimeters; electromagnetic, resistivity, ground-penetrating radar, and induced-polarization equipment; magnetometers; portable digital seismographs; thermal-gradient and rock-conductivity apparatus; and state-of-the-art computer clusters for extremely fast, parallel processing and modeling of geophysical data.

Undergraduate Program

Please see the Earth Science Minor, Earth Science Composite Teaching B.S., H.B.S. and Minor, Geoscience B.S., H.B.S., and Geological Engineering B.S. and H.B.S. listed in the Program and Course Offerings section.

To complete a degree program in four years, students beginning any of the department’s majors should take MATH 1210  and CHEM 1210  during the first semester. Only strong training in math and science in high school will assure that entering students are able to begin with these courses.

Students who do not take MATH 1210  and CHEM 1210  during the first semester may require more than four years to earn the degree. The student who needs preparatory courses may be able to complete the degree requirements in four years by taking heavier loads or by attending summer sessions. It is important that GEO 1110 , GEO 1115 ; PHYS 2210 , PHYS 2220 ; CHEM 1210 , CHEM 1220 , CHEM 1215 , CHEM 1225 ; and MATH 1210 , MATH 1220 , (MATH 2210 ) and MATH 2250  (Geophysics emphasis) sequences be completed early, because these courses are prerequisites for subsequent courses in the department.

Special Opportunities

Students are encouraged during the junior and/or senior year to undertake an undergraduate research project under the supervision of a faculty member. In some cases, such research may be financially supported by a grant to the faculty supervisor; small research grants to students are available through the University’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). Students may also gain work experience by participating in an internship program.


To help students maintain high scholastic standards, the department has appointed advisors to consult with them about their academic progress. The student is assigned an advisor in the selected degree field upon declaring a major. We recommend that students consult their advisors at least twice each year. Students in Geological Engineering must consult their advisor at least once each year. Failure to do so will result in dismissal from the degree program.

Scholastic Standards

The B.S. degree requires a minimum overall GPA of 2.0 and a GPA of 2.25 in departmental required and elective courses. Grades of Credit or those of less than C- are not acceptable in departmental or required courses. Grades of D and Credit are accepted only in General Education courses or in electives outside the department.

Students who drop below the minimum GPAs are put on departmental probation until grades rise above the minimums. Students who drop below 2.0 overall or 2.25 in the major may be asked to leave the department.

Students who repeat any course more than once or who find it necessary to repeat or withdraw from several courses will be asked to give valid reasons for their actions.


Many scholarships or other forms of financial aid are available to undergraduate students. Application for departmental scholarships should be made to the department. Applications for all other scholarships or financial aid should be made directly to the  Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships.

Graduate Program

Please see the Geological Engineering M.E., M.S., Ph.D., Geology M.S., Ph.D., Geophysics M.S., Ph.D. and Secondary School Teachers in Earth Sciences M.S. listed in the Program and Course Offerings section.

Areas of Specialization

Applied electrical methods; thermal fields; seismology; economic geology; low-and medium-temperature geochemistry; isotope geochemistry; geochronology; sedimentology; basin analysis; petroleum geology; vertebrate and invertebrate paleontology; micropaleontology; igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic petrology; structural geology and tectonics; rock magnetism; borehole geophysics; geological engineering; geomechanics, geohydrology; surface and groundwater hydrology.

Admission Requirements

There may be additional admission requirements for these programs. Please see the program pages for more information.

Applications must be submitted by January 15 for Fall Semester admission. Admission as a matriculated student normally requires a GPA of 3.25, three letters of recommendation, and the general GRE.

Degree Requirements 

Graduate students from other colleges and universities that do not require the core undergraduate courses of this department are expected to make up such deficiencies at their own expense. All geophysics graduate students normally take (or have taken) Structure and Tectonics, Inversion Theory, and Survey of Numerical Analysis. They also should satisfy the geophysics B.S. elective requirements.

Financial Assistance

Contact the Department of Geology and Geophysics Undergraduate or Graduate Advisor’s for information about Departmental financial assistance.

Program and Course Offerings


    Undergraduate MajorMinorMasterDoctorate


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