Earth and Planetary Sciences

Professor Ann Pearson, Co-Head Tutor (on leave 2009-10)
Professor Steven C. Wofsy, Co-Head Tutor
Professor Andrew Knoll, Acting Co-Head Tutor

Harvard offers outstanding opportunities for students who wish to pursue studies in Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPS). The field encompasses a broad range of science disciplines, technology, and applications to environmental and economic endeavors. Studies of the Earth involve students in the development and application of new tools and technologies such as space probes and sophisticated instruments, as well as field work in remote and challenging settings.

These are intellectually exciting times for the Earth and planetary sciences, which are of unprecedented importance to contemporary society. Our environment is increasingly subject to stresses placed upon it. As never before, we must understand the consequences of human activities for the Earth’s atmosphere, the oceans, the solid Earth, and the organisms that live on it. Exploring for, extracting, and conserving natural resources are vital to the global political economy. We must mitigate the ill effects of earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, and severe weather by learning to predict their time and place.

Because the Earth’s natural systems (atmosphere, ocean, biosphere, solid earth) are interconnected, the training of Earth scientists broadly spans the boundaries between biology, chemistry, engineering, physics, mathematics, and the Earth sciences themselves. This intellectual breadth is not always possible to acquire in a “pure” science program. The department trains students rigorously in the basic sciences, typically in the same foundational courses as students in Astrophysics, Chemistry, Engineering Sciences, and Physics. These foundational courses are followed by upper-level courses that focus on disciplines within Earth and planetary science. Within the EPS department students may focus on geological science, environmental geoscience, solid earth geophysics, geochemistry, geobiology, atmospheric and ocean science, and planetary science.

Alternatively, many students choose to take courses across these disciplines. All students are encouraged to participate in department-sponsored field experiences. Many students complete their studies with a senior thesis that affords the opportunity to do original research under the guidance of department faculty, often involving field work or studies of original data or samples.

Career opportunities in Earth and planetary sciences are diverse, spanning the private, government, and academic sectors. Government service includes research and administration in NASA, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency, the US Geological Survey, the Environmental Protection Agency, and many other agencies and departments. Earth scientists work in and direct a number of oil and mineral exploration and production companies. There also are abundant opportunities in the academic world. Many opportunities continue to grow for entrepreneurs who build companies specializing in resources, natural hazards, waste repositories and cleanup, and environmental impact. In addition to scientific career paths, an undergraduate degree in Earth and planetary sciences is an excellent background for continuing study in law, business, public administration, and medicine.

The research environment of the department is an unparalleled resource for undergraduate education. Concentrators may work with faculty and graduate students on major research projects as a research or field assistant, in the context of course work, or as part of an undergraduate research project. Class sizes are small and student-professor contact is frequent and informal. Each graduating senior becomes personally acquainted with virtually every faculty member in the department. Writing a senior thesis, which may be based on field, laboratory, or theoretical research, provides students with the opportunity to explore beyond the elementary level in one or more of the subspecialties of Earth and planetary sciences.

REQUIREMENTS
Requirements: 14 half-courses

  1. Required courses:

    1. Three introductory EPS half-courses: EPS 5, EPS 7 and EPS 8 (3 half-courses).

    2. Physics 11a and 11b, or 15a, 15b, and 15c (2-3 half-courses).

    3. Chemistry: (1-2 half-courses)

      1. Physical Sciences 1a (or approved equivalent) and one additional half-course in Chemistry

      2. -or-

      3. one course at the level of Chemistry 17 or higher or Engineering Sciences 164.

    4. Mathematics through Applied Mathematics 21a and 21b, or Mathematics 21a and 21b (2 half-courses).

    5. Three additional half-courses in EPS (3 half-courses).

    6. Additional half-courses in EPS or in related fields to complete the requirement of at least 14 half-courses (ordinarily 1-3 half-courses).

  2. Honors eligibility: EPS 99r, Senior Thesis Tutorial. Students must complete at least one term of EPS 99r to be eligible for honors. EPS 99r must be taken for a letter grade. One semester of EPS 99r will count toward concentration credit in 1a-f. An oral presentation of the thesis is required.

  3. Tutorial: Required. (Generally taken in the sophomore year. Non-credit.)

  4. Thesis: Optional for basic concentration; required for departmental (English) honors.

  5. General Examination: None.

  6. Substitutions: Advanced placement may be used to allow students to complete higher-level courses under 1b-1d; but a minimum of two physics, one chemistry, and two mathematics half-courses must be completed to satisfy concentration requirements.

  7. Other information:

    1. None of the courses required for concentrators may be taken Pass/Fail and C– is normally the minimum acceptable grade.

    2. Students should plan to complete at least two of the three introductory courses in 1a before the end of their first year in the concentration (usually the sophomore year). Selected science courses in the General Education or Core programs may substitute for one of the required introductory courses (EPS 7 and 8), if the Core class is taken before any other EPS course. Science A-43 may substitute for EPS 7; and Science B-35 may substitute for EPS 8. Note that only one substitution is permitted.

    3. EPS 131, EPS 132, or EPS 133 may substitute for EPS 5 in 1a.

    4. Students are strongly encouraged to consult with a faculty advisor during freshman year to plan appropriate choices of coursework in math, chemistry, and physics.

    5. Related fields: Includes most departmental courses offered in applied mathematics, astronomy, biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, environmental science and public policy, mathematics, physics, and statistics which count towards the respective concentration requirements. Courses offered through the General Education or Core programs are not admissible for the related field requirement.

    6. Math Ma, 1a, 1b, Life Sciences 1a, Physical Sciences 2, and Physical Sciences 3 normally do not count toward concentration credit.

    7. Plan of Study: Students discuss and develop individual plans of study together with their concentration adviser. This ensures that the upper-level courses in EPS and related fields provide a coherent focus in some area of Earth and planetary science. Normally, students wishing to focus in the following sub-disciplines should include three or more of the listed courses in their plan of study:

      1. For students wishing to focus in Geological Science: EPS 74, EPS 145, EPS 150, EPS 161, EPS 171, EPS 181.

      2. For students wishing to focus in Environmental Geoscience: EPS 107, EPS 109, EPS 133, Engineering Sciences (ES) 162.

      3. For students wishing to focus in Solid Earth Geophysics: EPS 161, EPS 166, , ES 162, Applied Math (AM) 105a, AM 105b.

      4. For students wishing to focus in Geochemistry: EPS 107, EPS 133, EPS  187, EPS 141, EPS 145, EPS 150.

      5. For students wishing to focus in Atmospheric and Ocean Science: EPS 131, EPS 132, EPS 133, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology 118, AM 105a, AM 105b.

      6. For students wishing to focus in Planetary Sciences: EPS 121, EPS 150, Astronomy 135, AM 105a, AM 105b.

      7. For preparation for advanced work in any sub-discipline: EPS 100, or AM111, AM115, or Computer Science 50.

  1. Summer School/Study Abroad: Courses from study abroad, Harvard Summer School, or other Harvard schools may count toward concentration credit if approved by the EPS Undergraduate Committee prior to the student’s enrollment in these courses. Students must petition for such credit by contacting the academic administrator. Freshman Seminars normally do not count for concentration credit.

  2. Field Trips: An important aspect of the EPS concentration is participation in field trips and/or summer field camps, supported by the department.

Joint Concentration Requirements: 11 half-courses

  1. Required Courses:

    1. Two introductory EPS half-courses selected from EPS 5, EPS 7, and EPS 8 (2 half-courses).

    2. Physics 11a and 11b, or 15a, 15b, and 15c (2-3 half-courses).

    3. Chemistry: (1-2 half-courses)

      1. Physical Sciences 1a (or approved equivalent) and one additional half-course in Chemistry

      2. -or-

      3. one course at the level of Chemistry 17 or higher or Engineering Sciences 164.

    4. Mathematics through Applied Mathematics 21a and 21b, or Mathematics 21a and 21b (2 half-courses)

    5. Three additional half-courses in EPS (3 half-courses).

    6. Further half-courses in EPS or in related fields to complete the requirement of at least 11 half-courses (0-1 half-courses).

  2. Honors eligibility: EPS 99r: Senior Thesis Tutorial, or similar course in the student’s other concentration. Students must complete at least one term as part of the joint concentration. EPS 99r must be taken for a letter grade. One semester of EPS 99r will count toward concentration credit in 1a-f. An oral presentation of the thesis is required.

  3. Tutorial: Required. (Generally taken in the sophomore year. Non-credit.)

  4. Thesis: Required. An oral presentation of the thesis is required.

  5. General Examination: None.

  6. Substitutions: Advanced placement may be used to allow students to complete higher-level courses under 1b-1d; but a minimum of two physics, one chemistry, and two mathematics half-courses must be completed to satisfy concentration requirements.

  7. Other information: Same as Concentration Requirements. An EPS faculty member must serve as a thesis reader.

  8. Summer School/Study Abroad: Courses from study abroad, Harvard Summer School, or other Harvard schools may count toward concentration credit if approved by the EPS Undergraduate Committee prior to the student’s enrollment in these courses. Students must petition for such credit by contacting the academic administrator. Freshman Seminars normally do not count for concentration credit.

  9. Field Trips: An important aspect of the EPS concentration is participation in field trips and/or summer field camps, supported by the department.

ADVISING

At the beginning of the first term of concentration each student is assigned a faculty adviser. Students normally continue with the same adviser throughout their concentration, although advisers may be changed upon student request. For students writing a thesis, the senior thesis adviser will also act as an additional concentration adviser. Students should meet individually with their advisers at least once each term to discuss course selections and other academic matters. Students may also seek advice from the co-head tutors at any time. Students seeking additional advising about course options in chemistry are encouraged to speak with Professor Ann Pearson (Hoffman Labs 302, 384-8392; pearson@eps.harvard.edu) (on leave 09-10).

For up-to-date information on advising in Earth and Planetary Sciences, please see the Advising Programs Office website.

RESOURCES

The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences is housed partly in the Hoffman Laboratory of Experimental Geology, which is directly connected with department classrooms and offices in the Geological Museum on Oxford Street. Some of the atmospheric sciences and physical oceanography are housed in Pierce Hall, just across Oxford Street from Hoffman Laboratory. Biological oceanography and paleontology are housed in the Geological Museum, with direct connection through the museum to the parts of the department housed in Hoffman Laboratory.

HOW TO FIND OUT MORE

All essential information about the concentration is included here or in the Earth and Planetary Sciences section of Courses of Instruction. Additional information may be obtained from the offices of the department, on the fourth floor of Hoffman Laboratory, from the co-head tutors, or on our website. Outside of those offices is the bulletin board that contains many notices of job opportunities, lectures, fellowships, and other matters of interest.

Co-Head Tutor Professor Steven C. Wofsy, Geological Museum Room 453, 615-495-4566, wofsy@fas.harvard.edu; Acting Co-Head Tutor Professor Andrew Knoll, Botanical Museum Room 50, 495-9306, aknoll@oeb.harvard.edu; on leave in 09-10: Co-Head Tutor Ann Pearson, Hoffman 302, 617-384-8392, pearson@eps.harvard.edu; Academic Administrator: Chenoweth Moffatt, Hoffman Laboratory Room 402, 617-384-9760, moffatt@eps.harvard.edu.

CORE AND GENERAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS

Non-exempt areas:

Exempt areas:

Foreign Cultures

Quantitative Reasoning

†Historical Study A

Science A

†Historical Study B

Science B

†Literature and Arts A

ONE of the areas marked †.

Literature and Arts B

 

†Literature and Arts C

 

Moral Reasoning

 

Social Analysis

 

For more information on fulfilling the Core requirement, see the Core Curriculum Requirement.

All students—regardless of concentration—planning to graduate under the requirements of the Program in General Education must complete one letter-graded course in each of the eight categories in General Education. The Class of 2013 is the first to enter the College under these requirements. Students who entered Harvard College in September 2008 or earlier are expected to fulfill the requirements of the Core Curriculum, but will be permitted to switch to the Program in General Education if such a change is possible and advisable given their overall schedule and plan of study. For more information on the requirements of the Program in General Education and the possibility of switching to it, please see The Program in General Education in Chapter 2 and the General Education website.

 ENROLLMENT STATISTICS

Number of Concentrators as of December

Concentrators

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

EPS

23

34

37

26

24

EPS + another field

3

4

4

5

4

Another field + EPS

1

2

2

4

5