Earth and Planetary Sciences

Almost every practical aspect of society—population, environment, economics, politics—is and will be increasingly impacted by our relationship with the Earth. Students with a natural curiosity about the Earth’s or another planet’s dynamic systems should consider studying in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPS).

The EPS secondary field is intended to provide a strong foundation in one or more subfields of Earth science (geophysics, geochemistry, climate science, atmospheric chemistry, geology, earth history, paleontology, planetary science) to students who have sufficient preparation in physics, chemistry, and mathematics. The EPS department covers a wide range of pure and applied scientific topics, and therefore consultation with a faculty adviser will be required for secondary field students. Secondary field students will be required to take the departmental tutorial, an ongoing series of lectures by faculty scheduled periodically through the academic year. The tutorial exposes concentrators to the breadth of Earth and Planetary Sciences and provides a setting for students to get acquainted with one another and with members of the faculty.

Requirements: 5 half-courses and department tutorial

  1. Two introductory EPS half-courses.

  2. Selected from EPS 5 (atmospheric science), EPS 7 (geological science), and EPS 8 (earth history). More advanced courses in atmospheric and oceanic sciences (EPS 131, EPS 132, or EPS 133) may substitute for EPS 5. If a designated Science General Education or Core class is taken before any other EPS course, it may substitute for one of the required introductory courses: Science A-43 may substitute for EPS 7; and Science B-35 may substitute for EPS 8. One substitution is permitted using a General Education or Core course.

  3. Three additional half-courses in EPS.

  4. The department’s courses have been organized such that three electives enable students to cover an area in reasonable depth (e.g., atmospheric science through EPS 131, 132, and 133) or to sample effectively from various fields within our discipline.

  5. Departmental tutorial. Non-credit. Generally taken in the sophomore year.

Other Information

Courses from study abroad, Harvard Summer School, or other Harvard schools could count toward secondary field credit if approved by the EPS Undergraduate Committee prior to the student's enrollment in these courses. Petitioning the UCC for such credit or substitution follows the same procedure used by EPS concentrators. For more information please contact the academic administrator. Freshman Seminars do not count toward secondary field credit.

All courses must be taken for a letter grade in order to count toward secondary field concentration credit and normally C- is the minimum acceptable grade.

An important aspect of the EPS concentration is participation in field trips and/or summer field camps, supported by the department. These opportunities will be available to secondary field students on a space-available basis, after placements of concentrators.

Advising Resources and Expectations

Students will submit an EPS form to become a secondary field student as early as possible but no later than the Study Card due date of their penultimate term; the department will then assign a faculty member to be an adviser. This form can be found on the department’s website in addition to hard copies being available from the academic administrator. The academic administrator will also provide guidance on course selection, as well as review student records to certify completion of requirements. Once the course requirements have been fulfilled students will follow the FAS procedures to submit a form to the Registrar confirming that requirements have been met.

The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences wants to encourage students who are pursing a secondary field in EPS to become full citizens of the department. Secondary field students will be invited to all events and activities currently open to concentrators to provide opportunities for all EPS concentrators to get acquainted with one another and with members of the faculty.

Students interested in pursuing a secondary field in Earth and Planetary Sciences should contact EPS co-head tutor Steve Wofsy (, 495-4566, Geological Museum 453); acting co-head tutor Professor Andrew Knoll (, 495-9306, Botanical Museum 453); co-head tutor Ann Pearson (, 384-8392, Hoffman Labs Rooms 302, on leave 2009-10) or academic administrator Chenoweth Moffatt (, 384-9760, Hoffman Labs Room 402).