geoscience

The complementary fields of geology and geophysics are combined in one interdisciplinary department, with graduate degrees offered in both disciplines. The undergraduate degree is in geology and geophysics.

Geology offers unusual opportunities to interweave knowledge from many disciplines in the study of natural Earth phenomena. Those who enjoy the challenge of integrating different kinds of information into a unified interpretation will find geology particularly satisfying. Most geology students enjoy travel and have a strong interest in the natural environment as it is today and as it has developed through the past 4.5 billion years. A natural capacity for historical and sequential thought, inductive reasoning, and three-dimensional perception is helpful, and these skills will be developed. Geological investigations are becoming increasingly quantitative and experimental, and thus require some computer experience and a strong foundation in chemistry, physics, and mathematics.

The student of geophysics is interested in developing a quantitative understanding of the structure and dynamics of the Earth's interior from the shallow crust to deep core. Courses in geophysics apply basic physical laws and processes, such as those governing gravity, magnetism, heat flow, and seismic wave propagation, to the study of the Earth. An undergraduate may choose to concentrate in geophysics, but professional employment in the field often requires an advanced degree. Most students who pursue advanced study and careers in geophysics major in geology, physics, mathematics, or engineering as undergraduates.

Background Requirements

(Exceptions for Geophysics and Engineering Geology Track noted below)

  1. A one-year course sequence in calculus: MATH 221 Calculus and Analytic Geometry 1MATH 222 Calculus and Analytic Geometry 2 recommended; MATH 211 CalculusMATH 213 Calculus and Introduction to Differential Equations, or any combination of calculus courses, including transfer credits, that totals at least 8 credits at the intermediate level, is acceptable.
  2. The equivalent of a one-year course sequence in general chemistry: CHEM 109 Advanced General Chemistry recommended; CHEM 103 General Chemistry ICHEM 104 General Chemistry II, or any combination of general chemistry courses, including transfer credits, that totals at least 8 credits, is acceptable.
  3. An equivalent of a one-year course sequence in general physics that totals at least 8 credits: PHYSICS 207 General PhysicsPHYSICS 208 General Physics recommended; PHYSICS 103 General PhysicsPHYSICS 104 General Physics, PHYSICS 201 General PhysicsPHYSICS 202 General Physics, PHYSICS 247 A Modern Introduction to PhysicsPHYSICS 248 A Modern Introduction to Physics, or any combination of general physics courses, including transfer credits, that totals at least 8 credits, is acceptable. Students preparing to specialize in paleontology may, with approval of the Undergraduate Studies Committee, substitute ZOOLOGY/​BIOLOGY/​BOTANY  151 Introductory BiologyZOOLOGY/​BIOLOGY/​BOTANY  152 Introductory Biology or other appropriate courses in biological sciences for the physics requirement.

Declaring a Major

To declare a major in geology or geophysics, students must have taken one of the following geoscience courses:  GEOSCI 202 Introduction to Geologic Structures, GEOSCI 204 Geologic Evolution of the Earth, or GEOSCI/​G L E  360 Principles of Mineralogy. Students must meet with an undergraduate advisor and complete a Major Declaration Form.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A & Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A & Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Letters & Science Breadth and Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Science (B.S.)

Students pursuing a bachelor of science degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science curriculum. View a comparison of the degree requirements here.

Bachelor of Science DEGREE REQUIREMENTS

Mathematics Two (2) 3+ credits of intermediate/advanced level MATH, COMP SCI, STAT
Limit one each: COMP SCI, STAT
Foreign Language Complete the third unit of a foreign language
Note: A unit is one year of high school work or one semester/term of college work.
L&S Breadth
  • Humanities, 12 credits: 6 of the 12 credits must be in literature
  • Social Sciences, 12 credits
  • Natural Sciences, 12 credits: must include 6 credits in biological science; and must include 6 credits in physical science
Liberal Arts and Science Coursework 108 credits
Depth of Intermediate/Advanced work 60 intermediate or advanced credits
Major Declare and complete at least one (1) major
Total Credits 120 credits
UW-Madison Experience 30 credits in residence, overall
30 credits in residence after the 90th credit
Minimum GPAs 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
2.000 in intermediate/advanced coursework at UW–Madison

Non–L&S Students PURSUING AN L&S MAJOR

Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements and do not need to complete the L&S breadth and degree requirements above.

Requirements for the Major

Prospective majors are strongly encouraged to seek assistance from a faculty advisor in order to choose courses appropriate to their interests and career plans. Advisors can also assist students in choosing a track that is appropriate for their interests and career goals.

Background Requirements

1. The equivalent of a one-year course sequence in calculus that totals at least 8 credits:

MATH 221 Calculus and Analytic Geometry 1MATH 222 Calculus and Analytic Geometry 2 recommended; MATH 211 CalculusMATH 213 Calculus and Introduction to Differential Equations, or any combination of calculus courses, including transfer credits, that totals at least 8 credits at the intermediate level, is acceptable.

2.  The equivalent of a one-year course sequence in general chemistry that totals at least 8 credits:

CHEM 109 Advanced General Chemistry recommended; CHEM 103 General Chemistry ICHEM 104 General Chemistry II, or any combination of general chemistry courses, including transfer credits, that totals at least 8 credits, is acceptable.

3.  The equivalent of a one-year course sequence in general physics that totals at least 8 credits:

PHYSICS 207 General PhysicsPHYSICS 208 General Physics recommended; PHYSICS 103 General PhysicsPHYSICS 104 General Physics, PHYSICS 201 General PhysicsPHYSICS 202 General Physics, PHYSICS 247 A Modern Introduction to PhysicsPHYSICS 248 A Modern Introduction to Physics, or any combination of general physics courses, including transfer credits, that totals at least 8 credits, is acceptable. Students preparing to specialize in paleontology may, with approval of the Undergraduate Studies Committee, substitute ZOOLOGY/​BIOLOGY/​BOTANY  151 Introductory BiologyZOOLOGY/​BIOLOGY/​BOTANY  152 Introductory Biology or other appropriate courses in biological sciences for the physics requirement.

(Exceptions to Background Requirements for the Geophysics and Engineering Geology Track are noted below)

Core Courses (required for all tracks):
Select one of the following 100-level courses:3
General Geology
Environmental Geology
GEOSCI 202 Introduction to Geologic Structures4
GEOSCI 204 Geologic Evolution of the Earth4
GEOSCI/G L E 360 Principles of Mineralogy3
GEOSCI/G L E 370 Elementary Petrology3
Tracks
Select one of the following tracks:17-23
Geology Track
Geophysics and Engineering Geology Track
Environmental Geoscience Track
General Geology Track
Total Credits34-40

Tracks

Geology Track

GEOSCI/G L E 350 Introduction to Geophysics: The Dynamic Earth3
GEOSCI 375 Principles of Geochemistry3
GEOSCI 430 Sedimentology and Stratigraphy3
GEOSCI/G L E 455 Structural Geology4
Select 4 credits of GEOSCI electives numbered 300 and above 14
Total Credits17
1

Except GEOSCI 331 Gems: The Science Behind the Sparkle.

Geophysics and Engineering Geology Track

GEOSCI/G L E 431 Sedimentary & Stratigraphy Lab1
GEOSCI/G L E 455 Structural Geology4
GEOSCI/G L E 474 Rock Mechanics3
GEOSCI/G L E 594 Introduction to Applied Geophysics3
GEOSCI/G L E 595 Field Methods in Applied and Engineering Geophysics1
GEOSCI/G L E 627 Hydrogeology3-4
Select one of the following:3
Mechanics of Materials
Mechanics of Materials
Mechanics
Electromagnetic Fields
Select one of the following:3-4
Calculus--Functions of Several Variables
Techniques in Ordinary Differential Equations
Linear Algebra and Differential Equations
Elementary Matrix and Linear Algebra
Total Credits21-23

Students choosing this track may not take PHYSICS 103 General Physics & PHYSICS 104 General Physics. A student may substitute E M A 201 Statics & E M A 202 Dynamics for PHYSICS 201 General Physics, PHYSICS 207 General Physics or PHYSICS 247 A Modern Introduction to Physics, and complete the major Physics requirement with PHYSICS 202 General Physics, PHYSICS 208 General Physics or PHYSICS 248 A Modern Introduction to Physics.

Students who are not Geological Engineering (GLE) majors may substitute GEOSCI/​G L E  350/G L E/​GEOSCI  350 Introduction to Geophysics: The Dynamic Earth for either GEOSCI/​G L E/​M S & E  474 Rock Mechanics or GEOSCI/​G L E  627 Hydrogeology.

Environmental Geoscience Track

Directed Electives
Select one course from each of the following four categories:
Surface Environments:3-4
Geomorphology
Glacial and Pleistocene Geology
Sedimentology and Stratigraphy
Hydrogeology
Geochemistry:3
Principles of Geochemistry
Geochronology, Timescales, and Rates of Geologic Processes
Contaminant Hydrogeology
Geobiology:3
Geobiology
Paleobiology
Invertebrate Paleontology
Earth Resources:3-4
Minerals as a Public Problem
Energy Resources
Structural Geology
Principles of Economic Geology
Introduction to Applied Geophysics
Geoscience Electives
Select 3 to 5 credits of GEOSCI electives numbered 300-level and higher to reach minimum of 17 credits for the track 15
Total Credits17-19
1

Except GEOSCI 331 Gems: The Science Behind the Sparkle.

General Geology Track

Select 17 credits of GEOSCI electives numbered 300-level and higher 117
Total Credits17
1

Except GEOSCI 331 Gems: The Science Behind the Sparkle.

Honors in the Major

Students may declare Honors in the Geology and Geophysics Major in consultation with the departmental undergraduate advisor.

Honors in the Geology and Geophysics Major Requirements

To earn a B.A. or B.S. with Honors in the Geology and Geophysics Major students must satisfy both the requirements for the major (above) and the following additional requirements:

  • Earn a 3.300 overall university GPA
  • Earn a 3.400 GPA in all GEOSCI courses, and all courses accepted in the major
  • Complete a two-semester Senior Honors Thesis in GEOSCI 681 Senior Honors Thesis and GEOSCI 682 Senior Honors Thesis, for a total of 6 credits.

University Degree Requirements

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.

Advising

Contact the Department of Geoscience for general information about advising.  

Philip Brown, undergraduate advisor in the major: economic geology, mineralogy, geochemistry
608-262-5954
365 Weeks Hall

Clay Kelly, undergraduate advisor in the major: micropaleontology and paleoceanography
608-262-1698
463 Weeks Hall

Shanan Peters, Undergraduate advisor in the major: sedimentary geology, paleobiology
608-262-5987
495 Weeks Hall

Basil Tikoff, Undergraduate advisor in the major: structural geology
basil@geology.wisc.edu
608-262-4678
176 Weeks Hall

Huifang Xu, Undergraduate advisor in the major: mineral science, nanogeoscience, and electron microscopy
608-265-5887
A352 Weeks Hall

Lucas Zoet, Undergraduate advisor in the major: glaciology and glacial geomorphology
lzoet@wisc.edu
608-262-1921
256B Weeks Hall

CAREERS

More than half of all professional geologists and geophysicists work in hydrogeology or the petroleum and mining industries. Such jobs involve an unusual breadth of training and personal adaptability, and the M.S. degree is generally required. About one fifth of all geoscientists work in state and federal geological surveys, and in government research activities such as oceanographic programs. These positions largely involve problems in geologic mapping, mineral resources, groundwater, and engineering. Geophysics offers opportunities in earthquake studies, seismic verification of nuclear test bans, and crustal rock characterization techniques for waste disposal and groundwater modeling. Many geology students continue on to obtain a Ph.D. degree and become faculty members at a college or university. A geology and geophysics major is also appropriate for those interested in careers in elementary or secondary education, environmental policy, or environmental law. Faculty advisors can provide additional information on career opportunities.

The College of Letters & Science encourages majors to begin working on their career exploration and preparation soon after arriving on campus. Our department partners with the L&S Career Services office to help students leverage the academic skills learned in the major and liberal arts degree, explore and try out different career paths, participate in internships, prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications, and network with professionals in the field (alumni and employers).

Letters & Science graduates are in high demand by employers and graduate programs. It is important that students are career ready at the time of graduation, and we are committed to their success.

Career Resources

Professors Bahr, Brown, Carroll, DeMets, Feigl, Goodwin, Johnson, Kelly, Peters, Roden, Singer, Thurber, Tikoff, Tobin, Valley, Wang, Xu 

Associate Professor Meyers

Assistant Professors Cardiff, Marcott, Zoet