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Academic Policies

1. GEO Requirements for First Year Studies

The aim of graduate education in this Department is to prepare scholars and professionals capable of conducting independent research at the forefront of the geosciences. A program of graduate education dedicated to this end has three major ingredients: (1) formal courses and seminars; (2) independent reading and study; and (3) Original and independent research on a topic of current interest.  While all three ingredients are important, the third represents the major component of graduate education in this department.

It is essential that a student's performance in all these activities be evaluated and recorded in the Departmental files. The student’s advisory committee has the responsibility for recordkeeping, as well as for maintaining student-faculty communication concerning the evaluation of the academic programs. Students can ask for written evaluations (or at least a grade) of their performance, if these have not been provided, and may at any time request a meeting with her or his advisory committee for the purpose of discussing recorded evaluations. Such evaluations for the previous semester's work must be available for consideration by the advisory committee at its regular meeting at the beginning of each semester.

Courses and Independent study
Pre-generals students are normally expected to enroll in and complete two to four courses or seminars, either within or outside the Department, per term. The actual load may vary depending on a student's background, interests, the availability of courses, the number and nature of other academic activities, etc. Students serving as undergraduate teaching assistants may wish to carry a lighter load in order to ensure sufficient time to perform research.

You are expected to have completed eight courses or the equivalent by the end of the semester in which you take the General Exam. The 8 courses will include GEO505/506, Fundamentals of the Geosciences, and at least 2 graduate or appropriate level undergraduate courses outside the geosciences department, chosen with approval of the advisory committee. Courses must be taken for a grade when the graded option is offered, and the average of the graded courses is expected to be B or higher.

Post-generals students are encouraged to continue to take occasional courses as a useful means of filling gaps in knowledge appropriate to their research and other professional interests. Active participation in departmental seminars is considered especially important, as these provide exposure to a broad range of research at the forefront of Earth Sciences.

Course worksheets must be approved and signed by a student's advisory committee chair before submittal for final approval by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Independent reading and study is an important part of graduate education, and will continue to be important in later professional life. It is one of the responsibilities of the advisory committee to assist the student in formulating a suitable independent study program.

Research
Students are expected to begin work on a research project of their choosing early in their first year. Near the middle of Fall Term, they will be asked to turn in to the Graduate Work Committee a brief description of their proposed first-year research project together with the name of a faculty or research staff member who has agreed to supervise it.  This project will normally be part of, or related to, an ongoing departmental research activity.

As an alternative to a single project, students can instead choose to carry out two smaller research projects, with two different advisors.  This choice is best made early in the first year, and students are encouraged to discuss both options with faculty members.

A written research progress report will be due in the spring semester.  It will be read and evaluated by the research advisor and at least one other appropriate reader. In addition, each student will present a public oral report (about 15 minutes followed by a brief period of questioning) on his or her research. In September of the second year, a final report is due, preferably in the form of a short research paper (~10 pages), as well as another 15 minute presentation.  Students doing two projects will present written reports on both projects ath this time, but give the oral presentation on the second topic only.

Research activity in the second year may be a continuation of the first year's research, or it may be a new project, possibly with a new research advisor, if the first year's project is essentially complete or if a student's scientific direction has changed.  Although changing advisors may be difficult, the department is committed to ensuring each student is matched with the most suitable advisor before thesis research begins in earnest.  Post-generals research will be on a student's thesis topic or topics. Typically, the first year project leads directly to the thesis research, but the flexibility to change direction, if needed, is essential.