Geoscience is the study of the Earth and all its systems.
Interactions between the solid earth, the hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere continually reshape the Earth. Geoscientists investigate these interactions using interdisciplinary approaches to address questions related to how the Earth formed, how it evolved over geologic time, and how its continued evolution affects the environment in which we live. Understanding the Earth’s many linked systems is increasingly important if we are to make informed decisions about the many critical environmental issues facing humanity, including global climate change, sea-level rise, shortages of drinking water, health hazards posed by materials in our urban environment, and mitigation of threats from earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, floods and other natural hazards.
The Department of Geosciences offers courses on the nature and history of the Earth, the processes that shape the Earth, the impacts those processes have on human populations, and our ability to live sustainably. Student research opportunities complement the program of study.
Goals for the Major
The Department of Geosciences seeks to educate majors in the following bodies of knowledge and to develop in them the following skills:
- A knowledge and understanding of the internal structure and composition of the Earth, the history of the Earth, and the internal and surficial processes that shape its evolution;
- A knowledge and understanding of how earth systems interact to produce the environment in which we live;
- The cognitive and analytical reasoning skills needed to frame and solve interdisciplinary scientific problems;
- The written, oral, and visual/spatial communication skills needed to communicate scientific knowledge.
Requirements for the Major
A major in geosciences includes eight geosciences courses (a minimum of eight units of course work), at least six of which must be taken at Wellesley. Entry into the major may be through GEOS 101 or GEOS 102. Four 200-level courses are required, normally to include GEOS 200, GEOS 203 and GEOS 206. Three 300-level courses are required, one of which must be GEOS 304 and one of which may be GEOS 350, GEOS 360 or GEOS 370. Four complementary courses from mathematics, biological sciences, chemistry, physics, astronomy, or computer science are also required, and two of these must come from the same discipline. The department also recommends that students majoring in geosciences take a geology field course, either the MIT 12.114-12.115 sequence offered in alternate years by MIT or a summer geology field course offered by another institution.
Requirements for the Minor
A minor in geosciences consists of five courses, including GEOS 101 or GEOS 102 and at least one course at the 300 level.
The only route to honors in the major is writing a thesis and passing an oral examination. To be admitted to the thesis program, a student must have a grade point average of at least 3.5 in all work in the major field above the 100 level; the department may petition on her behalf if her GPA in the major is between 3.0 and 3.5. See the Honors page for further details.
Students considering graduate school are urged to take two semesters of mathematics, two of chemistry and two of physics. Students will choose an appropriate set of complementary courses with the guidance of a departmental advisor.