BA in Geophysics & Planetary Sciences

The major in Geophysics & Planetary Sciences (G & PS) provides students with broad knowledge of the principles of astronomy, together with geophysics and planetary sciences topics such as planetary geology, planetary atmospheres, and planetary interiors. Students learn to communicate astronomical information effectively to a variety of audiences using the spoken and written word. They learn to think critically and evaluate, interpret, and solve problems related to astronomy, geophysics, planetary sciences, and general scientific topics. A bachelor’s degree in G & PS prepares students for research in geophysics, geodynamics, seismology, and planetary science as well as careers in science education, management, geotechnical consulting, computing, and science writing.

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate a broad knowledge of the principles of astronomy, especially those related to geophysics and planetary sciences topics such as planetary geology, planetary atmospheres, and planetary interiors.
  • Demonstrate a broad knowledge of the principles of physics, including gravity, orbits, and electromagnetic radiation.
  • Communicate concepts relevant to geophysics and planetary sciences effectively, both in writing and verbally, to a variety of audiences.
  • Think critically and evaluate, interpret, and solve problems related to topics in geophysics and planetary sciences, as well as other technical and general scientific topics.


All students entering as freshmen in Fall 2018 and after will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, a general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements are flexible and can be satisfied in many different ways, through coursework in and beyond the major (or minor) and, in some cases, through co-curricular activities. Students majoring (or minoring) in Geophysics & Planetary Sciences will ordinarily, through coursework in the major, satisfy BU Hub requirements in Scientific Inquiry and Quantitative Reasoning, as well as some of the requirements in Communication and the Intellectual Toolkit. Remaining BU Hub requirements will be satisfied by selecting from a wide range of available courses outside the major or, in some cases, co-curricular experiences.

Geophysics & Planetary Science majors will also satisfy College of Arts & Sciences requirements, described here.

A total of 16 courses are required, all completed with a grade of C or higher. Unless otherwise noted, all required courses are 4 credit hours.

Required Core Courses (4)

  • CAS AS 202 Principles of Astronomy I
  • CAS AS 311 Planetary Physics
  • CAS ES 107 Introduction to Climate and Earth System Science
  • CAS ES 305 Rock Deformation and Structure

Required Related Courses (8)

  • 3 calculus courses: CAS MA 123 Calculus I, MA 124 Calculus II, and MA 225 Multivariate Calculus
  • 1 general chemistry course: CAS CH 101 General Chemistry 1 (or CH 131 General Chemistry for the Engineering Sciences)
  • 4 physics courses:
    • CAS PY 211 General Physics (or PY 251 Principles of Physics 1)
      and CAS PY 212 General Physics (or PY 252 Principles of Physics 2)
    • CAS PY 355 Methods of Theoretical Physics
    • CAS PY 405 Electromagnetic Fields and Waves I (or PY 408 Intermediate Mechanics)

Students entering the program with strong calculus skills may substitute CAS MA 127 or CAS MA 129 for the combination of CAS MA 123 and CAS MA 124, in consultation with their academic advisor.

Required Major Electives (4)

In consultation with their advisor, students must take four courses from the following list. One of these must be at the 400 level or above. Not all of these can be taken in the same department. (GE and ES courses are offered by the Department of Earth & Environment.)

  • CAS AS 312 Stellar and Galactic Astrophysics
  • CAS AS 414 Solar and Space Physics
  • CAS AS 441 Observational Astronomy
  • CAS ES 300 Earth’s Rocky Materials
  • CAS ES 301 Structural Analysis of Rocks
  • CAS ES 333 Earth Surface Processes
  • CAS ES 371 Introduction to Geochemistry
  • CAS ES 420 Remote Sensing and Aquatic Optics
  • CAS ES 483 Geodynamics II: Fluids and Fluid Transport
  • CAS ES 510 Introduction to the Atmospheric Boundary Layer
  • CAS ES 533 Quantitative Geomorphology
  • CAS GE 302 Remote Sensing of Environment
  • CAS GE 310 Climate and the Environment
  • CAS GE 507 Dynamical Oceanography
  • CAS PY 313 Waves and Modern Physics (or CAS PY 351 Modern Physics)
  • CAS PY 405 Electromagnetic Fields and Waves I (or CAS PY 408 Intermediate Mechanics), if not already taken
  • CAS PY 410 Statistical Thermodynamics

Recommended Courses

Any from the above list of courses, in addition to CAS CH 102 General Chemistry 2, CS 111 Introduction to Computer Science, and CS 112 Introduction to Computer Science 2.

Cross-Registration with Boston College

The Boston Area Consortium permits degree candidates at Boston University to pursue courses in areas of fluid mechanics and geophysics at Boston College. (Cross-registration course numbers are designated by the abbreviation “XAS” for undergraduate students.)

Further information and the required Registration Form can be found at the Office of the University Registrar’s Boston Area Consortia webpage.

Honors in the Major

Honors in Astronomy is an opportunity for senior undergraduates in the Department of Astronomy to conduct in-depth research in the field and to be more fully involved in the intellectual life of the department. To graduate with Honors in Astronomy, a student must author a well-written thesis, give a public presentation based on the thesis, and take an oral examination about the thesis with a committee of the Astronomy faculty. In addition, the student must, for at least one semester, regularly attend and participate in one of the following: the Space Physics Seminar Series, the Astrophysics Seminar Series, the Space Physics Journal Club, or the Astrophysics Journal Club. The Astronomy faculty committee will consider the quality of the written thesis, the quality of the presentation, the result of the oral examination, and the participation of the student in the Seminar or Journal Club series to determine whether the student will be awarded Honors in Astronomy. A grade of B+ or better in both semesters of CAS AS 401/402 (“Honors Work in Astronomy”) is also required to receive Honors in Astronomy.