PhD in Earth Sciences

Outline of Study

Within four weeks of initial registration, the PhD candidate, in consultation with the faculty advisor and an Entrance Interview Committee, must submit, for approval by the Department, an outline of study that specifies the sequence of courses the student expects to take. The purpose of the outline is to clearly specify those courses that should be taken to make up general deficiencies in qualifications. In addition, the outline is intended to give incoming students guidance in their general readings for the qualifying exam.

Course Requirements

Normally a total of 16 graduate-level courses (64 credits) is required, including at least 10 non-research courses (other than GRS ES 699). Up to four of the required courses can be graduate courses offered in other departments. Up to eight courses (32 credits) taken as part of a master’s degree can be applied toward the required 16. All students must take at least one graduate-level course from two of the following disciplines: (I) Geodynamics; (II) Geochemistry; (III) Earth History. Upon written, signed approval of the advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies students may substitute prior coursework, although such coursework will not count toward the graduate-level credit requirement unless transferred in accordance with the policies and practices of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.

Dissertation Committee

The student, in consultation with the dissertation advisor, is responsible for arranging a dissertation committee, consisting of the dissertation advisor and at least three other faculty members. Two of these other faculty members must be full-time members of the Department of Earth & Environment, and one must be external to the department.

Qualifying Examinations

Each PhD candidate must pass two qualifying examinations (one written and one oral), which are intended to test the candidate’s specific knowledge of the dissertation topic as well as the depth of knowledge of the scientific context of the topic. The student must pass these qualifying examinations in order to proceed with the dissertation research. Exams are normally scheduled in the fourth semester.

Dissertation Proposal

Within a year after passing the comprehensive examination, the student, in consultation with the faculty advisor, must present for approval by the department a Doctoral Dissertation Defense Abstract.

Dissertation and Dissertation Defense

A dissertation must be presented to the members of the dissertation committee in a timely fashion in accordance with the rules of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and the timetable agreed to with the department. The results of the dissertation must be presented orally in a lecture or demonstration open to the University community at a forum agreed upon by the student and the dissertation committee members. The student, in conjunction with the dissertation committee, must also schedule a dissertation defense, during which at least five members of the department are given adequate opportunity to question the candidate on the results of the dissertation research.

Student Organizations

The Boston University Geological Society (BUGS)

The Boston University Geological Society (BUGS) is an organization of students with activities complementing the classroom study of earth and environment. In addition to regular meetings and frequent fundraising events, BUGS organizes field trips, sports teams, and external lectures.

Sigma Xi

Eligible students may be elected to the Society of Sigma Xi.


CAS ES 500 Field Geology
CAS ES 503 Structural Petrology
CAS ES 505 Plate Tectonics and Kinematics
CAS ES 511 Groundwater Hydrogeology
CAS ES 514 Dynamic Landsurface Hydrology
CAS ES 522 Metamorphic Petrology
CAS ES 533 Quantitative Geomorphology
CAS ES 534 Ice-Age Systems
CAS ES 541 Coastal Processes
CAS ES 543 Estuaries and Nearshore Systems
CAS ES 545 Tropical Oceanography of the Caribbean Sea
CAS ES 546 Tropical Oceanography of the Caribbean Sea: Applications and Research
CAS ES 561 Mechanics of Earthquakes
CAS ES 571 Geochemical Modeling
CAS ES 573 Analytical Methods in Geochemistry
CAS ES 576 Aquatic Geochemistry
CAS ES 581 Solid Earth Geophysics
CAS ES 587, 588 Seminar in Earth Sciences
GRS ES 611 Glacial and Pleistocene Geology
GRS ES 623 Marine Biogeochemistry
GRS ES 640 Marine Geology
GRS ES 643 Terrestrial Biogeochemistry
GRS ES 652 Experimental Analysis of Marine Symbiosis: Organism-Sediment Relationships
GRS ES 660 Geodynamics I
GRS ES 671 Introduction to Geochemistry
GRS ES 681 Geological Record of Global Change
GRS ES 683 Geodynamics II Fluids and Fluid Transport
GRS ES 699 Teaching College Earth Sciences I
GRS ES 701 Quantitative Methods for the Earth Sciences I: Mechanics of Earth Materials
GRS ES 702 Quantitative Methods for the Earth Sciences II: Analysis and Modeling of Geological Processes
GRS ES 711 Fluvial Geomorphology
GRS ES 712 Laboratory and Field Hydrogeology
GRS ES 714 Advanced Groundwater Hydrogeology
GRS ES 732 Geology of Continental Margins
GRS ES 733 Advanced Desert Geomorphology
GRS ES 742 Coastal Dynamics
GRS ES 751 Advanced Paleoceanography
GRS ES 762 Nonmarine Terrigenous Clastic Deposits and Processes
GRS ES 771 Isotope Earth Science
GRS ES 781 Methods of Seismology
GRS ES 783 Climate-Tectonic Linkages

Advanced Topics

Hours arranged. 4 cr.

GRS ES 830 Advanced Topics in Surface Processes
GRS ES 831 Advanced Topics in Tectonics
GRS ES 832 Advanced Topics in Paleoclimatology
GRS ES 833 Advanced Topics in Seismology and Geophysics
GRS ES 834 Advanced Topics in Geochemical Cycles
GRS ES 835 Advanced Topics in Marine Geosciences
GRS ES 836 Advanced Topics in Igneous and Metamorphic Geology

Directed Study or Research

Hours arranged. Variable cr.

GRS ES 911, 912 Geomorphology and Hydrogeology
GRS ES 913, 914 Environmental and Urban Geology
GRS ES 921, 922 Crystallography and Mineralogy
GRS ES 925, 926 Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology
GRS ES 927, 928 Structural Geology and Tectonics
GRS ES 931, 932 Sedimentation and Stratigraphy
GRS ES 941, 942 Coastal and Marine Geology
GRS ES 951, 952 Paleontology
GRS ES 961, 962 Geophysics
GRS ES 963, 964 Seismology
GRS ES 971, 972 Geochemistry

Related Courses

A number of related courses in mathematics and natural science taught by other departments may be selected for graduate credit as part of the MA and PhD programs in Earth Sciences. The following courses are recommended; those marked with an asterisk (*) require a petition for graduate credit.


CAS AS 591, 592    Introduction to Space Physics I, II


CAS BI 303    Environmental Ecology*
CAS BI 504    Evolution
CAS BI 617    Lakes and Rivers
CAS BI 666    Marine Ecology


CAS CH 351, 352    Physical Chemistry*
CAS CH 354    Physical Chemistry Laboratory*


CAS MA 411     Advanced Calculus*
CAS MA 561    Methods of Applied Mathematics I
CAS MA 562    Methods of Applied Mathematics II
CAS MA 575    Applied Regression and Analysis of Variance I
CAS MA 576    Applied Regression and Analysis of Variance II


CAS PY 371    Electronics for Scientists*
CAS PY 405    Electromagnetic Fields and Waves I*
CAS PY 406    Electromagnetic Fields and Waves II*
CAS PY 408    Intermediate Mechanics*

Cooperative Program with Boston College

A listing and descriptions of available courses offered at Boston College as part of the cooperative program may be obtained in the departmental office. Cross-registration is designated by the symbols XRG.