Geological Sciences

Man looking at model of a rock
Degrees Offered: BA IBA MS PhD Minor

Geology is a science concerned with the earth—its relationship to the solar system, its origin and developmental history, its structure and composition, its dynamic processes and its evolution. Geology also relates to human endeavors and needs, including the use of natural resources, the preservation of the environment, global change and the mitigation of geologic hazards. Geology draws its data from firsthand field observations and laboratory analyses of minerals, sediments, rocks, fossils, natural fluids and gases and landforms. Interpretation of the earth’s physical, chemical and biological systems and their evolution requires that scientists who study the earth interact with mathematicians, physicists, astronomers, chemists, geographers, climatologists, biologists and engineers.

Undergraduate Opportunities

The major in geology offers two options, each leading to a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. Students who would like to acquire a basic knowledge of geology while majoring in another field should consider the minor program in geology. The BA in Geology can lead to various entry­level positions in the energy and economic­minerals industry, environmental evaluation and regulation, industrial relations, reclamation, resource evaluation, research, surveying and numerous other areas. The degree is also excellent preparation for later professional work in fields such as journalism, law and economics.Geology majors can choose one of two study options: the general geology option, which offers in­depth training in the traditional areas of the geosciences, including a broad scientific and analytical background based on chemistry, physics and mathematics; or the geophysics option, which emphasizes the physics of the earth. Students in this area of study explore the materials, structure and processes of the earth’s interior, as well as the deformation and dynamics of the earth.

Graduate Studies

With one of the most successful graduate programs in the nation, the Department of Geological Sciences has enjoyed a reputation of excellence for more than 100 years. The doctoral program is ranked among the top 10 percent of U.S. geology programs by the National Research Council and is ranked ninth by U.S. News and World Report.

The graduate degrees offered include Master of Science (MS) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Graduate students have the opportunity to work with approximately 30 tenure and tenure­track faculty who support a wide range of interdisciplinary research programs in biochemistry, economic resources, geodynamics, geophysics, glaciology, global climate change, hydrogeology, paleontology and surficial processes. The department’s research areas are categorized into four broad research interest groups, including economic resources, geodynamics, global change and hydrogeosciences.

Research Opportunities

The department considers the diverse opportunities for field studies in the high plains and central Rocky Mountains of Colorado a particular strength of its programs. In addition, the department has research laboratories for studying rock and mineral deformation, soils, sedimentation, petrology and mineralogy, paleomagnetism, paleobiology, geophysics, geochemistry, geochronology, hydrology and isotope geochemistry. Research is facilitated by in­house minicomputers and links with the university’s main computing center.

Additional research opportunities are provided through connections with the University of Colorado Museum, the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) and the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR), all of which have their own research facilities. These groups are involved in interdisciplinary research relevant to the region, global change issues, earthquakes, remote sensing, hydrology, planetary geology and other geological and geophysical topics throughout the world. 

The Department of Geological Sciences sponsors an undergraduate mentoring program that engages geology majors in the excitement of scientific discovery. In exchange for research assistance, each mentor assumes a one­on­one mentoring responsibility for their undergraduate major, providing advice on professional development, graduate school or employment opportunities. Department grants are used to support the research activities of each faculty­student pair.