Geological Sciences Degree Programs

Undergraduate Major

Oceanography professor Art Trembanis on ship with grad student discussing map results

The University of Delaware’s Department of Earth Sciences (ES) prepares students for their future by exposing them to exciting opportunities through education and research in the classroom, the laboratory and the field.

Our graduates go on to fulfilling careers in environmental consulting firms, the energy industry, governmental regulatory agencies, earth science teaching and research in the geological sciences. ES programs feature small classes with hands-on field and laboratory-based instruction delivered by an internationally respected, research-active faculty.

Graduate Degree Programs

The University of Delaware offers academic and research programs leading to the Master of Science degree in Geological Sciences to qualified students who hold bachelor’s degrees in the field of geology or related science and engineering disciplines. Major research emphases are geomicrobiology, environmental geochemistry, hydrology, geomorphology, solid earth geochemistry, and geophysics.

Admission to the Geological Sciences graduate program is based on

  • previous academic record (undergraduate and graduate),
  • two or more letters of recommendation,
  • resume,
  • applicant essay (describing reasons for seeking a graduate degree, proposed areas of study, and relevant preparation), and,
  • for foreign applicants for whom English is not the first language, TOEFL scores (a minimum score of 600 on the paper-delivered test and a minimum score of 95 on the IBT exam must be achieved).  

Applicants must have a Bachelor’s degree by the time that they matriculate into the graduate program. The Department will consider qualified applicants without a degree in Earth Sciences, although additional course work or preparation may be required. 

Before qualified applicants are admitted to the Department's graduate program, a faculty member must agree to serve as the principal advisor for the applicant.  

  • 30 credits of graduate study (24 course credits). The required 24 course credits must be taken at the graduate level (600- or 800-level).
  • Research, preparation, and defense of a thesis (6 credits) that describes original work completed by the student.
  • GEOL601 (1 credit) that introduces students to graduate work in the department, must be taken during the first semester.
  • GEOL602 (1 credit) the department seminar, must be taken for credit twice.
  • Students are required to take 3 credits of communications and/or research methods course(s).
  • The remaining 18 course credits can be from classes, special problem courses (GEOL 866), and research (GEOL 868).

Students work with their principal advisor and thesis committee to develop a coursework plan.

 

For more information on degree requirements, visit the UD Course Catalog and review the current Earth Sciences graduate policies.

The University of Delaware offers academic and research programs leading to the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Geological Sciences to qualified students who hold bachelor’s degrees in the field of geology or related science and engineering disciplines. Major research emphases are coastal and marine geology, geomorphology, hydrogeology, stratigraphy, Quaternary geology, and near-surface geophysics.

Admission to the Geological Sciences graduate program is based on

  • previous academic record (undergraduate and graduate),
  • two or more letters of recommendation,
  • resume,
  • applicant essay (describing reasons for seeking a graduate degree, proposed areas of study, and relevant preparation), and,
  • for foreign applicants for whom English is not the first language, TOEFL scores (a minimum score of 600 on the paper-delivered test and a minimum score of 95 on the IBT exam must be achieved).  

Applicants must have a Bachelor’s degree by the time that they matriculate into the graduate program. The Department will consider qualified applicants without a degree in Earth Sciences, although additional course work or preparation may be required. 

Students without a M.S. or equivalent degree may be considered for entrance to the Ph.D. program if they have exhibited outstanding performance through their previous academic and/or professional work, such that they have demonstrated the ability to engage in high-level research.

Before qualified applicants are admitted to the Department's graduate program, a faculty member must agree to serve as the principal advisor for the applicant.

  • Completion of coursework developed in consultation with the student’s dissertation committee (including required courses listed below and, for students without a M.S. or equivalent, an additional 18 course credits),
  • admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. via passing a qualifying exam,
  • submission of a dissertation proposal (part of the qualifying exam), and
  • the research, preparation, and defense of the dissertation (9 credits).

Students who have already obtained an M.S. degree or equivalent have no fixed number of course credits required for the Ph.D. degree. Students who do not already have an M.S. degree or equivalent must complete at least 24 credits that consist of coursework, special problem courses (GEOL 866), and research (GEOL 868). The required 24 course credits must be taken at the graduate level (600- or 800-level). 

All Ph.D. students must complete GEOL601 (1 credit) a course that introduces students to graduate work in the department taken during the first semester, GEOL602 (1 credit) the department seminar taken twice for credit, and 3 credits of communications and/or research methods course(s).

  • The Ph.D. committee must consist of at least four members, but not more than six. 
  • The committee Chair is the student’s principal advisor, who is a core or joint member of the Department faculty.
  • At least one member of the committee must be a core faculty member of the Department and at least two members must be core or joint members of the Department faculty. 
  • At least one member of the committee must be external to the Department.
  • Students are encouraged to seek an external member from outside the University in order to broaden the perspectives of the committee. 
The committee will typically remain the same throughout the student's Ph.D. program. A well-chosen committee will naturally include complementary expertise related to the dissertation project, such that advice and qualifying exams can be appropriately tailored to the student and his/her work.

The Ph.D. qualifying examination is prepared and administered by the student’s principal advisor in consultation with other members of the student’s Ph.D. committee. The schedule of all four steps should be agreed upon by the student and their principal advisor. The advisor must have ongoing discussions with the student from the beginning of the third semester about the format and expectations for the exam. The student is strongly encouraged to consult with each committee member to help in preparations for the exam.

Step 1. Proposal. Student writes a proposal for work to be completed during the Ph.D., and sends to his/her Ph.D. committee for evaluation.

Step 2. Oral presentation of proposal. The student orally defends the proposal in a meeting with all of her/his Ph.D. committee members.

Step 3. Written exam. This consists of questions written by the student’s Ph.D. committee members, to test whether the student has adequate breadth and depth to conduct their research and be considered an expert in their field.

Step 4. Oral exam. Follow up on written exam. The oral exam will test knowledge and, importantly, show how well the student can engage in scholarly conversation and critical thinking.

  • The defense of the Ph.D. dissertation focuses on the scope of the student’s research and its contribution to the field.
  • The student's Ph.D. committee serves as the examining board.
  • The defense is oral and open to the academic community of the University and to interested members of the public.

For more information on degree requirements, visit the UD Course Catalog and review the current Earth Sciences graduate policies.

Faculty Focus Areas

In any graduate program, a student’s advisor provides mentorship and guidance while filling crucial practical roles in their education as well. Success in either a master’s or Ph.D. program requires a student to find a faculty member with an established record of scholarship in the specific research field the student wishes to investigate. Use this categorization of the department’s faculty to help find good potential matches for an advisor.

In geomicrobiology, the work is multidisciplinary, combining geochemical field characterization and sampling, molecular biology, biochemistry, microbiology and a wide variety of microscopy and spectroscopy techniques to study how microorganisms affect environmental chemistry and how chemistry selects for and influences the evolution of life. Research in environmental geochemistry includes investigations of the mechanisms of carbonate nucleation/growth and the influence of organic templates and living interfaces on these processes, unraveling the biogeochemical behavior of radiogenic isotope and rare earth element concentrations in the modern ocean,  studying submarine groundwater discharge and associated chemical fluxes, and developing and applying new methods in isotope geochemistry and in synchrotron radiation studies of mineral-fluid interactions.

Earth Sciences faculty and their students combine field work, lab studies, and numerical modeling to research groundwater flow, fluvial geomorphology, and modifications to Earth’s surface as a result of changes in climate and human activities. Areas of study include: coastal groundwater dynamics, groundwater-surface water interaction, groundwater flow and solute transport modeling, geostatistical modeling of subsurface heterogeneity, hydro-economics, effects of dams and dam removal on rivers, novel methods for measuring  and modeling river bank erosion, and more.

Our faculty and their students examine samples of peridotite – the main rock of the upper mantle – and use seismology – the study of the passage of waves generated by earthquakes and other sources – to examine modern surface deformation and the physical and chemical processes, mechanisms and driving forces that govern plate tectonics.  Their research investigates the role of the mantle in the plate tectonic cycle, from the generation of lithospheric plates at ocean ridges to their destruction at subduction zones, as well as the flow that occurs within the convecting interior of the Earth.

They also use a variety of high-resolution geophysical techniques including ground penetrating radar, side-scan sonar, shallow seismic reflection, and geoelectrical techniques to study Quaternary stratigraphy, integrated biogeophysical systems, and coastal, estuarine, and riverine benthic habitats.

university-white-icon

Ready to apply?

Step 1

Reach out to CEOE faculty with research interests matching your own to discuss opportunities.

Step 2

Visit the official UD Graduate Admissions homepage.

Step 3

Click the Submit Application link to create an online account. You will receive a temporary account PIN that you can use to create a new password.

Step 4

Start a new application. Fill out your biographical information, select your program of study and follow the on-screen prompts.

Step 5

Once your application is submitted, notify the department graduate program director.

Still have questions? Contact ceoe-academics@udel.edu