The program is designed to enhance students’ professional abilities in engineering and the geological sciences. Although often equated with geotechnical engineering, a discipline closely aligned with civil engineering, geological engineering is more correctly characterized as a program focused on geologic hazards mitigation and natural resources characterization.
In one sense, geological engineering is a form of environmental engineering. The MS program emphasizes the professional nature of the geological engineering discipline. Consequently students are required to be excellent in both geology and engineering core subjects. If they are deficient in the core courses they must be taken. Geological engineering plays a vital role in engineering with natural materials (rock, soil, water and even snow). Geological engineers are unlike other engineers who use manmade materials like steel, concrete, asphalt and composites to design and construct. Geological engineers are intimately involved with our environment in assessing and design ways to alleviate the effects of geologic hazards like landslides, earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruptions or by mitigating or mediating potential man-made hazards including contaminated ground water and poorly sited landfills. They design foundations for structures, tunnels and open pits for large excavations. Geological engineers design facilities for mitigating the flow of groundwater pollution, for the location of sanitary municipal landfills and for the storage of hazardous waste.
Today, there is a critical national need for geological engineers in the heavy construction industry, the minerals industry, the energy industry, and for fundamental research at national laboratories. On graduating a GE is capable of being professionally registered as an engineer on passing the relevant State Examinations.
Laboratory facilities exist in support of the GE program. These include slope stability, data analysis, MMV (mapping, modeling, and visualization), and soil and rock testing. The slope stability lab in particular contains modern computer-driven shear box and large-capacity direct shear testing equipment along with smaller capacity shear boxes. Offices for GE students, both undergraduate and graduate, are located in the slope stability lab and the data analysis lab. The rock mechanics laboratory and rock preparation facility are jointly administered space between Geological Engineering and Mining Engineering. The space contains modern computer controlled triaxial and environmental rock testing equipment, and a full suite of drill presses, lathes and polishers for sample preparation and testing. Computational resources for the GE program include PCs, I/O devices, and necessary software for routine and advanced calculation, analysis, and presentation of results. The MMV Lab is managed by the Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering. A dedicated PC equipped teaching lab is available and scheduled for GE classes. Here and in the slope stability lab, multiple software licenses are used routinely by GE students in their courses and related research, including UDEC, FLAC, CRSP (Colorado RockFall Simulation Package), PFC (Particle Flow Code program for debris flow simulation), and the RocScience suite that includes Slide, Swedge, RocPlane, RocData, RocFall, and Dips.