I. Introduction

Welcome to the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Nevada, Reno! We are glad you are here, and we hope you will have an enjoyable, stimulating, and rewarding stay in our department. We have outstanding faculty and excellent research facilities, all of which are at your disposal. This Guide will serve as an important reference for you while you obtain your graduate degree, complete classes, conduct research and write a thesis or dissertation on some original research. This handbook will help you navigate through your graduate school experience.

It is important to realize that the successful and timely completion of a graduate degree is entirely dependent on YOU.  No one else will take the classes for you, do your fieldwork, or write your thesis.  Of course, the faculty are here to help you, and fellow students are often the most help of all, but it is up to you to become aware of all university and departmental requirements and deadlines that pertain to your degree program. You also need to make sure you are aware of department policies that may change from time to time.

Communication is the name of the game. At times, you will have to track down those busy faculty members on your advisory/examining committee to discuss what classes you should take and to schedule committee meetings.  You will have to learn to be a bit of a personnel manager, as well as a knowledgeable practitioner of some discipline within the earth sciences.  After you leave graduate school and begin a new job, decisions about your career advancement will be based on how you communicate with and relate to other people at least as much as on your technical competence.  Use your time here in graduate school to practice, or acquire, these "people skills."  You and your advisory/examining committee will be glad you did.

This Guide is intended as a supplement to the Graduate Student Association (GSA) Handbook, which details the policies of the UNR Graduate School.  The GSA Handbook documents University standards for course work, thesis preparation, and publication. It presents, in detail, those steps necessary for successful completion of graduate studies at UNR.  The UNR Graduate School is ultimately responsible for both admitting graduate students and approving the completion of their graduate programs. However, in some instances, the Graduate School defers certain decisions to individual Departments. This Guide is intended to codify the pertinent policies of the Department of Geological Sciences toward its graduate programs in Geology, Geological Engineering, and Geophysics. In addition, faculty in the Geological Sciences and Engineering Department advise or work with students from interdisciplinary graduate programs, such as Hydrologic Sciences, Atmospheric Sciences, and Environmental Science and Health. All UNR interdisciplinary graduate degree programs have assigned Graduate Directors. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of these degree programs, policies and procedures may differ from those presented in this document.  Information and guidance on policies and procedures for graduate students enrolled in these programs can be obtained from the interdisciplinary Graduate Directors. Much of the material summarized here regarding Graduate School requirements is drawn freely from the GSA Handbook, to which you are referred for more detail. A handy checklist in the GSA Handbook illustrates the sequence of steps a student must follow to be awarded an advanced degree. 

1.1 Program description

Geology

  • Masters of Science
    • Graduate students conduct research within the department and/or in association with the Center for Neotectonic Studies, the Ralph J. Roberts Center for Research in Economic Geology, the Desert Research Institute, the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, and the United States Geological Survey-Reno Field Office.
  • Non-Thesis Masters of Science
    • A non-thesis M.S. option is available as an appropriate alternative upon special petition. The non-thesis option is considered a terminal degree and is not recommended for students considering a future Doctoral degree. To pursue a non-thesis M.S., the student must first discuss this option with their advisor and committee. If the advisor and committee deem the non-thesis M.S. to be an appropriate option, the advisor will then submit a memo petitioning the Graduate Committee within the first semester.
  • Doctor of Philosophy
    • The University's Ph.D. in geology invites students to explore earth-science research areas such as geodynamics, volcanology, geochemistry and petrology, earth and planetary surface processes, earthquakes and seismology, and mineral and energy resources—to name just a few.
  • Both regional and international research programs are available for both the Masters of Science and Doctor of Philosophy. Field-related studies and research are among the strengths of our programs. The University of Nevada, Reno is located near the boundary between the Great Basin and Sierra Nevada physiographic provinces, and is near many world-class localities for field studies, ranging from glaciated high country to high desert environments. Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, Great Basin, and Lassen Volcanic national parks are all within easy reach of Reno. We have state-of-the-art field instrumentation for geologic, geochemical, seismic, gravity, magnetic, electrical, and rock properties studies. We also have one of the world's largest digitally recorded seismic networks.

Geological Engineering

  • Masters of Science
    • 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.
    • 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. 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.
  • Non-Thesis Masters of Science
    • A non-thesis M.S. option is available as an appropriate alternative upon special petition. The non-thesis option is considered a terminal degree and is not recommended for students considering a future Doctoral degree. To pursue a non-thesis M.S., the student must first discuss this option with their advisor and committee. If the advisor and committee deem the non-thesis M.S. to be an appropriate option, the advisor will then submit a memo petitioning the Graduate Committee within the first semester.

Geophysics

  • Masters of Science
    • Geophysics applies mathematical and physical principles to the study of the Earth and planets. The curriculum introduces the global properties of the Earth (gravity, magnetic field, crustal motions, interior dynamics) and the determination of near-surface and interior properties through the use of seismology, electromagnetics, potential fields, remote sensing, geodesy and GPS. The curriculum provides a broad grounding in physical and mathematical fundamentals useful for future graduate study or for work in energy, natural resource or engineering industries. Students will gain experience in the integrated application of geologic observations and geophysical measurements to the analysis of Earth science and related engineering problems using current, industry-standard computational and GIS tools.
  • Non-Thesis Masters of Science
    • A non-thesis M.S. option is available as an appropriate alternative upon special petition. The non-thesis option is considered a terminal degree and is not recommended for students considering a future Doctoral degree. To pursue a non-thesis M.S., the student must first discuss this option with their advisor and committee. If the advisor and committee deem the non-thesis M.S. to be an appropriate option, the advisor will then submit a memo petitioning the Graduate Committee within the first semester.
  • Doctor of Philosophy
    • The geophysics program prides itself on bringing traditional classroom subjects, such as mathematics and physics, into the great outdoors. Students in this Ph.D. program enjoy opportunities for study and research in the following fields: Seismology. The program operates a major regional seismic network and uses the data to examine causes and source physics of earthquakes. Subdisciplines of the program include: Earthquake hazards. The program studies and models strong earthquake ground motions from all over the world. Geophysical exploration. The program uses seismic, electrical and potential-field techniques to discover what is below the surface of the earth. Remote sensing. The program uses satellite data to study earth resources, crustal deformation, global change and explore the nature of other planets in this solar system. Paleomagnetism. The program uses the changing magnetic field of the earth, frozen on rocks and sediments, to learn how the earth has deformed over the past thousands—and even millions—of years. Geodesy. The program studies signals of active earth movement from local to global scales that arise from, for example, tectonics, the earthquake cycle, mountain building, natural and anthropogenic land subsidence, glacial isostaic adjustment, and loading from Earth's atmosphere and oceans. 

1.2 Student learning outcomes

The student learning outcomes for all of the different graduate degrees include:

  • To read and critically evaluate relevant scientific literature in the specific topic area of the advanced geology/geological engineering/geophysics sub-discipline studied.
  • To demonstrate an advanced level of competency and mastery in the specific topic area of his/her thesis.
  • To discuss the relationship of the specialized area of geology/geological engineering/geophysics studied in his/her thesis in the broader context of the field and Earth Sciences in general.