2020-2021 Graduate Course Catalog 
    Apr 16, 2021  
2020-2021 Graduate Course Catalog

Earth Sciences, PhD

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Jeffrey A. Karson, Chair
204 Heroy Geology Laboratory


Suzanne L. Baldwin, Tripti Bhattacharya, Melissa L. Chipman, Daniel Curewitz, Paul Fitzgerald, Gregory D. Hoke, Linda C. Ivany, Christopher Junium, Jeffrey A. Karson, Christa A. Kelleher, Laura K. Lautz, Zunli Lu, Robert Moucha, Cathryn R. Newton, Scott D. Samson, Christopher A. Scholz, Jay Thomas, Sam Tuttle, Tao Wen

Program Description

Graduate study in the Department of Earth Sciences offers students opportunities for field-based geological and geophysical research worldwide. Ongoing research in the Department is focused primarily in the areas of environmental geology/global change and tectonics/crustal evolution-two of the most rapidly developing areas of the earth sciences. The Department is housed in the William B. Heroy Geology Laboratory, which contains state-of-the-art analytical and computing facilities, modern well-equipped teaching spaces, and a dedicated Earth Sciences library. All of the faculty are engaged in research and teaching.

The Department typically has a combination of students pursuing either the M.S. or Ph.D. degree. Several of our faculty-led research projects are large collaborative, multi-institutional, multi-national programs that afford our graduate students opportunities to work in diverse parts of the world with teams of internationally recognized scholars. Department faculty and graduate students are currently pursuing field studies worldwide.


Incoming students are expected to have two semesters of the following courses: calculus, chemistry, and physics or biology. In addition, incoming students need at least three distribution courses in the Earth Sciences, such as: paleobiology, sedimentology, mineralogy, structural geology, tectonics, geochemistry, geophysics, climatology, paleooceanography, paleoclimatology, marine geology, and/or hydrogeology. Students are strongly encouraged to have participated in an approved summer field course or comparable field experience. Substitutions may be granted upon petition of the Department.

Student Learning Outcomes

1. Conduct independent research in the Earth Sciences at the specialist level

2. Present and communicate Earth Science information to a general audience through undergraduate teaching of laboratories and recitations

3. Analyze and evaluate research results

4. Communicate scientific research in writing at the specialist level

5. Describe fundamental concepts in earth sciences relevant to the area of specialization

Degree Programs

The Department offers programs of graduate study leading to the M.A., M.S., and Ph.D. Minimum requirements for each degree are an average GPA of 3.0 in major subjects and an overall average of 2.8.

Students who wish to continue graduate study toward a Ph.D. in Earth Sciences following a master’s degree must submit a Syracuse University Graduate School application form, including letters of reference, to the Department.

Ph.D. in Earth Sciences

48 total graduate credit hours are required.

Ph.D. students coming to the program with a M.S. may receive credit for up to 30 hours. An additional 18 credit hours are required. At least 12 of those 18 credit hours must be in graduate coursework, with the balance made up by dissertation credits.

Ph.D. students coming to the program without a M.S. must take at least 36 credits in graduate course work. The balance of the 48 credits will be made up in dissertation credits.

Most students can satisfy the requirements within four years after completing the master’s degree. The Ph.D. candidate must pass an oral qualifying examination and must give an oral defense of the dissertation.

Graduate Awards

Graduate students are expected to pursue their studies energetically and to complete their advanced degree work without undue delay. Financial support typically will be given to a student for four semesters at the master’s level or eight semesters in the Ph.D. program.

Graduate Scholarships Awarded to students with superior qualifications, provide, in most cases, full tuition for academic year.

Graduate Teaching Assistantships:

Offered to some Graduate Scholarship recipients; no more than an average of 20 hours of work per week; 8.5 months; stipend in addition to tuition scholarship for up to 24 credits per year as needed.

Graduate Research Assistantships:

Offered to some Graduate Scholarship recipients; no more than an average of 20 hours per week; 8.5 to 12 months; stipends variable in addition to tuition scholarship for up to 24 credits per year as needed.

Syracuse University Graduate Fellowships:

Stipend for 8.5 months of full-time study; tuition scholarship for 15 credits per semester for a total of 30 for the academic year.

Department Research Support:

The Department has various funds available to support graduate student travel and research.


The Heroy Geology Laboratory provides well-equipped laboratories and student study research offices. The Department houses state-of-the-art workstation-based seismic data processing, GIS, and image-processing facilities; first-class laboratories for geochronology (U/Pb), thermochronology (40Ar/39Ar and fission track) plus research utilizing all noble gases. The department hosts two regional user facilities - the electron microprobe lab (with a new Cameca SXFive instrument, plus a Renishaw Raman Spectrometer) and the multi-sensor core logging lab.  Also housed in Heroy are the stable isotope geochemistry lab, the paleoclimate dynamics lab, a low-temperature geochemistry lab, a water chemistry lab and a water dynamics lab. Amongst other instrumentation are a scanning electron microscope, a number of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) with various cameras, geophysical equipment such as ground-penetrating radar and resistivity systems, and a 384-core computing cluster. The Department also has a range of sample preparation facilities and clean labs.

The University’s location is central to diverse geologic terrain including the classic Paleozoic sedimentary rocks of the Appalachian plateau, the complex structures and metamorphic rocks of the Adirondack Mountains, the Canadian Shield, and Quaternary sequences in the Finger Lakes. The scope of departmental research is international.

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