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Department of Geosciences, together with its affiliated interdepartmental programs and institutes, serves as the central focus for the earth, atmospheric, oceanographic and environmental sciences at Princeton. As such, the department encompasses a rich diversity of scientific expertise and initiatives that ranges, from the measurement and modeling of global climatic change to high-pressure mineral physics, and from seismic tomographic imaging of the mantle under the continents to analysis of the tectonics of Venus.
Atmospheric and ocean sciences are an integral part of the department, with most of the research taking place in the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL). In addition, there are close ties with the programs in water resources in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, as well as with the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI) and the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials (PRISM). We also provide the recently established computational geosciences as an interdisciplinary graduate training program in Computer and Application Sciences-PICASso.
Graduate education within the department in general is strongly focused on research, as well as on developing a strong sense for the interdisciplinary nature of the geosciences. As a consequence, Princeton has been extraordinarily successful in mentoring students to move on to tenure-track positions in academia as well as leading research positions in industry or government laboratories. The department offers only a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program, for which both beginning and advanced students may apply. The average time to graduation is five years.
The Department of Geosciences covers a wide range of fields, and actively promotes interdisciplinary study and research. Students with interest in structural geology, tectonics and geophysics, geochemistry, petrology, mineral physics, geochemistry, biological oceanography, paleontology, paleoceanography and paleoclimate and environmental geology will find most of their research and educational needs accommodated within the laboratories of Guyot Hall, where the Department is located.
In addition the Department has associated programs in water resources (shared with Civil Engineering), materials science (in collaboration with the Princeton Materials Institute) and environmental science (in collaboration with Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI)).
Course work requirements are flexible and depend on the track chosen. All incoming students are required to follow a one-year introductory course on the fundamental questions in the geosciences, covering both solid earth and environmental problems. An important part of graduate education arises from independent research, which begins in the first year. Course work in other departments that strengthens students’ background in biology, chemistry, engineering sciences, mathematics and physics is required.
Courses must be taken for a grade when the graded option is offered, and the average of the graded courses is expected to be B or higher.
Pre-generals students are normally expected to enroll in and complete two to four courses or seminars, either within or outside the department, per term. The actual load may vary depending on a student's background, interests, the availability of courses, the number and nature of other academic activities, etc. Students are expected to have completed eight courses, or the equivalent, by the end of the semester in which they take the General Exam. The eight courses must include GEO505/506, Fundamentals of the Geosciences, and at least two graduate-level or appropriate-level undergraduate courses outside the geosciences department, chosen with approval of the advisory committee.
The research paper does not need to be ready for publication, but the paper should have a scholarly level close to that of a paper submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. The research accomplishments should indicate a reasonable level of productivity, and the interpretation should indicate knowledge of the literature and good critical thinking. The thesis proposal should clearly express the justification and the research plans. In response to questions, students should show a broad knowledge of the relevant literature, an understanding of the underlying principles, and knowledge of analytical or modeling.
The general examination for advancement to Ph.D. candidacy is normally taken before the end of the second year of graduate work. The examination is designed to establish the student’s depth and breadth of knowledge in the chosen fields of specialization, acquaintance with scholarly methods of research, and the ability to organize and present research material. The examination is based in part on a written report submitted by the student describing the research activities undertaken during the first two years. A research progress report is also required near the end of the student’s first year.
During the general examination a student is expected to demonstrate competence and professional expertise in the geological sciences and related fields as relevant to the student's major interests. Accordingly, the examination is designed to explore: (1) the student's ability to organize and conduct an original research program and to present research results and material, (2) the student's depth of knowledge in the chosen fields of specialization, and (3) breadth in the geological and related sciences.
A typical examination consists of two parts: the research paper and thesis proposal, and the second two topics selected by the student. Including the break, the exam does not normally last longer than 2 hours and 30 minutes. The first hour of the exam covers the research paper and the thesis proposal. Students' presentations of their research should be no longer than 20 minutes with minimal interruptions. Each committee member will question the student on his or her research area. Then, after a short break, the second part of the exam covers the two topics selected by the student and lasts about an hour and a quarter. Each committee member will ask questions testing the student's general knowledge of the basic science underlying the areas of specialization and fundamental concepts in earth sciences and related disciplines.
The Master of Arts (M.A.) degree is normally an incidental degree on the way to full Ph.D. candidacy and is earned after a student successfully passes all course work, including GEO 505/506, and the satisfactory presentation of the first-year and second-year research reports. It may also be awarded to students who, for various reasons, leave the Ph.D. program, provided that these requirements have been met.
Under some circumstances, a student may decide prior to the general exam that he or she does not wish to continue in the Ph.D. program but does wish to qualify for a master's degree (M.A.) from the department. In this case, the student should discuss this option with the adviser and advisory committee well in advance. The general exam for an M.A. degree is similar to that for Ph.D. candidacy but will not include defense of a research plan.
Every graduate student is required to participate in the instruction of undergraduates for at least one term (one term as a full assistant in instruction, or two terms as half time assistant in instruction) as a significant part of his or her education.
The dissertation shows that the candidate has technical mastery in the chosen field and is capable of independent research. It is expected to be a positive contribution to knowledge, which may consist of a new scientific generalization, a new body of integrated facts that carries scientific implications that extend beyond itself or a substantial improvement in technique or procedure.
The final public oral examination is a final examination in the field of study. In addition to defending the dissertation, candidates are expected to respond to questions relating to the specific principles involved in their research and to questions ranging widely over related subjects.
The Ph.D. will be awarded once the dissertation has been approved and the final public oral has been completed.
Bess B. Ward
Thomas S. Duffy
Adam C. Maloof
S. George H. Philander
Course educates Geosciences and AOS students in the responsible conduct of research using case studies appropriate to these disciplines. This discussion-based course focuses on issues related to the use of scientific data, publication practices and responsible authorship, peer review, research misconduct, conflicts of interest, the role of mentors & mentees, issues encountered in collaborative research and the role of scientists in society. Successful completion is based on attendance, reading, and active participation in class discussions. Course satisfies University requirement for RCR training.
A year-long survey, in sequence, of fundamental papers in the geosciences. Topics in 505 (Fall) include the origin and interior of the Earth, plate tectonics, geodynamics, the history of life on Earth, the composition of the Earth, its oceans and atmospheres, past climate. Topics in 506 (Spring) include present and future climate, biogeochemical processes in the ocean, geochemical cycles, orogenies, thermochronology, rock fracture and seismicity. A core course for all beginning graduate students in the geosciences.
Geophysical applications of the principles of continuum mechanics; conservation laws and constitutive relations and tensor analysis; acoustic, elastic, and gravity wave propagation are studied.
Course treats inverse problems from both theoretical and applied perspectives. Students learn to develop the necessary theory to pose, interpret, and solve inverse problems, focusing on topics including error characterization, linear and non-linear methods, approximations, Kalman filters, use of prior constraints, and observing system design. Concepts are illustrated with examples from the current literature on the Earth's carbon cycle.
Structure and composition of terrestrial atmospheres. Fundamental aspects of electromagnetic radiation. Absorption and emission by atmospheric gases. Optical extinction of particles. Roles of atmospheric species in Earth's radiative energy balance. Perturbation of climate due to natural and antropogenic causes. Satellite observations of climate system.
The goal of the course is to provide students with an introductory overview of the broad factors that determine our current climate, as well as past and future climates. We first build a foundation for understanding the principal features of today's climate. This includes examining the Earth's energy and water cycles, the processes determining the principal atmospheric and ocean circulation features, climate feedback processes, and dominant modes of variability. We then use this framework to interpret observational records of past climates, including ice age cycles, and to examine projections of future climate change.
The chemical composition of the oceans and the nature of the physical and chemical processes governing this composition in the past and present. The cycles of major and minor oceanic constituents, including interactions with the biosphere and at the ocean-atmosphere and ocean-sediment interfaces.