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Undergraduate Programs

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Undergraduate Programs

Geology and Geophysics are diverse fields that in their broadest sense encompass the study of Earth and other planets.  Earth is a complex system that has evolved over its whole history and Geology and Geophysics attempts to understand the processes that drove these changes to Earth through time.  Furthermore, the occurrences of natural resources and “natural” hazards are not randomly distributed over Earth; understand their distribution and, in some cases, predicting their future occurrence or recurrence fall within the realms of geology and geophysics. Geophysics also applies mathematics, the principles of physics, and modeling to study Earth’s interior and electromagnetic and gravitational fields.  Finally, the evolution of life itself, and the recent impacts humans have had on Earth are topics of geological study.

What Do Geologists and Geophysicists Do?

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Many geologists use the rocks themselves to investigate the processes that shape the Earth and analyze Earth history and the distribution of raw materials. Others use experiments to simulate processes that occur in nature.  Geophysicists explore some of the same problems by application of physical, numerical, and computer technology to the study of Earth’s interior and for the exploration of natural resources. If you've ever wondered how volcanoes or earthquakes happen, how Tyrannosaurus Rex became extinct, how mountains form, how oil and gas form and how to find and produce it, or how climate changes over time, ask a geologist or a geophysicist.

Geologists and geophysicists commonly conduct their research in field-based projects and so travel to places all over the globe.  However, that is only the beginning, as many research projects require very sophisticated lab analyses or high levels of computation, requiring the use of electron microscopes, mass spectrometers, and supercomputers, among other tools.  The best attribute of being a geologist or geophysicist is that your job is always changing and evolving—it is rarely boring!

Why do we need Geologists and Geophysicists?

field work collecting core in Africa

We need geologists and geophysicists for many reasons.  Our society is dependent on natural resources for economic growth, from oil and gas, to water, to sand and gravel, to strategic metals.  In all cases geologists and geophysicists utilize a variety of techniques to locate and characterize these resources vital for society and economic growth. 

Geologists and geophysicists, however, are also crucial contributors to the stewardship of Earth and society. For example, geologists and geophysicists study earthquakes to develop a system for predicting them. We study rivers and better understand flooding and caution the public against building on floodplains. We study shoreline processes and the damage that hurricanes can cause. We study past climate change in order to better understand how to model and thus predict Earth’s climate, and the potential impacts of recent human-induced climate change.  We study mineral formation and mineral dissolution to better understand the transport of heavy metals and toxins through the environment.

Also, like all historical subjects, outlining the cyclic and linear changes to Earth and its life over the last 4.5 billion years provides humans with a sense of where we are and from where we came.

Finally, consider the following exerpted from a Science Magazine article from 2008:

  • The number of geoscience jobs will grow by 22% by 2016 (compare to 10% for all other occupations).
  • In 2005, average starting salary for a geoscientist (across disciplines) was $74,000 (9.7% >2004).
  • In 2013, average salary (0-2 yrs experience) for a petroleum geoscientist with a B.S. degree was $96,000 and $104,000 with a M.S. degree (source: AAPG).  
  • A geoscience degree prepares one for careers in geoscience, law, medicine, science writing, etc.

Why Major in Geology and Geophysics at OU?

Class field trip to Guadalupe Mtns.

The School prepares students for success in their professional careers by instilling knowledge, skills, confidence, pride, principled leadership, and the ability to contribute to the wise stewardship of the earth and its resources. Courses taught by PhD faculty are small and emphasize hands-on learning through labs and field trips. Courses stress the fundamentals of science within a creative interdisciplinary environment.  For undergraduates, as you proceed through your degree you have freedom to specialize in a particular area of emphasis or take a more general approach.  As a graduate student you work together with your primary advisor to plan your curriculum, which typically includes a broad base of courses in addition to specialized courses in the area of study.

 

Mineralogy Lab with Students

The School has state-of-the-art facilities and laboratories, which are available for students to use.  A number of faculty employ undergraduate majors in their labs, and also in research projects in the field.  In addition, students can gain experience on current industry software valued at more than $5 million.  Numerous student-oriented events occur throughout the year.  These include a fall welcome back party, a spring picnic and awards ceremony, and events sponsored by our three active geology and geophysics clubs.