Bachelor of Science (BS) Degree with a Major in Earth Science

Program Learning Outcomes for the BS Degree with a Major in Earth Science

Upon completing the BS degree with a major in Earth Science, students will be able to:

  1. Understand the structure and composition of the earth and planets, their evolution, and changing the Earth today.
  2. Learn basic field geological measurements and recording.
  3. Learn earth observations and recording outdoor scientific information.

Requirements for the BS Degree with a Major in Earth Science

For general university requirements, see Graduation Requirements. Students pursuing the BS degree with a major in Earth Science must complete:

  • A minimum of 20-22 courses (69-73 credit hours) depending on course selection to satisfy major requirements.
  • A minimum of 129-133 credit hours to satisfy degree requirements.
  • A minimum of 60 credit hours outside of major requirements. 
  • A minimum of 8-12 courses (28-40 credit hours, depending on course selection) taken at the 300-level or above.
  • The requirements for one area of specialization (see list below). The areas of specialization for the BS degree with a major in Earth Science are:

The courses listed below satisfy the requirements for this major. In certain instances, courses not on this official list may be substituted upon approval of the major’s academic advisor (or official certifier). Students and their academic advisors should identify and clearly document the courses to be taken.

Summary

Total Credit Hours Required for the Major in Earth Science 69-73
Total Credit Hours Required for the BS Degree with a Major in Earth Science 129-133

Degree Requirements

Core Requirements
MATH 101SINGLE VARIABLE CALCULUS I3
MATH 102SINGLE VARIABLE CALCULUS II3
Select 1 from the following:4
GENERAL CHEMISTRY I
and GENERAL CHEMISTRY LABORATORY I
HONORS CHEMISTRY I
and HONORS CHEMISTRY LABORATORY I
Select 1 from the following:4
GENERAL CHEMISTRY II
and GENERAL CHEMISTRY LABORATORY II
HONORS CHEMISTRY II
and HONORS CHEMISTRY LABORATORY II
Select 1 from the following:4
MECHANICS (WITH LAB)
and MECHANICS DISCUSSION
HONORS MECHANICS (WITH LAB)
Select 1 from the following:4
ELECTRICITY & MAGNETISM (WITH LAB)
and ELECTRICITY AND MAGNETISM DISCUSSION
HONORS ELECTRICITY & MAGNETISM (WITH LAB)
Select 1 from the following:3-4
THE EARTH
INTRODUCTION TO THE EARTH
ESCI 321EARTH SYSTEM EVOLUTION AND CYCLES4
ESCI 322EARTH CHEMISTRY AND MATERIALS4
ESCI 323EARTH STRUCTURE AND DEFORMATION4
ESCI 324EARTH'S INTERIOR4
ESCI 334GEOLOGICAL TECHNIQUES3
Areas of Specialization
Select 1 from the following (see areas of specialization below):24-28
Geology
Geochemistry
Geophysics
Environmental Earth Science
Self-Designed
Total Credit Hours Required for the Major in Earth Science 68-73
University Graduation Requirements *60
Total Credit Hours128-133

Footnotes and Additional Information 

Areas of Specialization

To fulfill the remaining Earth Science major requirements, students must complete the requirements for one of the following areas of specialization.

Area of Specialization: Geology

Required Courses
MATH 211ORDINARY DIFFERENTIAL EQUATIONS AND LINEAR ALGEBRA3
ESCI 390GEOLOGY FIELD CAMP (at least 3 credit hours)3
COMP 110 / NSCI 230COMPUTATION IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING3
or CAAM 210 INTRODUCTION TO ENGINEERING COMPUTATION
ESCI 412ADVANCED PETROLOGY3
or ESCI 430 TRACE-ELEMENT AND ISOTOPE GEOCHEMISTRY FOR EARTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE
Elective Requirements
Group A
Select 2 from the following:6
PALEOCEANOGRAPHY
SEQUENCE STRATIGRAPHY
GEOMORPHOLOGY
MECHANICS OF SEDIMENT TRANSPORT
SILICICLASTIC DEPOSITIONAL SYSTEMS
CARBONATE DEPOSITIONAL SYSTEMS
MARINE GEOLOGY SYSTEMS
Group B
Select 2 from the following:6
OPTICAL MINERALOGY AND PETROGRAPHY
ADVANCED PETROLOGY II
QUANTITATIVE HYDROGEOLOGY
MATERIALS CHARACTERIZATION
INTERPRETATION OF REGIONAL 2-D SEISMIC DATA
MAGMATIC, VOLCANIC AND HYDROTHERMAL PROCESSES
EXPLORATION GEOPHYSICS
STRUCTURE AND EVOLUTION OF TECTONIC SYSTEMS
GLOBAL TECTONICS
GEOMECHANICS
EARTH SYSTEMS MODELING: NUMERICAL TECHNIQUES AND APPLICATIONS
Total Credit Hours24

Area of Specialization: Geochemistry

Required Courses
BIOC 201INTRODUCTORY BIOLOGY3
MATH 211ORDINARY DIFFERENTIAL EQUATIONS AND LINEAR ALGEBRA3
ESCI 391EARTH SCIENCE FIELD EXPERIENCE (at least 3 credit hours)3
Elective Requirements
Upper-Level Electives (ESCI course offerings)
Select 4 from the following:12
GLOBAL BIOGEOCHEMICAL CYCLES
OPTICAL MINERALOGY AND PETROGRAPHY
ADVANCED PETROLOGY II
ADVANCED PETROLOGY
MATERIALS CHARACTERIZATION
PALEOCEANOGRAPHY
ORGANIC GEOCHEMISTRY
INTERPRETATION OF REGIONAL 2-D SEISMIC DATA
MAGMATIC, VOLCANIC AND HYDROTHERMAL PROCESSES
TRACE-ELEMENT AND ISOTOPE GEOCHEMISTRY FOR EARTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE
EARTH SYSTEMS MODELING: NUMERICAL TECHNIQUES AND APPLICATIONS
Geochemistry Area of Specialization Electives
Select 2-4 courses from the following or from any ESCI course offerings at the 300-level or above:6
INTERMEDIATE EXPERIMENTAL BIOSCIENCES
INTRODUCTION TO ENGINEERING COMPUTATION
CHEMISTRY FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING AND SCIENCE LAB
FATE AND TRANSPORT OF CONTAMINANTS IN THE ENVIRONMENT
ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANIC CHEMISTRY
ORGANIC CHEMISTRY I
and ORGANIC CHEMISTRY DISCUSSION
ORGANIC CHEMISTRY II
and ORGANIC CHEM DISCUSSION II
CHEMICAL KINETICS AND DYNAMICS
TRANSITION METAL CHEMISTRY
COMPUTATION IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING
INTRODUCTORY BIOLOGY II
MULTIVARIABLE CALCULUS
Total Credit Hours27

Area of Specialization: Geophysics

Courses chosen from the list of ESCI course offerings must be 3 credit hours or more.

Required Courses
COMP 110 / NSCI 230COMPUTATION IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING3
or CAAM 210 INTRODUCTION TO ENGINEERING COMPUTATION
ESCI 391EARTH SCIENCE FIELD EXPERIENCE (at least 3 credit hours)3
MATH 211ORDINARY DIFFERENTIAL EQUATIONS AND LINEAR ALGEBRA3
MATH 212MULTIVARIABLE CALCULUS3
PHYS 201WAVES, LIGHT, AND HEAT3
PHYS 231ELEMENTARY PHYSICS LAB1
Elective Requirements
Upper-Level Electives (ESCI course offerings)
Select 2 from the following:6
QUANTITATIVE HYDROGEOLOGY
INTERPRETATION OF REGIONAL 2-D SEISMIC DATA
GEOPHYSICAL DATA ANALYSIS: DIGITAL SIGNAL PROCESSING
GEOPHYSICAL DATA ANALYSIS: INVERSE METHODS
EXPLORATION GEOPHYSICS
REMOTE SENSING
GIS FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS
SEISMOLOGY I
TECTONOPHYSICS
STRUCTURE AND EVOLUTION OF TECTONIC SYSTEMS
GLOBAL TECTONICS
GEOMECHANICS
EARTH SYSTEMS MODELING: NUMERICAL TECHNIQUES AND APPLICATIONS
SEISMOLOGY II
SEISMIC REFLECTION DATA PROCESS
Geophysics Area of Specialization Electives
Select 2 from the following:6
Any course from ESCI course offerings between ESCI 410 and ESCI 475, except for research and special studies
Any course from MATH, CAAM, or PHYS course offerings at the 300-level or above
PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY I
Total Credit Hours28

Area of Specialization: Environmental Earth Science

Required Courses
BIOC 201INTRODUCTORY BIOLOGY3
COMP 110 / NSCI 230COMPUTATION IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING3
or CAAM 210 INTRODUCTION TO ENGINEERING COMPUTATION
ESCI 391EARTH SCIENCE FIELD EXPERIENCE (at least 3 credit hours)3
MATH 211ORDINARY DIFFERENTIAL EQUATIONS AND LINEAR ALGEBRA3
STAT 280ELEMENTARY APPLIED STATISTICS4
Elective Requirements
Select 3-4 from the following with at least 2 courses (6 credit hours) taken from ESCI course offerings:11
CHEMISTRY FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING AND SCIENCE LAB
INTRODUCTION TO ENVIRONMENTAL LAW
HYDROLOGY AND WATER RESOURCES ENGINEERING
FATE AND TRANSPORT OF CONTAMINANTS IN THE ENVIRONMENT
ORGANIC CHEMISTRY I
and ORGANIC CHEMISTRY DISCUSSION
INTRODUCTORY BIOLOGY II
GLOBAL BIOGEOCHEMICAL CYCLES
OPTICAL MINERALOGY AND PETROGRAPHY
QUANTITATIVE HYDROGEOLOGY
MATERIALS CHARACTERIZATION
PALEOCEANOGRAPHY
ORGANIC GEOCHEMISTRY
INTERPRETATION OF REGIONAL 2-D SEISMIC DATA
MAGMATIC, VOLCANIC AND HYDROTHERMAL PROCESSES
GEOMORPHOLOGY
MECHANICS OF SEDIMENT TRANSPORT
EXPLORATION GEOPHYSICS
GIS FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS
STRUCTURE AND EVOLUTION OF TECTONIC SYSTEMS
GEOMECHANICS
EARTH SYSTEMS MODELING: NUMERICAL TECHNIQUES AND APPLICATIONS
SILICICLASTIC DEPOSITIONAL SYSTEMS
CARBONATE DEPOSITIONAL SYSTEMS
EARTH'S ATMOSPHERE
MARINE GEOLOGY SYSTEMS
WAVES, LIGHT, AND HEAT
ELEMENTARY PHYSICS LAB
Total Credit Hours27

Area of Specialization: Self-Designed

The department recognizes the interdisciplinary nature of modern earth science and the opportunity for students to specialize in nontraditional and emerging fields. Therefore, students can design their own specialty track, normally in close consultation with one faculty member and followed by approval from the department’s undergraduate advisor. In addition to required earth science courses and related courses, these tracks will generally comprise 18 additional hours that target a coherent theme from an approved list of 300- or higher-level courses, from inside or outside the department. Interested students are expected to submit a statement of rationale by the beginning of their third year.

Elective Requirements
Earth Science Field Experience:
ESCI 391EARTH SCIENCE FIELD EXPERIENCE (at least 3 credit hours)3
Self-Designed Electives
Select 2 from the following:6
INTRODUCTORY BIOLOGY
INTRODUCTION TO ENGINEERING COMPUTATION
PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY I
PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY II
COMPUTATION IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING
ORDINARY DIFFERENTIAL EQUATIONS AND LINEAR ALGEBRA
MULTIVARIABLE CALCULUS
WAVES, LIGHT, AND HEAT
Directed Electives in Self-Designed Specialization
Students must complete a total of 6 courses at the 300-level or higher targeting a coherent theme selected with the approval of the department's undergraduate advisor18
Total Credit Hours27

Policies for the BS Degree with a Major in Earth Science 

Transfer Credit 

For Rice University’s policy regarding transfer credit, see Transfer Credit. Some departments and programs have additional restrictions on transfer credit. The Office of Academic Advising maintains the university’s official list of transfer credit advisors on their website: http://oaa.rice.edu. Students are encouraged to meet with their academic program’s transfer credit advisor when considering transfer credit possibilities. 

Departmental Transfer Credit Guidelines 

Students pursuing the major in Earth Science should be aware of the following departmental transfer credit guidelines:

  • Requests for transfer credit will be considered by the program director (and/or the program’s official transfer credit advisor) on an individual case-by-case basis.

For additional information, please see the Earth Science major page, on the Department of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences website: http://earthscience.rice.edu/academics/undergraduate-program/

Opportunities for the BS Degree with a Major in Earth Science

Undergraduate Independent Research

The department encourages, but does not require, Earth Science undergraduate majors to pursue independent supervised research in ESCI 481. This can also be carried out as part of the Earth Science Honors Thesis Program.

Academic Honors

The university recognizes academic excellence achieved over an undergraduate’s academic history at Rice. For information on university honors, please see Latin Honors (summa cum laude, magna cum laude, and cum laude) and Distinction in Research and Creative Work. Some departments have department-specific Honors awards or designations.

Honors Research

Undergraduates are encouraged to embark on an undergraduate honors thesis. The purpose of the honors thesis is for students to develop and demonstrate their creative and independent research potential. Students are recommended to begin in the fall of their junior year to provide ample time for research projects to be developed, executed and written. Students are expected to enroll in at least two semesters of the course ESCI 481, spanning their senior year. Juniors who have identified a research project and mentor can also enroll in ESCI 481. Students should sign up for ESCI 481 for 3 credits.

Criteria for Participating in Undergraduate Honors Thesis Research

Requirements for Completing an Undergraduate Honors Thesis

Spring Semester of Junior Year

Each honors thesis candidate should choose a research topic, identify a faculty research advisor, and initiate independent research. The student should select a thesis committee, consisting of a faculty advisor, one member of the honors thesis committee, and one other faculty member of their choosing. Candidates are expected to turn in a preliminary written proposal (2 pages) at the end of their spring semester, accompanied by a formal application, both of which will be evaluated by the honors thesis committee for consideration of acceptance into the honors thesis program in their senior year. Required courses:

ESCI 401SEMINAR: UNDERGRADUATE HONORS THESIS1
ESCI 403SEMINAR: DEPARTMENT RESEARCH1

And if they have research project and mentor identified, they can also take:

ESCI 481UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH IN EARTH SCIENCE3
Fall Semester of Senior Year

Students accepted into the honors thesis program continue to develop and refine their proposed research in concert with their research advisor and thesis committee. Students participate in meetings with other honors thesis candidates to discuss basic research protocols and philosophies, and meet independently with their chosen scientific advisor, and generate data, experiments or models. Students will give oral presentations of their research proposals in public by mid-semester, in the presence of their examining committee. At the end of the semester, students must submit final versions of their proposals, describing motivation, hypothesis, methodology, and preliminary results. The honors thesis committee will evaluate the proposals, and if approved, students can continue in the honors thesis program. Required courses:

ESCI 401SEMINAR: UNDERGRADUATE HONORS THESIS1
ESCI 404SEMINAR: DEPARTMENT RESEARCH1
ESCI 481UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH IN EARTH SCIENCE3
Spring Semester of Senior Year

Students continue and complete their research. A mid-semester progress report must be submitted to the thesis committee for feedback. At the end of the spring semester, students submit their final theses, and give public oral exit talks. To complete the honors thesis program, student theses must be approved by the honors thesis committee. Required courses:

ESCI 401SEMINAR: UNDERGRADUATE HONORS THESIS1
ESCI 403SEMINAR: DEPARTMENT RESEARCH1
ESCI 481UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH IN EARTH SCIENCE3

Further details about the program, and expectations and criteria for the thesis proposal and final thesis can be found on the Department of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences website (earthscience.rice.edu).

Application Process

Students must apply and be accepted to participate in the senior honors research program. The application form can be downloaded from Department of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences website (earthscience.rice.edu), and should be submitted along with a ~two page thesis proposal at the end of the spring semester of the junior year. Students will be informed of their acceptance into the honors thesis program before the start of the following fall semester.

Other Points of Consideration

Students who are accepted into the 'RUSP: Rice Undergraduate Scholars Program' can substitute ESCI 481 courses for semesters 2 and 3 with HONS 470 and HONS 471. However, the students will have to meet all other requirements of the honors thesis set by the department of the honors thesis set by the department.

Other expectations, conditions, and opportunities related to carrying out an Earth Science Honors Thesis can be found on the Department of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences website (earthscience.rice.edu).

For additional information, please see the Earth Science major page, on the Department of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences website: http://earthscience.rice.edu/academics/undergraduate-program/