Geological Sciences, Ph.D. (Ithaca)
Field of Study
The geological science program is designed to give students broad training in the basic sciences as well as field, theoretical, and practical experience through research in their specialty. The program has particular strengths in geophysics, geochemistry and petrology, structural geology, sedimentology, marine ecology, and energy resources. However, the exceptional flexibility of Cornell's graduate program provides ample opportunity for students to work across disciplinary areas. For example, arrangements exist for study of marine ecology, water resources, and various branches of applied geological science. Faculty members in other fields or divisions offer interdisciplinary courses including planetology and extraterrestrial geology, paleobotany, ecology and systematics, biogeochemistry, limnology, soil genesis, soil mineralogy, soil and rock mechanics, remote sensing, environmental fluid mechanics and hydrology, fluid dynamics, elasticity, geotechnical and earthquake engineering, regional planning, hydraulics and hydrology, and materials science and engineering.
At least one minor subject outside the field is required for the doctoral degree. Before the end of their third semester in residence, all students must take a qualifying examination. This exam, an addition to those required by the Graduate School, determines the candidate's fitness for undertaking advanced studies and enables the Special Committee to plan programs that will make the student familiar with the requisite knowledge in the chosen areas.
Research and study opportunities:
Research programs are being conducted by the field in such diverse areas as fluid cycling in subduction zones; space-based geodetic studies of faults, volcanoes, and anthropogenic deformation; interaction of tectonics, topography, and climate in major mountain systems; investigation of igneous rocks in arc systems; tectonics, seismology, sedimentation, and geomorphology of the central Andes; planetary science, comparative planetology and solar system exploration; seismic reflection profiling of the deep crust and upper mantle; mechanics and properties of subduction zone megathrusts and other large faults; induced earthquakes; using seismic signals of earth noise to understand atmospheric and solid-earth phenomena; development and application of Earth System models; response of marine ecosystems to climate variability and change; surface responses to extreme precipitation; dynamics and mechanics of the lithosphere and asthenosphere; application of geophysical techniques to environmental and archaeological problems; marine ecological and paleontological studies; sedimentology and diagenesis of mudstones; dynamics of marine ecosystems and organisms from plankton to whales using remote sensing and other tools; volcanic hazard assessment; biogeochemistry, soil development, and dynamics in young volcanic terrains; geochemistry and geophysics of oceanic islands, mid-ocean ridges and island arcs; and remote sensing of seismic and volcanic deformation of the crust.
The field maintains working agreements with institutions worldwide to facilitate research projects in those areas or to work on materials especially accessible there. Current and recent graduate students have carried out field investigations in such diverse places as Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, Honduras, Chile, Argentina, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Monterey Bay (California), Papua New Guinea, Ethiopia, and Tibet. The Paleontological Research Institution, located near the campus, has world-renowned facilities and collections available to students interested in paleontology.
Concentrations by Subject
- economic geology
- engineering geology
- environmental geophysics
- general geology
- geochemistry and isotope geology
- marine geology (minor)
- ocean science and technology
- petroleum geology
- planetary geology
- Precambrian geology
- Quaternary geology
- rock mechanics
- structural geology
Application Requirements and Deadlines
Fall, Jan. 1; Spring, check with field
- All Graduate School Requirements, including the TOEFL Exam for non-native English applicants
- three recommendations
- GRE general test
Students who are self-motivated and self-directed with strong quantitative backgrounds and a keen interest in and curiosity about the Earth are encouraged to apply. While helpful, prior study of geology is not a requirement for admission; applications from students with undergraduate degrees in other fields are welcome.
Applicants are required to submit an online application, a statement of purpose, an official transcript from each college or university attended, three letters of recommendation, and GRE general test scores. Applicants whose native language is not English must also submit TOEFL scores.
A candidate for a doctoral degree in Geological Sciences is expected to demonstrate mastery of knowledge in a sub-discipline within the broader domain of earth sciences and to synthesize and create new knowledge, making an original and substantial contribution to the sub-discipline in a timely fashion.
- Make an original and substantial contribution to one of the sub-disciplines within earth sciences
- Think originally and independently to develop concepts and/or methodologies
- Identify new research opportunities within their field
- Demonstrate advanced research skills
- Synthesize existing knowledge, identifying and accessing appropriate resources and other sources of relevant information, and critically analyze and evaluate their own findings and those of others
- Master application of existing appropriate research methodologies, techniques, and technical skills
- Utilize both qualitative and quantitative approaches
- Communicate in a style appropriate to the discipline
- Demonstrate commitment to advancing the values of scholarship
- Keep abreast of current advances within their sub-discipline of earth science and related areas
- Show commitment to personal professional development through engagement in professional societies, publication, and other knowledge transfer modes
- Show commitment to creating an environment that supports learning—through teaching, collaborative inquiry, mentoring, organization of community learning experiences, or demonstration
- Demonstrate professional skills
- Advance ethical standards in the practice of earth sciences
- Listen, give, and receive feedback effectively
The Field of Geological Sciences at Cornell University has expectations of Cornell
graduates that may defy explicit measurement scales. These aspirational goals (listed below) are intended to encourage students’ growth and development but do not necessarily lend themselves to assessment as readily as the learning proficiencies
- Serve as an ambassador for research and scholarship
- Engage in improving their own level of general science literacy
- Effectively engage in one’s broader community through various forms of outreach
- Share their knowledge of natural sciences with others who need earth system insight to make wise decisions or to understand current issues
- Explore interconnections
- Give equal respect to knowledge generated by, and the geoscientistsfrom, nations and cultures different than those of the student
- Respect research in other areas
- Understand and articulate the impact of research on society